This two–part interview with Janet Brians and her son Grant Brians, conducted by Ellen Farmer on July 19, 2007 at Brians Ranch in Hollister, California, documents their pioneering work as organic farmers and founders of California Certified Organic Farmers. Janet Brians holds a master’s degree in East Asian studies from UC Berkeley and a master’s in library science from UCLA. In 1973, she and her husband Robert (who worked in the computer industry) were living on the San Francisco Peninsula. Desiring relief from the increasing smog and urban congestion, they bought one hundred acres of farmland in Hollister, California, which came with several historic buildings that dated back to the 1860s. The Brians’ restored and preserved these structures and founded Brians Ranch, where for the past thirty-six years they have grown row and orchard crops organically. Their son, Grant, spent his teenage years on the ranch, and has been an organic farmer his entire life. Janet Brians feels a deep passion for farming and for her historic farmhouse.
Today the California Certified Organic Farmers is one of the oldest and most influential organic certification and trade associations in North America. Janet Brians kept the minutes and records in the early years of the organization, and Grant became the most prolific organic certifier for CCOF in the 1970s through the mid-1980s. He is currently on the board of CCOF. An activist as well, he traveled to Sacramento to lobby for the California Organic Foods Act (COFA) of 1990. Heirloom Organic Gardens is but the latest incarnation of Grant’s organic farming activities. In the second part of this interview, Grant Brians reflects on his more than thirty years in the organic farming movement.