Jeff Larkey: Route One Farms

Cultivating a Movement

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Read the full text transcript (PDF) of the oral history with Jeff Larkey.

267 Jeff Larkey. Photo by Carlie Arnold.

Jeff Larkey was born in Montreal, Canada, but his father’s family has been in California since 1849. Larkey spent part of his childhood in the Carmel Valley of California, and in Davis, California, working summers in the fields and processing plants of the conventional agriculture world. He came to Santa Cruz in 1973 to enroll in Cabrillo College’s solar technology program, where he also studied horticulture with Richard Merrill. In the late 1970s, Larkey moved onto a commune on Ivy Lane in Live Oak—an unincorporated, then still somewhat rural area of Santa Cruz County, where he and his fellow commune members grew basil and garlic as well as other crops on four acres of land, and transported them via bicycle to sell at the Live Oak Farmers’ market. These crop choices helped establish a taste among local community members for fresh pesto, creating a lasting legacy.

In 1981, Larkey left that commune to farm along the fertile floodplain of the San Lorenzo River on Ocean Street Extension in Santa Cruz. His farming operation was certified by CCOF [California Certified Organic Farmers] in 1985, and eventually became Route One Farms. Larkey originally ran the farm together with Jonathan Steinberg (known as ‘Steiny’), but since 2002 has been the sole proprietor. Route One leases sixty-five acres of land in several locations in Santa Cruz County, including Rancho del Oso along Waddell Creek in Big Basin State Park. This oral history was conducted by Ellen Farmer on June 23, 2007, at the offices of Route One Farms in Santa Cruz, California.

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