Sierra Orchards

Sierra Orchards Organic

Established in 1980

Sierra Orchards was established in 1980 and is located in Winters, CA within Solano County. The orchard is approximately 450 acres in size and produces mostly organic walnuts and olive oil.

Sustainable Practices at Sierra Orchards

Aerial shot of Sierra Orchards "We strive to incorporate sustainable practices into every aspect of our farming operations at Sierra Orchards, including many conservation techniques and educational programs." - Craig McNamara (President and Owner of Sierra Orchards)

Organic Production

Picture of sierra orchards walnut trees

Sierra Orchards is entirely based on an organic production system. Sierra Orchards utilizes many sustainable practices in production. Half of the fertilizer on the farm comes from cover crops, such as: vetches, clovers, and magnus peas. The remainder comes from green compost. It is a no tillage or zero tillage operation which increases the amount of water and nutrients in the soil. It also uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which has the least possible hazard to people, and the environment.


Picture of solar array at sierra orchards

Sierra Orchards also incorporates conservation techniques. A majority of the farms irrigation is through buried drip irrigation, which not only reduces the use of water, it also minimizes the nutrient loss. Sediment traps & tail water ponds are used to keep the good topsoil and nutrients on the farm rather than loosing it in the runoff.

When a single crop covers a vast landmass it can provide a large resource for pollinators. This resource is only available to the pollinators during a small period of time when the crop is blooming. Hedgerows for native pollinators are used on the farm to keep pollinators around all through the year. Solar energy powers the main pumps on the farm in addition to the hulling operation. Stream conservation has been an important part of the conservation efforts on the farm.

image of a w-weir in putah creekWith the help of the Solano County streamkeeper, Sierra Orchards has invested heavily into promoting a healthy stream. In order to have an active fishery the stream needs aeration and shade to cool the water. To accomplish this Sierra Orchards assisted in the creation of a W-Weir by bringing in off-site boulders to create an aerated stream. Sierra Orchards also spent large amounts on removing Arundo donax or Giant Cane (a fake bamboo) and large trees. To make a faster rushing cooler stream the streambed was narrowed by laying large logs parallel to the stream and buldozing gravel on top.

Educational Programs

Picture of an educational program seminar

Sierra Orchards also promotes educational programs for outreach to farmers & professionals, including high school and college students. The FARMS program started in 1993 and led to the formation of the SLEWS program, which was formed in 2001. This effectively doubled the number of students served annually. In February 2001 FARMS Leadership, Inc. a 501(c)(3) non-profit was formed and moved to new headquarters at The Farm on Putah Creek in Winters, California. In 2004, FARMS Leadership, Inc. was renamed as the Center for Land-Based Learning. The program now reaches nearly 2,000 students annually.

Farms Within the Farm

Sierra Orchards also houses another farming operation called Free Spirit Farm.

Free Spirit Farm

Free Spirit Farms is a 5-acre farm nestled amongst orchards of walnuts just outside Winters, California. Harvests include mixed fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers--all grown and harvested sustainably. The produce is sold to over 30 restaurants throughout the Bay Area and Sacramento region, and through a CSA (community supported agriculture program) in Davis and Berkeley.
Free Spirit Farm (Facebook Page)