For the complete text [PDF] of John Melendy: Santa Cruz County Farm Advisor, 1947-1976 and Audio Clip. (UCSC Digital Collections)
Melendy served as a Santa Cruz County Farm Advisor with the Agricultural Extension Service for thirty years, including ten as County Director of the Agricultural Extension Service, an administrative position. His duties also encompassed being a youth or 4-H advisor and a poultry/livestock/field crops advisor.
In this oral history conducted in 1977, John Melendy discusses changes in agriculture in Santa Cruz County from 1940s through the 1970s-- how rising land prices affected the types of crops grown, the effects of mechanization, farm size, pest control and controversies over pesticide use that were only beginning to come to light at that time. A substantial portion of the interview is devoted to a detailed discussion of the rise and fall of the poultry industry in the Live Oak area.
In addition to providing a history of agriculture in Santa Cruz County, Melendy's narrative contributes to the institutional history of Agricultural Extension Service itself, particularly the position of farm advisor. In 1975 the Extension Service (by then called Cooperative Extension) merged with the Agricultural Experiment Station and became the Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources, which also oversees the University's Natural Reserve System.
While Melendy's oral history is useful for its detailed descriptions of the methods and practices of farming in the mid-twentieth century on the Central Coast of California, it also documents the tremendous changes that swept Santa Cruz County from 1946 to 1976, as it transitioned from a largely rural, to the urban or suburban landscape it is today.
John Melendy retired in December 1976, and at the time of this oral history interview in 1977 was enjoying operating a Christmas tree farm on San Miguel Canyon Rd. Oral historian Meri Knaster conducted three interviews with him at his home in Soquel, California as part of the Regional History Project's Agricultural History series. Melendy was fifty-six years old at the time.