Agriculture in Sonoma Valley: How California’s rich resources environment lent itself to development

Agriculture in Sonoma Valley: How California’s rich resources environment lent itself to development

by Patricia Cullinan

[No order in lists]

[ xxx ] —  a few bracketed items added by Tom Moritz

[The climatic, geologic and natural environment… including soil and water, land-cover and biological diversity]

[Patterns of human exploration and habitation]

American Indian practices

  • Rich natural resources



Burning practices — [ land management]

Fishing including shellfish



Spanish Settlers-

  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Agriculture
  • Cattle for hides


  • Ranchos for cattle, sheep(when did they come to CA), horses, grain
  • General Vallejo

Scientific farming


Cattle and horses for export?

Forestry-Redwood and Douglas Fir-lumber mill,  Oak-charcoal for heating  and cooking

  • Later Support for other developing areas i.e. San Francisco
  • Beginning of influx of immigrant groups to take advantage of rich resources
  • Mission siting depends on access to land and water
  • Choice of Sonoma for Mexico’s northern frontier outpost reflect richness of area.  Fort Ross is a  distance away.


American occupancy- beginning with the Bear Flag Republic-

  • Land Grants-division of Ranchos
  • Proliferation of smaller farms
  • Stone Quarries-streets of San Francisco, buildings
  • Forestry

Lumber for nearby developing area- houses, barns, nearby towns, fence posts

Charcoal for heating and cooking

  • Immigrant groups


  • Stone Masons
  • Foresters-ex: Samuel Sebastiani worked both quarries and woodcutting
  • Vineyards
  • Wine
  • Farms- Barley and Oats and wheat

German duchies-during this time the German monarchy was paying their citizens to leave

  • Merchants
  • Farmers
  • Vineyards


  • Dairies


  • Dairies


Migrant workers

Other nationalities

Celebrated individuals:

Jack London

Ansel Adams?

  • Agritourism of the 1800’s and 1900’s -Vacationers coming to enjoy the agricultural riches and healthy lifestyle of the area
  • How were these groups franchised
  • Access to waterways to move produce and stone from quarries
  • Good weather for agriculture

So what are the Agricultural Themes?

  • Forestry
  • Cattle Farming
  • Dairy Farming
  • Vineyards
  • Chickens and Turkeys
  • Fruit Trees-Pears, Cherries, Apples, Prunes
  • Agritourism
  • Land Use Planning
  • [Horticulture/ Gardening]

ü urban growth boundary preserves agriculture

ü Sonoma Land Trust and Ag Open Space preserves agricultural land and open space

ü Changes to ecology of Sonoma Valley and delta

  • Resurgence of small farms mostly organic-dairy for cheese making, agricultural products for restaurants and farmers markets




Leave a comment

Exploring our Options

The Sonoma Valley has a wealth of resources that can provide both quantitative data and qualitative stories and anecdotes to inform and enrichen our understanding of its role in the natural and cultural history of California…  An initial goal of this site is to encourage and stimulate fresh and innovative approaches  to the local and regional history of Sonoma… And to encourage re-examination of the place of the Sonoma Valley in regional, State and national history…

We will also seek to explore and test innovative technological approaches to the presentation and representation of Sonoma’s knowledge resources in the collaborative Web environment…


As a preface to these discussions, we should consider “frames of reference” for thinking about how we might approach our work…

First, some general, “philosophical” comments about “knowledge” and how we develop knowledge…

           World Intellectual Property Organization “Knowledge Pyramid”

Biodiversity Knowledge Pyramid

[Repatriation of biodiversity information through Clearing House Mechanism of the Convention on Biological Diversity and Global Biodiversity Information Facility; Views and experiences of Peruvian and Bolivian non-governmental organizations.  Ulla Helimo Master’s Thesis University of Turku Department of Biology  6.10. 2004

“First Person”

Most of us form both values and understanding based on our first-hand experience of the world — we get this understanding first from the family environment in which we grow up and then from our experiences at school, in our places or worship, at work and in the communities in which we live.  Each person has a unique perception of the world based on these experiences.  This unique, subjective frame of reference is what the UC Berkeley philosopher, John Searle, has called  –  “first person ontology“.   Most people, when presented with a variety of perceptual options (sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensible objects) will perceive things through the filter – consciously or unconsciously —  of his/her own first person world view…

(The witness provided by first person experiences can be powerfully informative about events at a given place and time — and may — as a sample — be representative of more general patterns.  Personal accounts taken together —  whether as compiled stories or tabulated as statistics — can provide powerful explanatory evidence.)

“Third Person”

In contrast, the sciences, the social science and other research disciplines typically present “third person ontology” — claiming of objectivity and invariance” for the knowledge they produce.  Typically these expressions are causal explanation or hypotheses – often presented, over and against alternatives reasonable explanations – and are supported by logical argument  (usually concerning causality) and are also supported by selected data presented as evidence.

Evidence being facts or collections of facts that have convincing force as proof of a given explanation… Well focused data has the property of being “dispositive” of a given hypothesis — that is, of  being substantially decisive in determining the validity of an hypothesis…  (In common colloquial usage, “a smoking gun” is considered to be decisive evidence…)

Leave a comment

A Sampler of Sites

Educational Sites:

          — WGBH “Teachers Domain” :

          — Library of Congress: 

          — Smithsonian

          — American Museum of Natural History

          — National Science Teachers Association

          — Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE)

          — British Library/Learning:

          — British Museum/ Schools and Teachers:

          — California Academy of Sciences/ Teachers: 

          — University of Virgina/ Scholars’ Lab:


Museum Sites:

          — AMNH  —  Darwin  Exhibition and

          — The Smithsonian:  

          —  The British Museum:


Library Sites:

          — AMNH Library:

               — “American Museum Congo Expedition”

The Smithsonian Libraries:

          — University of Virginia:

               — “Valley of the Shadow”

               — “Tibetan and Himalayan Digital Library”

          — Oregon State University:

               — “The Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Digital Papers 1873-2011”            


Data Repositories:

University of Michigan

Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR): 


Leave a comment


“Evidence” (Legally)

In prehistory, the presentation of explanations or causal arguments is necessarily limited by the absence of consistent and coherent bodies of evidence.  The writer Cormac McCarthy has commented on this sporadic and arbitrary nature of prehistoric evidence:

“…the great trouble with the world was that which survived was held in hard evidence as to past events.  A false authority clung to what persisted, as if those artifacts of the past which had endured  had done so by some act of their own will.”

The deeper into the past we go the more obscure our evidentiary sources are…  And paleontology and archeology as explanatory disciplines require significant “art”, — imagination or fancy —  to construct explanatory theories…

Progress in our knowledge of causation is made most often when an accumulating body of evidence — inconsistent with existing explanations — requires the formulation of a new, more coherent explanation…  These “paradigm shifts” can be seen very clearly in the work of distinguished intellects at decisive points in Western science — for example Newton and Darwin and Einstein…


In a prehistoric period, forms of human knowledge and understanding are evidenced by both intentional records and by incidental records — among the earliest of these intentional expressions were  petroglyphs and cave paintings.  (Songs, chants, dances and stories were also intentional records — though often culturally sequestered and, because transmitted by performance, left relatively scant evidence — but for artifacts such as  instruments or costumes. In addition, ethnographic observations of “prehistoric people” and relict oral transmissions maintained by indigenous groups may provide suggestive evidence of these forms….)

Incidental records — fossils, fire sites, structures or structural elements, graves, wooden, stone or clay artifacts, shards, remnants or middens — often require significant analysis, extrapolation and inference — as for example in the case of  “debitage” 

The geological context (stratigraphy) or associated datable elements for incidental evidence (such as timbers with tree rings) is often of critical importance in dating the era of origin…  Sometimes biological elements can be of critical use — for example the fossils or bones of now extinct species, botanical remains (as indicative of climate or diet), pollen samples…

In an historic period —  a period characterized by  formal records — by published , intentional records (that is, consciously shared or disseminated) — clay, stone or metal inscriptions, sculpture, drawings, paintings, prints, songs, poems, stories, speeches, laws, newspapers, leaflets, posters, cartoons, histories, philosophic discourses, scientific writings or data  (in print or manuscript) and by incidental records —  notebooks, diaries, sketches, drafts, discards, marginalia (in published works), even as tauntscursesgraffiti (these latter could be either intentional or incidental).  Artifacts also provide significant historic evidence; in more recent historic periods we have a stronger base in related sources of evidence to establish the context in which artifacts were used…

Leave a comment

A Sampler of Sources

Jazz:  — +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Hobo Graffiti: ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Roman Curse Tablets:                               +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SEE:  Letters to the Editor:Two Hundred Years in the Life of an American Town        

+++++++++++++++++++++++++                                                                                                                          Gravestones:

Cemetery Inscriptions Collection:

Cemetary Demography:


Creel Censuses:


Vagrancy arrests:



Political Cartoons:


Ben Franklin "Join or Die"


Parking violations by diplomats — mapped by country of origin:



Leave a comment