This farm is rich with history. In the 1880’s the nation’s first hanging flume was built on this property to run water from the Feather River into municipal Oroville. The original brackets still hang from the mountain today (For more information on this get the PBS documentary Hanging Flume). A few decades later it was decided to move water back to a traditional canal right through the heart of the property.
This property, originally a sheep ranch, was purchased by Del Chaffin in the early 1900s. Del found the area perfect for production of food all year round. This was a time when Mission Olive production was in full swing in the Oroville area.
As a student farm manager for the Berkeley Olive Grower’s Association, Del had the opportunity to save his funds and purchase land in the surrounding area. Many of these parcels were purchased during the Depression.
Mission Olives have an interesting history. They were planted on Missions up down California starting around 1795. Missions are a great dual purpose olive. They make delicious table olives and they’re known for their fantastic and prolific yields of mild olive oil. So the olives could be cured for a food source and the oil could be used for cooking, lighting lamps, taking oil baths, making medicinal salves, and lubricating machinery. Yet there is a great mystery surrounding the early years of Mission trees. No one really knows what variety was brought from Spain and planted here. The DNA from the modern Mission cultivar has been tested against all known Spanish varieties and the parent species cannot be found. Now Missions are a variety that is only grown commercially in California and even though they’re not actually native here they thrive in this climate.
Over the years this farm has built a name on high quality extra virgin olive oil, heirloom fruits, and impeccable livestock. Though the selling terrain has evolved a bit over time, we strive to keep the quality as high as ever. It wasn’t that long ago that housewives would come directly to the farm and buy dozens of lugs (25lb boxes) of fruit at a time to go home and can to store up food for winter. Now with modern conveniences very few people buy in those quantities. Instead people come to the farmers markets in town every few days to buy a few pieces of fruit to keep fresh on the counter. So we now have to serve drastically more customers than we did in the past. We now have literally tens of thousands of buyers who buy from us regularly at the farm fruit shed or farmers market. Many of our older customers worked on the farm as young adults between the 60’s and 70’s when the farm dried much of its fruit on solar drying trays. George Chaffin, Del’s son, was notorious for hiring anyone who needed work that week to help get folks through hard times. Now many of our customers are 3rd and 4th generation, often still coming out with their grandparents who first brought them to the farm as children.
We hope to continue to keep this legacy alive for generations to come while continuing to be an innovator in the approach to sustainable agriculture and supporting the local food movement.