The Farm

Josh brings home sheepChaffin Orchards is without a doubt a rather unique and special place. This 2,000 acre farm’s roots go back to Del Chaffin who came to this area as a farm intern amost a century ago to work in the Mission Olive groves. Del was an early environmentalist during a time when it wasn’t necessarily popular to be of that philosophy. He understood that resources were limited and needed to be maintained wisely.  His goal was to start a family farm with the purpose of selling the highest quality products to local consumers all year round. An additional goal of Del’s was to provide year-round work for recent immigrants so they could establish a home and allow their children to attend school. Five generations later his dream continues.

Chaffin Orchards Oak and Wildflowers in RangelandDel also understood the value of productive land.  The soils here are heavy and rocky but they are loaded with minerals and micronutrients.  The farm backs up against the famous Table Mountain.  The mountain also helps to create a microclimate and protects about 400 acres of the farm’s total 2,000 acres from rarely ever getting frost.  The property sits in the back of a little topographical horseshoe that we call a weather bay.  Each afternoon a little pocket of warm air collects in that space.  The mountain which is comprised of the very dense rock lovejoy basalt, faces West and collects heat from the setting sun.  Throughout the night that solar energy trickles into the orchards giving us incredible protection from cold temperatures.  Since all of our orchards are planted on slopes any cold air that happens to be there, leaves our farm and runs down hill further into the valley as cold air is more dense and flows much like water.  Del had a deep understanding for how the farm would function from a holistic management standpoint.   Knowing water would one day be scarce Del also put in a reservoir on the ranch.  It has no creek or inlet that it dams up but is basically a large puddle that holds four hundred-fifty acre feet of water collected from winter rainfall.  Chaffin Rangeland with Table Mountain in backgroundDespite the fact that at the same time the state was putting in many huge irrigation projects and promising cheap or free water for decades to come.  He had the foresight to see the value of having a private water supply for the farm.  Because there are hundreds of feet of elevation change between the orchards and the reservoir, Del installed a hydropower system which fed the farmhouses with clean renewable power for nearly 50 years.  The man was innovator who paved the way for many like-minded environmentally driven entrepenuers to find their own voice.  His forward thinking and pre-planning has much to do with why this farm has survived for so long in an industry known for being extremely challenging.

Chaffin wagon wheelThis farm is rich with history.  Read more on the History page.  You might notice how big and thick the tree trunks are in the orchards.  The majority of the stonefruit and citrus trees are about 50 years old or more.  The trees have been treated with respect through their lifetime and not burned out by harsh chemical fertilizers.  They are still continuing to produce amazing fruit today; in fact, we notice the fruit gets better with deeper flavors every year. These older trees are varieties that derive from an era when fruit was bred for taste, not its ability to be transported.  You will find quite a few heirloom and Ark of Taste varieties here; some that are extremely rare! This farm has never bought into the philosophy of the mega-industrialized food system.  We believe food should taste good!  That’s why our fruit is all handpicked just prior to sale.  We don’t pick fruit before its ready and we don’t use any cold storage to try and suspend the seasons.  We sell fresh fruit at the peak of ripeness.

Danny and SheepWe also take a different approach to farm management than most places utilizing permaculture techniques to stack and dovetail mutually beneficially enterprises.  So not only are the trees all grown without toxic chemicals, but we use the livestock to positively impact the land and create desirable changes.  The cattle and sheep mow and keep the orchard floors clean of tall grasses.  This makes it easier for us to get in ladders to pick the fruit. By following nature’s models we streamline ranch operations, cut labor and input costs, and raise more crops per acre.  All of this allows us a little bit of economic protection in an industry normally known for its razor thin profit margins and shifting seasonal prices.

Mission Olive GroveIf you’re unfamiliar with our Grassfed Meats then you’re in for a treat.  We work tirelessly to make sure all of our products are of exceptional quality and this really shines with our grassfed meats.  All of our cattle are born and raised start to finish on our property and they only eat grass and minimal quantities of hay (also grown on our property) for their entire lives.  We time the harvest so that the animals finish on our wild rangeland spring grasses when they grass is the most abundant and most nutritious which is in middle to late spring. For that 4 to 6 week window our cattle enjoy some of the finest grass in the country as the rangelands explode with new rich tender green growth. Properly finishing livestock on grass means the rancher has to first follow the seasons of the grass cycles and it entails orchestrating movements and timing so that you end up with mature beeves that have fully grown into their frame and muscling and then finishing them on your best grass of the year.

Certified Predator Friendly LogoThe ranch is also  Certified Predator Friendly.  This recognizes that our farm takes a non-lethal approach to managing livestock in concordance with natural predators.  We have a healthy population of mountain lions, bear, bobcats, and coyotes.  Predators provide an extremely important balance to their local ecosystems.  We have seen firsthand how these animals keep populations of their natural prey like skunks, deer, rodents, etc. in check.  You will notice around the farm that we have portable electric fences and guardian dogs around our livestock to protect them from predators.  Because we utilize rotational grazing the animals are constantly moving to new areas, so we are never displacing native wildlife for any great duration of time or over a large amount of land.  We have had virtually no losses to predation thanks to the creative ways we manage the livestock.

We thank you so much for your business and your support of our mission to provide healthy delicious food while enhancing the native landscape.  If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to Contact Us.