Grown in Marin
University of California
Grown in Marin

UCCE Marin intern: Marissa Thornton

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In 1852 one of the Marshalls (as in the Town of Marshall) sailed “around the Horn” to San Francisco and started a Shorthorn operation with his brothers on the 1300 acres that is today the Thornton Ranch, in Tomales. Today, Gary Thornton runs cattle and sheep on a coastal prairie pasture that typifies the excellent and rich grasslands of northwest Marin.

Marissa Thornton is joining the operation with her father, and is the new intern at UCCE Marin, helping with the new Grown in Marin website makeover, and adding her energy and knowledge to our team.

Marissa graduated from Chico State with a degree in animal science, and is looking for her own niche on the ranch. “You learn a lot in college, but nothing compares with the experience you get on a working ranch. Coming home to learn the ranch is the best experience I could get,” Marissa says. “My identity is not separate from our ranch. I remember when I was five, I apologized to my Grandpa for having to go to kindergarten instead of helping feed the sheep.”

Marissa spends time at the UCCE office, while working another job, and putting in time working her real passion: the ranch. She is taking time to learn what opportunities exist for her to add to, and diversify the operation. 

“I think I’m inspired by what my ancestors did with the land, and I’m always fascinated to learn what it was like for them back then. They were resourceful and did what was naturally successful in the area since that was the only way they could survive. They grew potatoes, milked some cows, and made cheese using energy-efficient equipment and materials sourced from the ranch. And how is that different from what most operations are converting to now? It takes more time but if done on a smaller scale than what we’ve been used to for the past few decades, it makes for really quality products. 

“What do I project the next generation will be like in agriculture? I think the next generation doesn’t want to just take over their family’s land, they want to make it into something of their own. I don’t know one farmer around my age who is ready to take the land as it is. They want to put their own name on it, which inherently creates a niche product.”

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