It all began in a drippy forest in Oregon. After 18 years of New Hampshire winters, the young Matthew Sutton joined Americorps, hightailing his way to the Northwest for a year of building trails, caring for public lands, and discovering what the land had to offer. He discovered that he was never going back to New England, that the west coast could produce food year-round, and that horticulture was going to be his life’s work.
After four years of apprenticing in sustainable agriculture on farms in Tuscany and Wisconsin, Matthew completed his training at the Center for Agroecology and Food Systems in Santa Cruz. It was this last year at the UCSC campus that Matthew fell decidedly in love with fruit trees. After completing his second year, specializing in fruit tree care, Matthew left with a vision to bring what he had learned to his local community. In 2004, after a brainstorming session with his creative team (parents), the name Orchard Keepers was born. At the beginning, Orchard Keepers consisted only of Matthew, a white Ford, and his dog, Bukhara. For a few years they hauled around Santa Cruz, planting and pruning fruit trees, always lending an ear to questions and offering advice to those who were eager to learn how to care for their trees.
It turns out, the interest in growing fruit at home was not to be contained. By word of mouth, demand grew, and has only continued to grow since. Over a decade later, Orchard Keepers has honed and expanded its services, serving not only Santa Cruz, but the greater Bay Area with a substantial crew of horticulturists, fruit tree experts, carpenters and craftsmen. Throughout it all, Orchard Keepers has remained rooted in its original vision to enliven its community through thoughtful land-use, fruit tree education, and of course plenty of fruit.