Santa Barbara County has a history of wine making and wine grape growing stretching back more than 200 years to before California was a state. From the Mission Era of early California through the Ranchero and Pueblo Era, struggling through Prohibition to the beginning of the modern era of wine making that started in the 60's, Santa Barbara County continues to combine traditional, hand-made techniques, with the latest cutting-edge innovations in grape growing and wine making.

  • 1782: Father Junipero Serra planted Mission vine cuttings in what is now the Milpas District of Santa Barbara

  • 1804: Adobe winery constructed in Goleta

  • By the late 1800's: 45 separate vineyards encompassing 260 acres of land are cultivated to wine grapes

  • 1884: Justinian Caire imported grape slips (vitis vinifera) from France and planted a 150-acre vineyard on Santa Cruz Island

  • 1933: Prohibition repealed

  • 1960's: First commercial vineyard planted by Uriel Nielsen and Bill De Mattei in the Tepusquet region of Santa Maria Valley

  • 1962: Pierre Lafond opens Santa Barbara Winery, the first winery since Prohibition

  • 1970's: Vineyard expansion by viticultural pioneers

  • 1980's: Local wineries developed, both large premium commercial wineries and smaller artisan operations

  • 1981, 1983: Santa Maria Valley and Santa Ynez Valley recognized as official AVAs

  • 1983: Santa Barbara County Vintners Association formed

  • 1990's: Explosive growth to +10,000 acres of premium winegrapes

  • 1992-1996: Grape and wine sales increased, making the wine industry Santa Barbara County's largest agricultural sector

  • 1999: 39,200 tons of winegrapes crushed from 16,500 acres of vineyards. Locally, 50+ wineries produced 71,000 cases of wine

  • 2001: Sta. Rita Hills AVA status granted 

  • 2004: Sideways movie brings attention and increased tourism

  • 2009: Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara granted AVA status 

  • 2013:  Ballard Canyon granted official AVA status 

  • 2015: Los Olivos District granted official AVA status 


The History of Farm Supply Company

San Luis Obispo County Farm Supply Company, Inc. (FSC) was established in 1950 as an agricultural supply cooperative to serve the members of the Farm Bureau.

Humble Beginnings

Little more than an 18-by-20-foot room with $400 worth of inventory, the first Farm Supply Company store was located on Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo.

Farm Supply History.jpg

Established to sell fertilizer at reasonable prices and to distribute post-war surplus equipment, Farm Supply was vital for local agriculture. Until the late ‘60s a large part of Farm Supply’s business was selling to and servicing local dairies.

In 1965, Farm Supply purchased Walty Pump Company and established its pump department. This department has become a vital part of our service line. Today, Farm Supply has 12 pump technicians and a fleet of five state-of-the-art pump trucks, providing service 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

From 1966 to 2004 Farm Supply was at 675 Tank Farm Road in a building purchased and built by the Farm Bureau. In 2004, Farm Supply built a brand new facility at its current location at 224 Tank Farm Road.
In July 1977, Farm Supply purchased Cal Tech Chemical in Paso Robles. In 1988, Farm Supply opened a store in Morro Bay, but due to facility limitations it was closed in 1998. In 1989, Farm Supply purchased Hanson Hardware on the corner of Main Street and Blosser in Santa Maria. In 2003, Farm Supply purchased the E.C. Loomis and Son feed store and in 2004 moved to the current location on El Camino Real in Arroyo Grande. In 2007 Farm Supply purchased the Roemer's business and moved our Santa Maria location to the Roemer's facility on 1920 N. Broadway.
In September 2011, we opened our fifth location in Buellton on 700 McMurray Road. Four weeks later we traded properties with AJ Contractors in Paso Robles and our new store is located on 2450 Ramada Drive.

We’ve come a long way since 1950, and with any luck, here’s to another 65 years of serving the farmer in everyone!


A Brief History of the Santa Maria Valley

Santa Maria Valley

In the beginning, there was only the land stretching its barren slopes to the sea, no tree, only the occasional shrub. Nothing to suggest that any but the hardiest of sagebrush and weeds would flourish on this desolate site. Up the slopes, in the moisture gathering canyons there were oaks and sycamores, and it was here that the first men of the valley settled. Doubtless, many tribes passed this way, but it was the Chumash who settled here. When the first Spanish explorers penetrated the area, it was the Chumash who greeted them.

The winter of 1769 found the Portola Party journeying through the area of present day Santa Maria in pursuit of the elusive Monterey Bay. Eventually, sites were chosen to the north and southwest of Santa Maria for the fifth and eleventh missions in the chain. San Luis Obispo and La Purisima Concepcion, founded in 1772 and 1787, were the impetus for the beginnings of settlement and development in the Santa Maria area. The Mission padres did their work well, and the Missions flourished; however, in 1821 Spain !granted Mexico independence and soon after the Missions were secularized. Their lands were broken up, and individual citizens were granted land ownership for the first time.

When William Benjamin Foxen purchased the Rancho Tinaquaic in 1837, he and his dark-eyed bride, the former Eduarda Osuna, built a small adobe on the property. He was called "Don Julian" by the Indians. The Foxen family lived for many generations on the rancho. One of Foxen's daughters, Ramona, married the Englishman Frederick Wickenden. Their early adobe still stands. Ramona, whose family had been steadily increasing, longed for a nearby church; the long drive to the Santa Ines Mission with small children proving to be quite a task. The death of her father provided the incentive to build a church with a graveyard, and today at the mouth of Foxen Canyon stands the historic landmark, San Ramon Chapel, built in 1875. It is also known as Foxen Memorial Chapel. It has been dedicated as County Landmark No. 1 and also as State Landmark No. 877.

The first town in the area was located near the present site of Orcutt about 1868. The first store, first post office, and first school in the area were established in this region, called La Graciosa. However, in 1877 H.M. Newhall was granted the land on which the town was built, and summarily ejected one and all. The demise of La Graciosa did not long spell the end of development in the valley.

The area soon began to take on a multi-ethnic character as Swiss-Italian dairymen, Danish, Portuguese and Japanese farmers joined the already established Spanish, English, Irish and Scotch settlers. Dry land farming, cattle and oil became major local industries. Agriculture in the valley has continued to prosper. At the turn of the century, the Union Sugar Company had come to the valley and farming became big business.

City of Santa Maria

Four different men were responsible for settling the four quarter sections of land that corner on Broadway and Main streets and form the nucleus of present day Santa Maria. Rudolph Cook located on the southeast corner in 1869. John Thornburgh, who migrated west with his family in 1871 because of ill health, took the southwest corner. Arriving from Missouri by wagon train, Isaac Fesler purchased the northwest corner. The fourth party, Isaac Miller, settled the remaining corner. In 1874, these four men donated strips of land where their properties adjoined, and laid out Central City.

The township was surveyed in the fall of 1874; the surveyor's map was accepted and recorded at the county seat on April 12, 1875. By the 1 8707s, stage and freight lines serviced the valley on a more or less regular basis, holdups not being an unusual occurrence. As the local water table began to be tapped for new fields and orchards, new immigrants flocked to this valley from across the country, around Cape Horn and across the Isthmus. Droughts and plagues and market reverses drove them to their knees. Some died, some left, but many persevered, and their descendants remain in the valley.

The arrival of the narrow gauge Pacific Coast Railroad frdm San Luis Obispo in 1882 coincided with the official change of name from Central City to Santa Maria, as mail meant for the township had a way of showing up in Central City, Colorado. Several stores, markets, saloons and hotels had sprung up in Santa Maria when the fires of 1883 and 1884 wiped out part of the downtown area. Undaunted, the merchants rebuilt, and new business came to the town.

In the early days of the huge ranchos, the rancheros, along with their vaqueros, friends and neighbors, gathered frequently under the oaks of the serene little Valley for Spanish-style barbecues. the present Santa Maria Barbecue grew out of this tradition, and achieved its "style" when local residents began to string beef on skewers and cook it over the hot coals of a red oak fire.

In 1894, the Southern Pacific Railroad reached San Luis Obispo from the north; it wasn't until 1901 that the trains traveled through the lower part of our valley in route to Los Angeles. The Santa Maria Valley Railroad began operating in 1912, linking the rich oil fields at Roadamite to the Southern Pacific at Guadalupe. On Sept. 12, 1905 Santa Maria was incorporated as a Municipal Corporation of the Sixth Class.

Santa Maria is a busy place. But beneath the bustle of today's business, the quiet townsite of Central City still lingers. Cattle still browse the foothill pastures and red-winged blackbirds frequent the marshes, and when the summer fogs soften her silhouette, Santa Maria Valley is not unlike the peaceful valley Benjamin Foxen overlooked in 1838.


Rice reminisces about his early days in SM Valley


William Hickman Rice was 17 years old when his family arrived in the Santa Maria Valley in September 1873 and settled on leased land west of town. A short time later, after purchasing a portion of the old Rancho Punta de la Laguna near Guadalupe, he began working with his father, John H. Rice, in farming the land.

In 1938, after looking back on the 65 years that he had spent in the valley, the 82-year-old William H. Rice reminisced about the early days.

Although Rice was a boy at the time of the family’s arrival in town, the memories remained engraved in his mind.

During the early months of 1873, when John H. Rice had grown disenchanted with the over-populated Salinas area, he came to the valley to see what it had to offer.

“My father was a pioneer, one of the ‘forty-niners’ who had come over the Plains in a covered wagon from the East in 1840, when the California gold rush was beginning,” Rice said.

Seeing the natural beauty here and the fertile lands that held such promise, Rice’s visit made such a good impression on him that he and a number of other families from Salinas decided to make the move.

In late summer of the same year, 12 wagons and about 50 people, including women and children headed south.

“The night before we entered the valley we camped at the mouth of the Nipomo creek and the next day we pushed on across the river toward what is now the site of the city of Santa Maria," Rice said. "There weren’t any roads here then so we turned to the west before reaching the spot where the city is now located. We finally came to a halt on the Laguna ranch at the point that today is located about halfway between Santa Maria and Guadalupe."

He added: “There weren’t any houses there then but we pitched our tents and set about making homes for ourselves. It was some time before we managed to get frame houses built, for all of the lumber and materials had to be shipped in by boat and hauled from the coast.”


In those days, lumber was landed at Port Harford, which was located on San Luis Obispo Bay. Since there wasn’t any wharf, the lumber was tied together in rafts and "surfed" ashore. The rafts were cut loose from the schooner and were carried in to shore by the surf.

“When we took the lumber out of the water it was pretty well soaked," Rice said. "We loaded it up on wagons and began the arduous trip back to the valley. With no roads, the wagon trail was rough and had many steep grades.”

Noting that the land was good for farming, the new settlers planted large grain crops. Grain was the big item, and since all the work was done with horses and by hand labor, the task of planting a crop and bringing it through to harvest time was a big one, and a job that kept everyone busy. They had to get up early in the morning and by the time that night fell, the exhausted men were tired and glad to go to bed early.

Since harvesttime was the busiest time of the year, the pioneer residents often formed a threshing ring and swapped work. The entire gang would proceed to harvest and thresh one man’s crop and then go on to the next place until the exchange of work had extended to every place represented in the ring.

Once the grain was harvested and threshed, it was sacked and hauled to the coast, where it was loaded on boats for shipment to San Francisco. At that time, San Francisco was the largest shipping center. Los Angeles became a large port a number of years later.

The haul from Santa Maria to Point Sal was long and tedious. The road, if you could call it that, was lined with teams from morning to night. It was narrow and rough, with the grade over the mountain to Point Sal being the toughest part of the drive. Four-, six- and even eight-horse teams, hitched to wagons loaded down with sacks of grain, always had a hard pull getting up the grade. They’d have to climb the hill with a series of short stops, resting the horses every 50 or 100 feet.

The first year, with no wharf, the job of getting the grain to the boats posed a major problem. Since deepwater boats couldn’t get into Point Sal, the grain was carried in small schooners. The schooners, standing offshore and waiting for a load of grain, would put out small boats which came in close to the boats as they came in close to the beach.

The sacks of grain were taken from the wagons and placed in carts that were drawn by mules. The mules would be driven into the water as far as they could go and retain their footing, without tipping the cart over or getting the grain wet. A man would wade out into the surf up to his chest and would lift the sacks of grain from the cart into the small boat sent out by the schooner. Since the work was difficult and troublesome, by the end of the first year arrangements were been made to build a wharf out to the deep water.

Rice continued to reminisce.

“The residents of the valley gathered together and volunteered to work on the road and, with everyone joining in, we widened the road somewhat and provided places to turn off, where the horses could be rested without stopping in the middle of the trail," he said.

“The principal crops here were wheat, oats and barley, and the land produced well. Hauling the grain to the shipping point remained one of the hardest parts of getting the crops to market. It took us a whole day to make the trip to Point Sal and back."

He added: “About the first of August we’d begin to haul grain. The road was narrow and there was room for only one wagon at a time so a rule was put in effect by the general consent of all, that the road should be reserved for teams going to Point Sal from one o’clock in the morning to one o’clock in the afternoon. From 1 in the afternoon until 1 the next morning, teams returning had the right of way.

“Those people farming farther back toward the hills would take two days to make the trip. They would come as far as the foot of the Point Sal grade the first day, and then would get an early start the next day on the long pull over the mountain trail. The road was lined with teams, day and night.

“I recall one man who reached Point Sal and unloaded his grain early one day and was ready to go back before 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Although the one-way train was supposed to be limited to teams coming during those hours, he decided that he was going to start back before the deadline.”

Although the other men tried to persuade him to wait until the designated time, the man refused to consider it. Despite the warnings of the possible difficulties he’d have, he refused to listen and started out on the trail.

“Well, he didn’t get very far back along the trail before he met a procession of several loaded teams on a particularly narrow and steep part of the track," Rice said. "He had to stop, of course, because there wasn’t’ room for passing, and the others had to stop too. The angry men unhitched his wagon from his horses and led them back along the trail to his point of beginning, but not before they took his wagon apart and left it there before moving on.

“I was born in Sonoma County on Oct. 11, 1856,” Rice continued. “My father moved from there to Monterey County in 1867 and then to Santa Barbara County in 1873, and that, I guess, makes me a pioneer of three counties.”

William H. Rice married Florence Lee Coiner, one of Daniel Coiner's identical twin daughters.

According to the book, "This Is Our Valley," published by the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society in 1959, although William H. Rice was a farmer by specialty, he also had a sound sense of values that soon made him a financial figure in the growing town of Santa Maria. He was one of the organizers of the Valley Savings Bank and the Bank of Santa Maria, which became the Security First National Bank. He was a director and appraiser for this bank until he retired in 1935.

As his children grew, Rice turned his attention to schools. He organized the Rice School, southwest of town, and later helped organize the Santa Maria Union High School. He was president of the board for several years.

Florence Lee Coiner Rice died in December 1945 and William H. Rice died in January 1951. Both are buried in the Santa Maria Cemetery.


The Sweet History of California Strawberries

The Sweet History of California Strawberries

Season 24 Episode 6 | 26m 55s

Discover how hard work and determination helped Japanese, European, and Mexican immigrants find success as strawberry farmers.

Aired: 05/30/18

Rating: NR