About the Ranch
Swanton Pacific Ranch is located in Santa Cruz County at the northern reaches of California’s Central Coast and the Monterey Bay. The 3,200 acre property is a landscape composed of a majestic redwood forest, lush riverine ecosystems and expansive coastal grassland overlooking the bay and the Pacific Ocean.
Recognized for its high biodiversity and abundant resources, this area provides a valuable opportunity to study the methods of resource conservation applied through sustainable management techniques. The ranch was donated to the California Polytechnic State University in 1993 by the late Al Smith. A Cal Poly graduate and founder of Orchard Supply Hardware, Al had specific goals, “…that Swanton Pacific Ranch be maintained as a working ranch and used exclusively for agriculture, recreational, educational purposes”.
This educational and research facility is owned by the Cal Poly Corporation and managed by the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. Faculty, graduate students and undergraduates actively pursue research opportunities, utilizing the forest, range, and watershed resources within the ranch. The ranch hosts a variety of functions some of which include the production of certified natural beef, “U-pick” certified organic apples, hosting of professional meetings and workshops, and courses offered by the Department of Natural Resource Management.
Natural Diversity as a Living Laboratory
Situated at the northwest end of Santa Cruz County and occupying circa 30 square miles of sharply contrasted terrain, the Scott Creek Watershed concentrates within its geomorphological boundaries, at least 10-12% of California’s flora, both native and introduced.
The Scott Creek Watershed and its environs, is more than an aggregation of
600+ native species (subspecies, varieties and forms), representing 282+ genera and 90+ families: it is that rare occurrence, a living window into California’s evolutionary past, still relatively undeveloped by human activity and spared the habitat degradation that has befallen much of the coastal ecology elsewhere in our state.