Nov & Dec Grower Spotlight - Emily Thacher from Friend's Ranches - Ventura County Agricultural Education

Photo 1.jpg

Hello Friends of SEEAG,

Happy Holidays and good cheer from all of us at SEEAG!!

Wishing you a lovely December filled with joy, health, family time and a bright 2015. See you in January.

We are pleased to re-post Emily Thacher as our end of year 2014 Ventura County Farmer of the Month.

December: Friend’s Ranches, Grower Spotlight with Mary Maranville

Emily Friend Thacher Ayala is the perfect combination of education and agriculture. The Friends and the Thachers both arrived in Ojai in the 1880s and started farming and schooling dynasties, respectively. You may have heard of The Thacher School? Emily’s great-grand Father, Sherman Day Thacher, only agreed to tudor a New England friend’s son if he came to Ojai, his beautiful new home. His friend agreed and the school was born.

Emily is known for being down to earth, funny, hardworking and smart, book smart, as well as having common sense. Jim Churchill, a fellow farmer in the Ojai Valley, thinks Emily is stubborn. I haven’t witnessed that side of her, but as Jim quickly points out, if she wasn’t stubborn she probably wouldn’t be farming at all. Emily is also vert agriculturally savvy and she is very willing and loves to share her knowledge if she thinks it will be helpful. She and I were in the same book club in Ojai, which ended up being more like a supper-wine club where members casually discussed books.

Emily went to Midland School in the Santa Ynez Valley and then to Lewis and Clark College. After graduate work in Entomology at UC Davis, she worked three years in Costa Rica supervising student entomologists abroad, then worked for an entomologist in Ventura. She returned to Ojai in 2003 and met her husband, Tony Ayala. The Ayalas have been in Ventura County since the 1760s.

I can’t write about Emily without talking about her father, Tony Thacher, who I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the last few years. He is gregarious man with a lovely demeanor. We both sat on the Ojai Chautauqua Committee, which promotes education through panel discussions of controversial topics like GMO, water and fracking. Once Tony became comfortable with me the blond jokes ensued. It was funny how he always apologized after the jokes, but they kept coming.

Friend’s Ranches farms 75 acres, about half of which is devoted to tangerines, plus five acres of navels, 30 of Valencias and assorted oddments here and there. According to Emily, Pixie tangerines are by far their most popular fruit and along with 40 other family- scale farmers in the valley they have formed the Ojai Pixie Grower Association. Together the Association has approximately 25,000 trees in the valley. The Association likes to make it clear Ojai Pixies are not sold under trade names, like Cuties, Sweeties, Delites or Smiles.

They are Ojai Pixies, Pixies grown in the Ojai Valley. Pixie season starts in March and continues as long as they have fruit to sell, usually until May or June. Friend’s Ranches starts shipping their fruit in January when it tastes best and people are home to receive it.

Emily takes Saturdays off when she isn’t doing farm tours. Most Sundays you can find her and her smiling face at the Ojai Farmer’s Market. She does not spend much time talking if their is a customer near by, but no matter what, she’s always greets me, “Hey Mary, how are you?” Then she’s quick to attend to her customer’s needs and questions. Friend’s Ranch has the BEST homemade lemonade in the county. Putting the other lemon growers to shame. Emily would never think of peddling Country Time.

To arrange a tour of Friend’s Ranches, their packinghouse or if you would like to send a holiday citrus gift basket please visit – Friend’s Ranch.

photo 2.jpg
photo 3.jpg