Lane family celebrates 150 years of farming
Deeply rooted in agriculture, the family makes even its pumpkin patch a tool for education
By Raiza Giorgi
There was a time when many Californians knew the farmers who produced their food, but that hasn’t been the case as farm fields have turned into housing tracts over the decades.
However, members of the Lane family in Goleta are proud to say that even though their fields have dwindled from 180 acres to just a few, they are celebrating 150 years of farming in 2018 and don’t plan to stop any time soon.
“A lot of people know us for our pumpkin patch and fall activities, but the hard part is keeping them coming year-round to the produce stand. … We have great produce and products available all the time,” said Ruth Lane.
The family and other small growers may benefit from a recent trend.
In a recent National Grocers Association poll, more than 85 percent of customers said they chose a grocery story based in part on whether it stocked food from regional farmers, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Knowing the Lane family history
The Lane family came west in 1863 when great-great grandfather Miles Lane brought his family to the Petaluma area. His son Jasper Lane chronicled the journey by wagon from Missouri to California in a book called “Jasper’s Journal,” which the family still has.
“Could you imagine traveling that far by wagon these days? It’s incredible to be still carrying on their legacy. I am lucky every day I get to do this life,” said John Lane as he showed historic photos of his father and grandfathers, which hang in the produce stand.
The Lane family eventually moved south to Goleta and began farming on Hollister Avenue, between Patterson and Turnpike. They started with walnut and lemon orchards along with a few produce items. Miles Lane even invented a mechanical walnut huller.
The story goes that when Miles Lane handed down his property he split it into several pieces and put the number of each parcel inside a walnut shell that he glued together. His children each drew a walnut, and whichever parcel number was inside was what they inherited.
Jasper and his brother Dexter Lane kept the farming business alive as the Lane Brothers. When they invented a picking ladder to help them get their crops from the tops of the trees, they were featured in the Pacific Rural Press for their creative invention.
The Lane Brothers started their farm stand in 1939, originally on Hollister Avenue when it was “the highway.” In the early 1960s they moved it to its current location on Walnut Lane, aptly named for the walnut grove that has since been displaced by a housing tract.
“I remember as a little kid I would build boats and float them down the irrigation ditches. I also spent a lot of time weeding the trees,” John Lane laughed.
In his entire life, John said, he hasn’t left his family’s farm other than to attend school or to take an occasional vacation.
“This life is just in my blood. I didn’t always want to be a farmer, but I grew into it, you could say. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” he added.
Ruth grew up in the Central Valley, farming almonds and grain with her family. She and John met in a church group.
The Lanes live in the historic farmhouse and their grown twin daughters, Elizabeth Lane and Rebecca Penrose, live either on or adjacent to the farm, so the Lanes’ grandchildren are also growing up learning about agriculture.
Their daughters are both history teachers at La Colina Junior High, where they attended school.
“I love when the school children come out here, and some of them have never been to a farm or know how a pumpkin grows. To see their minds expand … and who knows? Maybe one of them will get into farming,” Ruth said.
More than a field trip
The Lanes pride themselves on being more than just another pumpkin patch for snapping family photos. At theirs, people can learn from their agriculture experience.
They set up story boards and interactive exhibits to explain their family’s history in agriculture and its bond with the land. Little kids get to explore the field in scavenger hunts and older kids can use workbooks to really dive into agriculture and why it’s so important.
“The kids love taking the hay rides and playing with the ‘talking scarecrow.’ Our friend that does the voice gets a kick out of doing the ‘Scarecrow Says’ game,” John laughed.
There’s also a corn maze to get lost in, Ruth added.
Their season opened at the end of September. Any teacher is interested in bringing a class to the farm can call to make a reservation.
The future of farming
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports that family-owned farms remain the backbone of the agriculture industry. In fact, 97 percent of the 2.1 million farms in the country are family-owned operations, and 88 percent of those are small family farms like the Lane’s.
“This is where kids can come out and get their hands dirty and see our process from planting to picking and the retail side of farming. They can learn our culture and not have to go far, as we are in the heart of urban life now,” Ruth said.
John added that he loves seeing the multiple generations of shoppers who come back and tell stories about his family.
“It’s about our connection to family and this area that I think keeps people coming back year after year,” he said.
The Lanes said they aren’t planning on going anywhere. Their daughters aren’t interested in farming, but perhaps one of the grandchildren might be. Getting to spend time with them helping on the farm and feeding the barn animals creates memories they want to share.
Lane Farms at 308 S. Walnut Lane is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can visit its website, www.lanefarmssb.com, to see what produce. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.