Frog Hollow Farm Portrait
The Fairytale Begins. Bump down a single-lane country road to Frog Hollow Farm on a hot summer morning, and the first thing you notice is the rich, summery perfume of sun-ripened peaches filling the air. Everywhere you look, fairy-tale bears and frogs cavort across boxes
stacked to the sky. Some, filled with the most perfect fruit, might be heading to the kitchen of Chez Panisse or a local farmer’s market. Others have a shorter distance to go: just a few yards to the white, airy kitchen adjoining the packing shed, where they’ll be simmered into
conserves or sliced to fill buttery tarts and galettes. All around, mouth-watering fruit beckons: irresistible crimson plums dusted with silver bloom; plump, glowing apricots; nectarines that look airbrushed in burnished red; white peaches blushing pink on their downy cheeks. This is
From Meager Beginnings to Mouth-watering Organic Creations. Frog Hollow Farm began in 1976 on a 13-acre lot of fertile San Joaquin River delta land in Brentwood, California. Back then, farms and orchards made up most of the town, a small farming community renowned for its rich soil and mild climate. Al Courchesne, a northern California native returning from Hawaii where he had been teaching high school history in Honolulu, purchased the land along with his soon-to-be business partner Sarah Coddington from Sarah’s great-uncle Clinton Smith. They planted their first crops that year: a mixture of corn, mixed vegetables, and fruit trees.
In the early days, a chorus of frogs would herald the sunrise and sunset every day from a nearby pond. This natural symphony delighted Courchesne, thus the new farm was dubbed Frog Hollow Farm. Over the next 33 years, the farm would expand to over 130 acres planted with nearly 100 varieties of stone and tree fruits, including apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, pluots, cherries, Asian and European pears, as well as olives and table grapes.
For the first few years, most of the crops were sold through a roadside farm stand and u-pick operation. One crate at a time, Frog Hollow Farm built a reputation for remarkable fruit, picked truly tree-ripe and delivered bursting with juice and true, old-fashioned flavor.
In 2000, small-batch, handmade conserves, made from their famous fruit, as well as a line of sweet and savory pastries and a selection of all-natural, unsulfured sun-dried fruit, began to make their way into the hands and mouths of Frog Hollow’s devoted fans. The culinary side of the business, as many know, is overseen by pastry wizardess Becky Courchesne. Becky, then pastry chef at Oliveto (a renowned Oakland restaurant), met her farmer-husband one day when he was delivering fruit to the restaurant. The rest as they say is history. They were married in 2002, and now have 2 daughters, Madeleine and Camille.
These days, Frog Hollow Farm sells its fruit at local farmers’ markets around Northern California; through a 400-member weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program; through a burgeoning online, mail-order business; and at their Market & Cafè located in San Francisco’s food-centric Ferry Building. Along with fresh fruit in season, the Market & Cafè sells the farm’s heavenly creations, as well as a short menu of salads, sandwiches, and breakfast items all made, of course, with Frog Hollow fruit.
Frog Hollow doesn’t pick its fruit to make it store and ship better. Instead, Frog Hollow lets its fruit hang until it is truly tree-ripe, heavy with sweetness and juice, and rich with old-fashioned flavors that few other farms could match. Picking the fruit truly “tree ripe” has been the key to Frog Hollow’s success. In the summer, a climate of dry, hot days and cool nights lets the farm grow high-flavor varieties that can’t withstand the searing heat of the Central Valley further south, where the majority of California’s commercial peach crop is grown. Aggressively thinning (removing fruit to reduce competition) the crop a few months before the harvest also contributes to Frog Hollow’s consistently high quality. As harvest approaches, the trees are deliberately left a little underwatered, leading to fruit with a more concentrated flavor. Each block of trees is inspected daily by Farmer Al to ensure the proper ripeness and flavor that only a farmer can appreciate. Taken all together, the legend of Frog Hollow’s fruit is a unique combination of choice varieties, a moderate climate, well-nourished soil, good location, and sustainable agricultural practices, informed by decades of dedication, experience, and a deep love of the land.
2010 marks the 21st year that Frog Hollow Farm has been operating under the principles of organic farming. One of the first in the country to move to wholly organic practices on a larger scale, Frog Hollow Farm has become a standard for what’s great about small, sustainable farms. Join us as we celebrate our 21st year of organic farming—eat a peach!