The Walnut Farm
|Owner:||Shawne Oneil and German Soto|
The Walnut Farm joined the Santa Cruz Community Farmers' Markets in 2013 providing a novel item at the Live Oak, Westside and Downtown markets - organic walnuts, still in the shell. Their walnuts are grown in Corralitos, no more than 15 miles distance from any of our farmers' markets. The current partnership of The Walnut Farm is headed up by owner Shawne O'Neil and the orchard manager German Soto, German's wife Gregoria and their two children Xinena and German Jr. who work farmers' markets. The 35 acre orchard is part of a 65 acre parcel which, prior to O'Neil's purchase of the land, had stood unattended for decades. This acreage is uniquely set in a particularly wild area of Corralitos, surrounded by other swaths of private land which have been left to their own inspiration. In his time there German has seen mountain lion, coyote and even a black bear once ten years ago.
The Walnut Farm is a fairly low-technology production, harvest lasts about six weeks between late September and November and involves manual, hands-on shaking of the trees. When jostled, the trees drop their ripe nuts and the walnuts can be collected by hand. In 2013 German and his team did this three times during the season and are still selling their crop at the markets. After being gathered the nuts are put through a series of machines which husk and clean them. In the first years O'Neil donated the harvest to a Watsonville food bank. In 2012 the harvest was sold wholesale. In 2013 we were fortunate to welcome The Walnut Farm to our farmers' markets. Please stop by and introduce yourself to the family, learn about their farm, taste their sweet walnuts and then buy some and take them home.
Originally planted as an apple orchard by the Mann Apple Company perhaps 100 years ago, the land changed hands to the Perusi family who replaced the apples with walnuts in the 70s. O'Neil purchased the land in 2007 ago and, under German's care pruning, watering and sewing cover crop, the orchard has slowly healed and become increasingly productive.
Now, annually, German runs through cycles of watering, mowing and disking the land. This may happen three or five times depending on the rain, temperature and other factors.