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Jack London State Historic Park
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Sustainable Land Practices-Then and Now


In 1905, while living with Charmian at Wake Robin Lodge in Glen Ellen, California, Jack London decided to settle permanently in the Valley of the Moon. In June, he purchased his first piece of real estate — the Hill Ranch for $7,000. "130 acres of the most beautiful, primitive land to be found in California," London said.  

When he cleared 40 acres to raise hay, he discovered the land had been depleted by "old-fashioned methods of taking everything off and putting nothing back."

The challenge to me is this: by using my head, my judgment, and all the latest knowledge in the matter of farming, can I make a success where these eighteen men failed? I have pledged myself, my manhood, my fortune, my books, and all I possess to this undertaking."

London taught himself about farming, reading agricultural and scientific tomes. He wrote to the agricultural departments of the University of California and the State for information and advice. "I adopted the policy of taking nothing off the ranch," he said. He implemented modern farming techniques, rotating crops and using natural fertilizer, such as “green manures” and cover crops that were plowed into the soil to fix nitrogen. London developed a liquid manure system using recycle materials hosed from the dairy barn He also used an ancient technique he had seen as a war correspondent in 1904 in Korea… terracing to prevent soil erosion.  As a result, London claimed,  "… instead of one-tenth of one meager crop a year you can grow three rich crops a year." 

He wanted to "leave the land better for my having been," and so more than 100 years ago, he pioneered many of the principles which are the foundation of organic farming today. Today’s organic and biodynamic farming techniques owe a great deal to London’s innovation, including controlled animal grazing, use of green manures, crop rotation, recycling animal and plant waste via composting and natural fertilizers.  Jack London was one of the first true organic farmers in the US. "Do you realize that I devote two hours a day to writing and ten to farming?" he wrote in his journal.

After London's death, his wife, Charmian, asked his fans to remember what London once called "The Ranch of Good Intentions." "Have any of you thought what is to become of the great thing he has started up here? ... I am begging you now, with all my heart, not to forget that he laid his hand upon the hills of California with the biggest writing of all his writing and imagination and wisdom …"

Today you can take a free weekend tour of the Beauty Ranch and learn more about Jack London's ranching methods. Call 707 938-5216 for available dates. 


Jack London's practices of responsible land stewardship are continued today by our neighbor, the Benziger Family Winery. Every wine in the Benziger portfolio carries a third-party certification of green farming practices. Whether the vineyard is certified sustainable, organic or Biodynamic, it’s carefully tended with the most eco-responsible methods available.
We don’t just farm this way because we think caring for the land is the right thing to do, it also happens to be the best way to make distinctive, authentic wines. By treating our vineyards the best way we know how, we’re making wines we’re really proud of. And that is good for, well, everybody. Learn more about Benziger Family Winery. See the winery and receive 20% off our Biodynamic Tram Tour by using promo code: JACKLONDON. Book a tour now

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