South County Beat

Wholesome offerings abound at Branch Mill Organic Farm and Retreat in Arroyo Grande

Special to The TribuneSeptember 24, 2013 

If you would like fresh organic fruits, vegetables, herbs and eggs, take a drive out Branch Mill Road in Arroyo Grande and visit Ruth and Wally Madocks’ country farm set in the bucolic eastern hills.

Wally Madocks, 92, Ruth’s father, bought the farm in April 2010, and Ruth, 57, came one and a half years ago. “It was a bank-owned farm and a disaster,” she said. The fields were fallow for three years and full of weeds.

The Madocks have made it into a certified organic farm with several fields, growing winter squash, corn, watermelon and pumpkins. Another field produces mixed vegetables, such as peppers, beets, chard, kale, basil, cilantro and several kinds of tomatoes. Cage-free chickens wander around.

Then there is the fruit orchard, with berries, apples, peaches, nectarines and walnuts in season. Another three acres waits to be cultivated. Watering when I arrived, Ruth, a retired teacher from Arroyo Grande High School, has found there is an enormous amount of work to do around a farm.

She drives the tractor her dad bought, picks most of the vegetables, prepares and supplements the soil, delivers produce and runs the business. She picked 300 ears of corn recently and took it to New Frontiers.

But, she emphasized, her dad, a retired engineer, was the brains behind the whole operation. The farm was a long-term dream of his. He calculates the needs for chicken wire, brought the chickens here, and does a lot of the work.

Her “vision is to do a community farm where a team of young people would manage the farm.” She would like to turn the farm over to them, while she remains on the property and runs the retreat center, and grows and makes her own herbal remedies, soy candles and sauces.

Ruth wants to keep the farm organic and hopes that in the future “non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) certified organic, local, sustainable food will become . . . highly valued in our community.”

An additional vision is to have an educational farm for children to grow food, prepare and eat it. She would like to “hook up with culinary arts” at Arroyo Grande High School and the colleges, possibly using student interns to help with the farm.

Another idea is to set up a program for veterans. It is therapeutic to grow your own food and learn about farming.

Meditation retreats occur monthly on Saturdays. There are yoga lessons and retreats. In February a woman from India will discuss nutrition from an Ayurvedic viewpoint.

Upcoming is Fiesta for Friendship Bridge, a benefit for a group that offers micro-loans to rural Guatemalan women to help them start small businesses to support their families. There will be appetizers, beverages and music, with a silent auction featuring works by local artists, gift items and certificates and plants. It takes place Sunday, Oct. 13 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Contact Carolyn at 550-3388 for more information.

Ruth, who has traveled all over the world, including Guatemala, is contributing her farm that day as a way to donate to Friendship Bridge.

Boxes of produce and eggs can be bought each week, either delivered or picked up. There is also an honor farm stand on the road.

Branch Mill Farm is located at 2815 Branch Mill Road in Arroyo Grande. Go to or call Ruth at 481-9205 for more information.

Gayle Cuddy’s column is special to The Tribune. She and Cynthia Lambert write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cuddy at 489-1026 or

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