Julie White-Chaples spent her childhood going on adventures in rural Shandon — a pastime she’s repeated with her own kids over the years on the land she loves.
“To be able to play outside all day in the dirt and hunt for bugs, walk dogs in the riverbed and look for rocks and bones and collect mouse skulls,” she said. “All that stuff connects you to the earth — with life.”
White-Chaples, 42, is a fourth-generation farmer on the family’s ranch in McMillan Canyon.
Her family has been farming on the land since 1886, traditionally focusing on cattle and barley.
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The wife and mother of three eventually branched off into a small boutique olive farm operation with 350 olive trees that the family planted together in the 100-degree heat. She makes skincare products such as lotions, salves and soaps from a converted vintage trailer on the family acreage and sells them online, in local shops and at Whole Foods Markets in Monterey and San Luis Obispo.
She also produces a limited release of olive oil.
When asked why she loves little Shandon, one of San Luis Obispo County’s smallest communities, White-Chaples said it’s difficult to put into words.
“It’s such a sense of peace and being in the moment here,” she said. “There’s something very spiritual about getting up each morning and feeding the chickens.”
White-Chaples grew up in Shandon and, although she lived in San Diego in the late 1990s, always knew she’d return and grow old there.
“I live in the house my grandfather built,” she said.
One of her favorite photographs shows her on horseback in diapers, her father by her side. George Ronald White is now 73 and retired from farming.
“My father is my hero — he’s an amazing man who taught me to respect nature and how to be a farmer,” she said.