Aptos and Monterey
Avocados — Hass, Gwen and approximately six additional varieties; mandarins — clementine, Gold Nugget and three other varieties; oranges — Washington and late navel and Valencia; blood oranges; kumquats; lemons; limes; white guavas; cherimoyas; California mangoes; passionfruit and kiwi.
In the early 1950s, Hank Brokaw — a high school math and chemistry teacher — and his wife Ellen started a small nursery in El Rio in Ventura County, growing avocado and citrus nursery stock. The couple began to lease land in surrounding areas in the early 1960s, and by the end of the decade, Hank had transitioned into a full-time farmer.
In 1967, the Brokaws purchased Lemoravo Ranch in Soledad in Monterey County to begin fruit production. With the purchase of Cheravo Ranch in Santa Paula in Ventura County in 1977, the business continued its expansion as the Brokaws became involved in hands-on fruit production and eventually began planting specialty citrus and subtropical tree fruits.
The family began selling at farmers markets in Ventura County in 1992, before expanding to both the Monterey Bay and San Francisco Bay areas. The business joined the MBCFM in 1993.
Ellen became chief executive officer upon Hank’s passing in 2010. All five children are involved in the business in some capacity; youngest son Will Brokaw has been the farmers market manager since 1992.
The Brokaw family actively manages its ranches using intensive farming techniques with appropriate attention given to individual trees and smaller production blocks. Two hundred acres are farmed in Santa Paula with an additional 15 farmed in Soledad.
The business employs six full-time workers at Cheravo Ranch and two at Lemoravo Ranch. In addition to employing additional workers seasonally, Brokaw Ranch Company has three full-time employees working the seven farmers markets it attends on a weekly basis.
Will said the Brokaw family has an interesting connection with the Hass avocado, often misspelled as Haas and mispronounced on a regular basis — it actually rhymes with the word “pass.”
“My Uncle Harry partnered with Rudolph Hass, a postman from La Habra Heights, and they marketed the Hass avocado,” Will said. “There’s an avocado legacy there.
“When the original Hass tree was failing in health, my father tried to nurse it back to health,” he continued. “Eventually, the tree succumbed, and my father and the family had a woodcarver make commemorative items out of the wood for the California Avocado Society.”