1981 News Clipping
Jelich Ranch Has Rich Tradition
Farming activities at the Jelich Ranch in Portola Valley are not unusual for this time of the year. The famous apple trees have been picked and the bare branches give testimony to the oncoming wet season.
What makes the ranch unusual is its place as the last commercial agricultural endeavor in Portola Valley, once a community of farmers and ranchers.
Ladders that were full of busy working people and flats that were filled with ripe red apples last November are stacked against the barn and the orchard is tidied up until next year.And owner Walter Jelich, like men everywhere who make their living from the land, is looking forward to a pleasant winter beside the family fire, enjoying the company of his grandchildren.
Jelich can remember when Portola Valley was a farmer’s community with his family heading the list of growers as one of the first pioneers in the valley. But now the 50 or so acres Jelich works on are surrounded by housing developments and the valley community holds him in awe for being a working rancher. “In fact, I think I’m the last commercial fruit farmer in San Mateo County,” he said.
Jelich said the time for closing the farm may be near at hand, despite pleas by locals that he remain open indefinitely. While he refused to discuss his age, town officials claim the Jelich Ranch – his boyhood home – is the oldest in the valley.
He said the cost of equipment and fuel to run the ranch continues to grow each year. Five trucks to handle the delivery of apples and the other farming operations are not nearly as expensive as the fuel it take to keep them running. “In 1973 it cost me $180 for 550 gallons of diesel. Now the same amount costs $700,” he said.
The ranch sits off Portola Road about 100 yards to the right of Portola Valley’s Town Hall. Two structures occupy a depression in front of the 22 acre orchard. Cars park as best as they can, and the longer you’ve been trading at the Jelich Ranch, the closer you pull up to the sales area.
Comings and goings of customers are slower during winter, but even last week, a steady flow of cars were pulling up after the apples lined up in crates at the ranch’s store.
It was James Robson, who stopped by for some pears, who called the Jelich Ranch a “credit to California. It may not be quite unique, but it approaches that.”
Jelich said he sells about 40% of his produce at the family ranch. The rest is sold to local grocery stores and supermarkets.