Mendocino County’s Diverse System
Visitors to Mendocino County awe at the beautiful rugged topography, scenic beaches, and diverse microclimates. Part of the North Coast of California, this remote region has offered opportunities and challenges for people seeking to live off the land. Geographic isolation, rough terrain, and limited flat land suitable for crops have shaped our agriculture.
The Pomo, Yuki, and other Native American people were the first to live off the natural resources here, utilizing a type of permaculture and highly sophisticated land management for thousands of years. When Europeans immigrated here and displaced the native people and culture, they established homesteads and ranches that we would recognize as farms today.
By the 1850s, the timber industry developed, contributing to the construction of San Francisco and driving the economy for many years. The fishing industry also grew. Logged areas and oak woodlands were supplanted by huge cattle and sheep ranches. Italian and Greek immigrants brought their practice of growing wine grapes, olives, and fruit. The climatic diversity throughout the county allowed for distinct wine growing regions, and by the 1980s, Mendocino shared in the California wine boom.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Mendocino County still produced a lot of sheep, but wool prices declined. The landscape changed as ranching and sheep grazing waned from its heyday. As with other agricultural products, lack of infrastructure and specialization, and market forces played a role in its demise.
Hops, prunes, and pears were once major agricultural commodities here, but cannabis is now coming out of the shadows. Local agriculture has evolved dramatically over the past century and a half. Over a dozen watersheds, including the Eel River, Upper Russian River, and Navarro River watersheds encompass this large county – over 3,500 square miles. During winter, the web of riparian corridors and tributaries come alive with rainfall, recharging aquifers and supporting a myriad of animals and resources needed for agriculture.
Life in Mendocino County is as nourishing as it is beautiful, and we feel lucky to live in such a diverse ecosystem.