Profile in Preservation: Fallon Ranch
By Peter Fugazzotto,
January 27, 2020
ACRES, MALT PROTECTED SINCE 2015
A bright ribbon of green announces Stemple Creek’s
meandering passage through Fallon Ranch. In this quiet countryside east of
Tomales, dairy cattle graze on gently sloping grassy hills, while organic
tomatoes, squash and potatoes grow row by row in fertile soil. Scott Murphy
purchased this 186-acre ranch in 1979 as a young member of a long-time coastal
California ranching family. Since then he has made a home and a life here on
Growing up, Scott learned how to care for the land
by working alongside his father and grandfather on the Point Reyes Peninsula.
“When I bought this place in 1979, there were practically no trees here — just
a few eucalyptus up on the ridge,” Scott said. “The creek was just this ditch,
kind of green slime into September. I’ve planted thousands of trees over the
years, fenced in the creek, put up windbreaks — the place really looks a lot
Since being fenced and replanted, the willow-shaded stretch of Stemple Creek that runs through Fallon Ranch now provides habitat for more than 30 different migratory bird and waterfowl species, just one indication of the restoration’s ongoing success.
VEGGIES AND POTATOES
Scott currently leases the ranch’s organic farmland
and pasture to other local producers: Larry Peter, who owns the Petaluma
Creamery and the Washoe House restaurant in Petaluma, grazes dairy cattle on
155 acres of Fallon Ranch and grows organic vegetables in a 2,700 square-foot
greenhouse, supported by Scott’s updated water and irrigation systems. And David
Little of Little Organic Farm grows dry-farmed potatoes, squash and tomatoes on
another 23 acres.
Small ranches in scenic enclaves like Tomales are at
high risk for private estate development. Fallon Ranch, situated along a main
road and containing three legal parcels, was especially vulnerable. Anne
Murphy, who co-owned the ranch with Scott, was considering a move out of the area
and needed to sell her half of the ranch.
But neither of them wanted to see the ranch split
up. Had any one of the three parcels sold, it’s not likely Scott would have
been able to maintain a diverse and financially viable operation on the land.
Marin County could have lost 186 acres of important farmland, along with the immeasurable
benefits of Scott’s careful stewardship and expert knowledge. “I was saving
that easement until I really needed it. I’m glad that MALT came along, because
that could have been a real sad moment if I couldn’t have kept the ranch
together,” said Scott.
Proceeds from the sale of an easement to MALT enabled Scott to purchase Anne’s share and consolidate the ranch. Scott and Anne are relieved to know that the ranch will stay intact and in Scott’s good hands. Scott is proud of the work he’s done to transform Fallon Ranch into a productive landscape supporting both livestock and wildlife, and he credits his success to his family who taught him how to care for the land. “I just try to do the best I can. I was fortunate grow up around people who had land and took care of it well. I had some good examples.”
Knowing that his ranch’s future is secure, Scott is
even looking forward to planting a redwood forest near his house. “It’s me, six
dogs, three old horses out here … life isn’t bad, man. Life is pretty good.”
TO PURCHASE FALLON RANCH PRODUCTS
Scott Murphy currently leases land to the Petaluma
Creamery, the Washoe House and Little Organic Farm.
Visit Petaluma Creamery.
Visit Washoe House.
Little Organic Farms sells organic, dry-farmed potatoes at groceries and farmers markets around the Bay Area.