Legendary Star Route Farms sold to University of San Francisco for a cool and foggy $10.4 million
The “OG” of certified organic farming in California, Star Route Farms in coastal Bolinas, was bought by the Jesuit University of San Francisco this week, it was announced.
News of this sale had been rumored for months around the various gossip-chewing maypoles of Bolinas, and this week the university announced that the deal had indeed gone down, as of Tuesday July 8.
University spokeswoman Ellen Ryder says the purchase price for the farm was $10.4 million, “which included [the] property (land and buildings), equipment, business operations, etc.”
The university will use the 100-acre property as a teaching farm and community-outreach platform, and USF president Rev. Paul. J. Fitzgerald says in a statement that the purchase will enable and enhance “USF’s commitment to environmental and social justice,” central tenets of a Jesuit faith that encourages righteous activism in the name of Jesus and this hot and holy damaged planet of ours.
The purchase will save Star Route for future generations of would-be organic farmers and, as it forever protects a glorious swath of West Marin from a feared onslaught of big-ticket developers who would turn the Bolinas Lagoon-side sprawl into, God help us, a condo complex. That was the fear, anyway, as the aging Star Route founder Warren Weber reportedly spent the past several years trying to find an appropriate buyer.
Weber opened Star Route Farm in 1974 and runs it with his wife, Amy. It provides sustainable, organic vegetables—rows of kale are currently waving in the fresh foggy breeze of Bolinas—to restaurants and markets around the Bay Area.
Says Weber in a statement, “We are very pleased and honored that the University of San Francisco will continue the Star Route Farms legacy. We hope young people, entry level farmers, and farmers around the world who struggle with conventional agriculture will learn from the passion and expertise that USF offers this enterprise.”
Huzzahs were quick in coming from around the Bay Area, from some of the most prominent slingers of organic hash in the country. Alice Waters, the chef and author and founder of the estimable sustainable- and organic-only Chez Panisse in Berkeley, noted that “school supported agriculture is an idea whose time as come” as she praised Weber for continuing the operation and launching an “interactive educational program that can be a model for the rest of the country.”
Traci Des Jardins, the chef-owner of Jardiniere in San Francisco says she’s been buying Weber’s product for decades as she celebrated the new partnership. “The preservation and continuation of this visionary farm will play an important role in educating new generations.”
Looking ahead, the new owners expect a seamless transition to a full take-over of the farm. Current operations will continue, and Weber’s employees’ jobs are safe, assures the university.
Plans in the works include cross-disciplinary research, community education, “and programs focused on nutrition, biodiversity, sea level rise, and more.”
Star Route has indeed come a long way in its pioneering role as California’s first organic-certified farm. Weber’s farm started as a five-acre tract that utilized horse-drawn plows and, as the university notes in its announcement, was a pioneer in adopting “production and post-harvest technologies such as precision planters and hydro-cooling equipment which allowed it to bring the freshest possible product to market.