Stuart Littell and Pamela Marvel are partners in life and in business. When Pamela prepared to make good on a life-long dream –to live in the country as she had growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin–. Stuart was a full backer and supporter. Pamela wanted to be an active participant in rural life too, a traditional farmer who grew crops, nurtured the soil and improved the environment. After some deliberation, they decided to look for the ideal place to locate a small olive orchard, where they could produce their own olive oil. In early 2008 they bought a 20 acre farm in Capay Valley, about 35 miles west of Sacramento. It was just an alfalfa field.
Stuart and Pamela have a set of shared values that have guided their work on the farm. Pamela comes from a family of Norwegian and German farmers, some of whom immigrated to the Midwest in the 1800s. Good stewardship of the land was important to these farmers, including her parents, who set a fine example of good farming practices and hard work. Stuart’s Scottish grandparents helped manage national parks in the Sierras for decades. His family has a deep affection for nature, and a strong interest in caring for the environment. It was natural, therefore, for Stuart and Pamela to farm organically, to use good conservation practices, to develop wildlife habitat, to use native species of plants for habitat and cover crops, and in general to try to live a life respectful of nature.
They also have complementary talents that they put to good use developing the farm: Pamela is an experienced project manager, having worked for information technology firms in Silicon Valley for years. Stuart is a skilled general contractor who designs and build beautiful homes. He is also an expert mechanic, and has a fine stable of old Chevy trucks.
Together they have made good progress on the farm: there are now 1400 olive trees on 8 acres. Coratina, Picual, Pendalino, Itrana, Barnea and Nocellera varietals have been planted. Hedgerows of native trees, shrubs, flowers for birds and pollinators are thriving. Dozens of shade trees have been planted around the farmstead. Drip irrigation has been installed throughout. In the fall of 2015 we will plant the remaining 9 acres to double the number of olive trees planted, with some new varieties added for more depth and complexity in the oil that is produced.