Swanton Berry Farm was founded in 1983 by two dreamers who had previously worked on farmworker-owned cooperatives here in Central California. Jim Cochran and Mark Matze both got the farming bug and couldn’t resist trying it on their own. They rented 4 acres of land, bought an old tractor, and planted four acres of strawberries. At that time no one had grown strawberries organically on a commercially successful basis, and everyone in the industry said it couldn’t be done. Two earlier dreamers, Cesar Chavez and Rachel Carson had spawned a dream.
The first couple of years, they experimented with both chemical and organic methods, and had enough success to pay the bills, but not much more. Mark decided to move on, married a wonderful woman, Claire, and eventually wound up farming in Argentina, where he is today.
Jim stayed on, said his vows to the farm, borrowed some money, and continues today, renting four beautiful ranches strung along Highway One, north of Santa Cruz, California.
In 1987, the farm was certified by California Certified Organic Farmers, becoming the first organic strawberry farm in California.
In 1998, Swanton Berry Farm was the first organic farm to sign a contract with the United Farm Workers, AFL-CIO.
In 2002, Swanton Berry Farm was awarded the EPA's Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award for being the "pioneer...in developing the technology of farming strawberries...without relying on the soil fumigant methyl bromide," a major contributor to the depletion of the Ozone Layer.
In 2003, Swanton Berry Farm was the single farm in the US selected to undergo a pilot audit of labor practices, toward the goal of establishing international labor standards for small farms.
In 2004, Jim Cochran and Sandy Brown traveled to Rome to make a presentation about labor standards at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
In 2005, Swanton Berry Farm began to offer ownership opportunities in the form of stock bonuses to career-oriented employees. Over time, key employees will come to own a substantial portion of the Company.
In 2011 Jim was awarded the National Resource Defense Council's Growing Green Food Producer Award on behalf of Swanton Berry Farm.
In 2006, Jim Cochran received the Honoring Advocates for Social Justice in Sustainable Agriculture (Justie) Award from the Ecological Farming Association.