CALIFORNIA AVOCADO GROWERS
Catherine Pinkerton Keeling
Santa Paula (Ventura County)
- Started growing California Avocados in 2018
- Family started growing California Avocados in the 1950’s
- From a multigenerational family of avocado growers
CATHERINE PINKERTON KEELING’S STORY
Catherine Pinkerton Keeling comes from a family that has been farming in California for four generations and growing California Avocados for more than half a century. She grew up on her parents’ avocado groves but says that didn’t make her a farmer. Becoming an avocado farmer came later. After college Catherine (and her husband Travis) volunteered for the Peace Corp in Costa Rica, helping women become economically independent as part of a rural development program. She later pursued additional education outside of farming, becoming a licensed clinical social worker in the Midwest.
In late 2018 the devastating Thomas Fire damaged nearly 5,000 acres of avocado groves in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. The Pinkerton family home and about 70% of their ranch was destroyed, wiping out two generations of hard work. Catherine was relieved that her parents, Dan and Susan Pinkerton, and their employees were not hurt, but after seeing the devastation Travis and Catherine felt a calling to help her family rebuild the ranch. So, the Keeling’s relocated to California and now their children are growing up alongside their parents and grandparents on what was once their great-grandparents’ farms.
Rebuilding from the fire is ongoing. Catherine and her brother Doug, a Marine Corps veteran and helicopter pilot, are now majority owners of the avocado farm. Catherine, who now considers herself a farmer and is in charge of the operation, is learning from her parents’ invaluable experience as well as trying new things. She loves working outside and that every day in the groves is different. More committed than ever to protect the land and to farm sustainably, Catherine is passionate about soil health, using self-mulching from the avocado trees’ leaves and pruned branches and encouraging microorganisms that benefit the soil. The family avocado groves are part of an irrigated lands management group and use water conservation methods like drip irrigation.
CATHERINE’S FAVORITE WAYS TO ENJOY CALIFORNIA AVOCADOS
Catherine says that “all ways” are her favorite ways to eat California Avocados! She puts them in omelets and egg dishes, guacamole and salads as well as on hot dogs, sandwiches and burgers. She enjoys avocado toast and loves California Avocados in sushi, Mexican dishes such as tacos and burritos. Naturally, eating them plain is perfect for Catherine too.