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Paradise Valley Ranch, Bolinas


save farms donate todaySeeded in the fertile floor of the Martinelli family's Paradise Valley Ranch in 1983, Fresh Run Farm is the site of one of the earliest certified organic farms on the West Coast. From crisp kale to bold squash to sweet strawberries, the land produces organic fruits and veggies for some of the Bay Area’s most iconic restaurants, including Quince and Chez Panisse. Fresh Run Farm is operated by third-generation owner Peter Martinelli, who carries on Bolinas’s innovative tradition of organic agriculture. 

Peter’s grandfather purchased land along Pine Gulch Creek in the 1940s, and his father raised beef cattle on the property in the 1950s and sheep in the 1960s. Much of the ranch was then given over to artichokes until 1983, when organic farming pioneer Warren Weber began leasing land here to grow row crops.  Peter took over the farm’s operations in 1999, and Fresh Run Farm’s excellent reputation has grown along with its flavorful produce. Another family member, Susan, grows organic fruits and makes jams and preserves under the Creekside Gardens label. 

vanishing landscape

Bolinas’s organic farms and delicate ecosystems are threatened, as fields and forests around the town are converted to residential estates. Just an hour north of San Francisco, property values in Bolinas are sky high, and each year pressure mounts to sell land to developers.

Paradise Valley Ranch is a fitting description for this lush, productive landscape. 40 varieties of produce sprout in orderly rows and orchards, surrounded by a riot of wild blackberry bushes, mushrooms and nettles. Northern spotted owls nest in stands of mature Douglas fir and redwood, and the endangered California red-legged frog takes refuge along the shaded banks of Pine Gulch Creek.

In 2010, the Martinelli family approached MALT for help protecting Paradise Valley Ranch against the threat of estate development in Bolinas. 

conservation for the future

Even as development pressure mounted, the Martinellis carried forward their commitment to organic farming and habitat protection on their land. The family has played an integral role in a groundbreaking stewardship project to protect native fish in Pine Gulch Creek, which flows through Paradise Valley Ranch on its way to Bolinas Lagoon.

Fresh Run Farm is permitted to draw water from Pine Gulch Creek to irrigate crops in spring and summer. Low flows in summer can take a toll on juvenile coho salmon and steelhead trout, which thrive in cold, abundant streams.

Peter has worked closely with neighboring farms, the Marin Resource Conservation District, the National Park Service and other agencies to engineer a fish-friendly water storage solution on Pine Gulch Creek. The Martinellis and neighboring farmers are building ponds on their properties, pumping them full while the creek is flush from winter storms. The farms will stop drawing water by early summer, leaving it instead in the creek to support the fish populations as creek levels drop.

A Tribute

Thanks to the Martinellis’ collaborative stewardship, MALT was able to secure a $1.5 million grant from the California State Wildlife Conservation Board to help fund an easement on Paradise Valley Ranch. Generous donations from the Bolinas community and MALT supporters brought in another $1 million. And the Martinellis are so committed to preserving Bolinas’s agricultural way of life that they’ve donated more than half the value of the easement, a tribute to their grandparents, the Honorable Jordan L. Martinelli Sr., and Genevieve C. Martinelli.

With MALT protection, the ranch’s diverse inhabitants have been granted a more secure future.

“My family and I want to see the ranch remain unchanged for generations to come,” said Peter. “As a farmer, I see the rich bottom land, climate and water resources in the Pine Gulch drainage as an agricultural resource that is the ultimate gift to leave to future generations of Marin residents.”

How to Purchase Paradise Valley Ranch products

Fresh Run Farm produce is available at the Mill Valley Farmers' Market and at restaurants and cafes throughout the Bay Area. 

Creekside Gardens preserves are on sale at the Bolinas People's Store and Toby's Feed Barn in Point Reyes Station.


View a slideshow of Paradise Valley Ranch » 

Read more about the Martinelli family's innovative fish habitat project in our Fall 2014 newsletter »