Sierra Orchards, photograph by Kim Steele
ALL ABOUT SIERRA ORCHARDS:
Sierra Orchards was established in 1980 and is located in Winters, CA within Solano County, in Central California. The orchard is approximately 450 acres in size and produces primarily organic walnuts and olive oil.
“We strive to incorporate sustainable practices into every aspect of our farming operations including many conservation techniques and educational programs.” — Craig McNamara, President & Owner
Sierra Orchards is entirely based on an organic system. Sierra Orchards utilizes many sustainable practices in production. Half of the fertilizer on the farm comes from cover crops, such as: vetches, clovers, and magnus peas., the remainder comes from green compost. It is a no tillage or zero tillage operation which increases the amount of water and nutrients in the soil. Furthermore, it employes an Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which has the least hazard to people, and the environment.
Sierra Orchards, photograph by Kim Steele
Sierra Orchards also incorporates conservation techniques. A majority of the farms irrigation is through buried drip irrigation, which not only reduces the use of water, it also minimizes the nutrient loss. Sediment traps & tail water ponds are used to keep the good topsoil and nutrients on the farm rather than loosing it in the runoff.
When a single crop covers a vast landmass it can provide a large resource for pollinators. This resource is only available to the pollinators during a small period of time–when the crop is blooming. Hedgerows for native pollinators are employed on the farm to keep pollinators around all through the year. Solar energy powers the main pumps on the farm, in addition to the hulling operation. Stream conservation has been an important part of the conservation efforts on the farm.
With the help of the Solano County streamkeeper, Sierra Orchards has invested heavily into promoting a healthy stream. In order to have an active fishery the stream needs aeration and shade to cool the water. To accomplish this Sierra Orchards assisted in the creation of a W-Weir by bringing in off-site boulders to create an aerated stream. Sierra Orchards also spent large amounts on removing Arundo donax or Giant Cane (a fake bamboo) and large trees. To make a faster rushing cooler stream the stream-bed was narrowed by laying large logs parallel to the stream and bulldozing gravel on top, a natural resting place for migrating fish such as salmon.
Sierra Orchards also promotes educational programs for outreach to farmers & professionals, including high school and college students. The FARMS program started in 1993, has led to the formation of the SLEWS program, which was formed in 2001. This effectively effort has doubled the number of students served annually. In February 2001 FARMS Leadership, Inc. a 501(c)(3) non-profit was formed and moved to new headquarters at The Farm on nearby Putah Creek in Winters, California. In 2004, FARMS Leadership, Inc. was renamed as the Center for Land-Based Learning. The program now reaches nearly 2,000 students annually.
Farms Within the Farm
Sierra Orchards also houses other farming operations such as: Free Spirit Farms, and Mish Olive Oil.
Free Spirit Farm, photograph by Kim Steele
Free Spirit Farm
Free Spirit Farms is a 5-acre farm nestled amongst orchards of walnuts just outside Winters, California. Harvests include mixed fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers–all grown and harvested sustainably. The produce is sold to over 30 restaurants throughout the Bay Area and Sacramento region, and through a CSA (community supported agriculture program) from UC Davis and UC Berkeley.
Extra Virgin Organic Mission Olive Oil Planted 1886
Sean and Toby are men on a mission, to wring extra virgin brio from Mission olive trees 100 years older than themselves. Bringing you a divine oil that ventures beyond the said and done. Creating this nectar is no small feat: the fruit is volatile, the crude dangerously potent, and the production, well, in a word…severe.
ALL ABOUT SIERRA FARMS owner & president
Craig McNamara, photograph by Kim Steele
Craig McNamara, is the president and owner of Sierra Orchards, a diversified farming operation that includes field, processing, and marketing operations, producing primarily organic walnuts and olive oil. McNamara also serves as the founder and president of the Center for Land-Based Learning. The goal of this innovative program is to assist high school students in becoming lifelong learners, overcoming barriers to change, and building greater social and human capital in their communities. Craig McNamara is currently the president of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture.
Early Life and Career
Craig McNamara was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is the only son of three children of the former United States secretary of defense, Robert McNamara (d. 2009) and Margaret Craig (d. 1981).
McNamara enrolled at Stanford University in 1969. After McNamara left Stanford, he spent several years traveling through Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile. After working on local farms across South America, including starting a dairy cooperative business on Easter Island, he discovered his passion for sustainable farming. He returned to the United States and enrolled at University of California, Davis and graduated in 1976 with a degree in plant and soil science. After a 3-year apprenticeship with Ton Lum, Craig McNamara founded Sierra Orchards.
President and Owner of Sierra Orchards
McNamara established Sierra Orchards in 1980. Sierra Orchards is located within the limits of Winters, California, a small city in Yolo County, on the border with Solano County. The orchard is approximately 450 acres in size and produces mostly organic walnuts. Sierra Orchards is recognized for its use of sustainable practices and conservation techniques. McNamara has also been recognized for his outstanding agricultural work and commitment to ensuring a healthy, sustainable food system for California and the nation.
Craig and Julie McNamara are the founders of the FARMS Program, a partnership that started in 1993, joining Sierra Orchards (the operational farming entity of McNamara’s family), UC Davis, the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom and the Yolo County Resource Conservation District. FARMS is now integrated as a curriculum of the Center for Land-Based Learning.
Center for Land-Based Learning
Sierra Orchards, photograph by Kim Steele
The SLEWS Program was formed in 2001, after partnering with Audubon California’s Landowner Stewardship Program. This effectively doubled the number of students served annually. As a result of this dramatic growth and increased demand, in February 2001 FARMS Leadership, Inc. a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization was formed and moved to new headquarters at The Farm on Putah Creek in Winters, California. In 2004, FARMS Leadership, Inc. was renamed as the Center for Land-Based Learning. The program now reaches nearly 2,000 students annually.
President of the California State Board of Food & Agriculture
Craig McNamara has served on the State Board of Food and Agriculture since 2002. On February 1, 2011 Governor Jerry Brown appointed Craig McNamara president of the state board. McNamara is working to ensure that the goals of Ag Vision 2030 are met. McNamara is passionate about sharing his knowledge of sustainable agriculture and leadership with the world around him.
Ripening Walnut, photograph by Kim Steele
McNamara is a graduate of the California Agricultural Leadership Program and a Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum
His professional activities include: board member of American Farmland Trust, Roots of Change Stewardship Council, University of California, Davis Dean’s Advisory Council and Agricultural Sustainability Institute advisory board member, Public Policy Institute of California advisory board, past member of the Foundation Board of Trustees University of California, Merced.
Craig McNamara is the recipient of several awards including the Leopold Conservation Award, the California Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, the UC Davis Award of Distinction and Outstanding Alumnus Award.
All photographs in this post are by San Francisco photographer Kim Steele, more about Kim’s work go here, and here and here