Organic Farming Comes to Seeno Property in Benicia

Brentwood farming company won’t be using herbicides or pesticides while farming land leased from Albert Seeno.

When Sean McCauley and his crew finish planting safflower seeds on approximately 475 acres of land in the Benicia Industrial Park they will do what dry farmers have done for centuries – they’ll wait for the rain to fall.

“We’re dry farmers,” said McCauley, Tuesday afternoon while huge John Deere  tractors pulled discs and ring-rollers across the land.  “Rain water is our irrigation.  A lot of the moisture we need is in the soil already.”

McCauley Brothers Agricultural Services, based in Brentwood, currently farms 4,000 acres in Contra Costa, San Joaquin Counties and now Solano County.

“We own some and we lease a lot of ground,” said McCauley.

McCauley said the soil on the property is a good mix of loam and clay that will hold moisture for a long time. “We like Benicia because it has a great climate,” said McCauley.  “It’s a little cooler.”

The crop they’ll grow this year, safflower, is similar to sunflowers and is grown for the oil recovered from the seeds.  According to McCauley, a lot of safflower is grown in the Dixon area.

McCauley and his crew have been plowing the ground, turning the weeds, grass and artichoke thistle under in order to create a seed bed for the new crops. “It was a lot of work,” said McCauley.  “We’ve been out here for a month.  Artichoke thistle is real hard to get rid of.”

All the work will hopefully pay off in August when he’ll harvest the crop.  Until then, Benicians will get a view of crops growing while the grass on the surrounding hills dies.  “When this all comes up it’ll be green when everything else is brown,” said McCauley.  “In late July the flowers will come out.”

After harvesting the safflower McCauley isn’t sure what they’ll plant next.  A lot will depend on the long-range weather forecast and what is learned from this first crop.  He said garbanzo beans and winter wheat are being discussed.

The Seeno property in Benicia isn’t the only land McCauley Brothers leases from Seeno.  “The Seeno family has always been good to us,” said McCauley.  “They’ve always supported farming and agriculture.”

“At least 25 people have stopped to ask what we’re doing and none of them had anything negative to say,” said McCauley.  “We’re happy to be here. We love the climate.”

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If there’s something in this article you think should be corrected, or if something else is amiss, call editor JB Davis at 707-628-0051 or email him at benicia@patch.com

Gaia Renee Vacek May 02, 2012 at 01:22 PM
This is wonderful use of land. I an so glad to have this on our community.
Patricia Kneisler May 02, 2012 at 01:56 PM
I happened to drive by the area yesterday and couldn't believe my eyes. All I could think of is "why are they destroying the groundcover so that all the dirt will blow away in the next high wind??!!" NOW I get it. I had no idea you could grow crops out there without irrigation. I'm so happy now to hear that this land is being put to such good use!
Larry J. Miller May 02, 2012 at 03:12 PM
This is a VERY strange turn of events! I just went to city hall on Monday and asked the city what was happening out there. No one knew anything but they said they would find out and give me a call back. They also looked up the land use and according to the city the land is not zoned for agricultural. Yesterday they called me and said someone from Seeno had stated that "someone is clearing our land for us and seeding it". They didn't say what. So it appears that Seeno is lying again! According to the article, they are growing a "crop". Sounds like agricultural to me! So there go our green hills!
JB Davis (Editor) May 02, 2012 at 03:47 PM
A couple of things I think are important to remember: 1) Albert Seeno is a businessman and will always try and make money with that land. 2) The Seeno family has been running cattle on the land for at least 20 years and probably longer. Grazing cattle seems like an agricultural use and the city has never tried to stop that so why would they get cranky about a crop farmer. The farmer left grass around the drainage areas too. He didn't plow every square meter of ground.
Larry J. Miller May 02, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Larry Lamoreux May 02, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Oil seed crops like safflower are increasingly being planted with genetically modified seeds that produce herbicide (i.e., Glyphosate, or "Roundup") resistant plants. Does anyone know what type of seeds are being planted here?
Deane May 02, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Dear Larry J. Miller.....Thank you for supporting the local farmers!! I am sure they appreciate it. Our farmers feed America.
JB Davis (Editor) May 02, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Larry, In the future, please don't use all caps. We strive for respectful conversations here and all caps is the internet equivalent of yelling.
JB Davis (Editor) May 02, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I don't know if these farmers are using Roundup resistant seed but, since they aren't using any herbicides or pesticides, we can hope they aren't using genetically modified seeds.
Karen LaRiviere May 02, 2012 at 09:03 PM
JB you're right - he is a businessman and will always try and make money, however, his methods are usually questionable to say the least. If he was changing the use of that land, doesn't he have to talk to someone at City Hall first? If he's going to grow whatever, don't most crops require water? Is there any water up there for him to use? Weren't there some environmental issues to him bulldozing the hills for his development? What has changed?
Sean McCauley May 02, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Thank You for your questions. We use no GMO Seed in our farming ventures. Round up ready seed is normally either Corn or Soybean crop. @ Karen...we are dry farmers and we depend on Mother Nature to irrigate our crops.
JB Davis (Editor) May 03, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Thanks for chiming in Sean! Karen, the difference is that the farmer is plowing the fields. The Seeno development that was first proposed had a lot of dirt being moved from one part of the property to another in order to level it out. Nothing like that was done here. They didin't move the dirt, just turned the weeds under.
Robert Livesay May 03, 2012 at 07:34 PM
I am glad they are doing the ag on the land. It more than likely is a violation, but the state may have the final say. We will see. I do like what they are doing.
"The Black Panther of Poetry" May 06, 2012 at 03:09 AM
trust me larry miller i know, j.b. hates all caps. I just whispered that statement because if all caps are equivalent to yelling. Then it suffice it to say that all lower case is whispering!!! " now go to bed" shhhhhhhhhhhhhh! shhhhhhhhhhhh!
G Cooper March 12, 2013 at 07:09 PM
I'd rather see farmland instead of buildings thanks Seeno, keep it up!


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