Barney Bricmont: Founder, California Certified Organic Farmers

Read the full text transcript (PDF) and listen to the audio of the oral history with Barney Bricmont.476

The first oral history we conducted for this project was with Bernard “Barney” Bricmont. On March 7, 2007, Ellen Farmer set up her recording equipment on the very same kitchen table where, in 1973, six organic farmers founded the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). An earlier, one-year effort by Rodale to create a certification program for organic farmers had floundered, and Bricmont called farmers together to form a statewide organization. However, most of the farmers were too busy to take on this task and Bricmont decided to administer CCOF from his Santa Cruz home. He served as founding vice president the first two years, and then became president of the organization from 1975 to 1985. Many of our narrators acknowledged the critical contribution of Bricmont’s generous volunteer work in the founding of the organic movement on the Central Coast of California.

Barney Bricmont was born in 1938 in San Jose, California, long before the valley turned from growing fruit to becoming a center for high technology. He learned to farm from his aunt, who owned an apple orchard in Saratoga and was “a Rodale Press, Prevention Magazine enthusiast.” Forty years ago, Bricmont and his wife bought two acres of land in Live Oak, California (an unincorporated community in Santa Cruz County, adjacent to Santa Cruz). They grew plant starts in 3000 square feet of greenhouse space and organic salad greens for the actress Carol Channing. Bricmont has worked as an independent irrigation contractor since 1975.

Bricmont helped start the very first (post WWI) farmers’ market in the Central Coast, at Live Oak Elementary School in 1975. His position on the school board of the Live Oak school district offered an advantage in securing the support for the farmers’ market, as well the first Life Lab school garden, a project that has blossomed into national prominence and is well documented elsewhere in this oral history series. He worked closely with California State Assemblymember Sam Farr on the California Organic Foods Act of 1979.

Bricmont’s dedicated career as a community organizer spans organizations as diverse as the Santa Cruz Democratic Central Committee, the California School Boards Association, the Friends of the Library, and the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County.