Jim on Who We Are

Lisa Brenneis

Lisa at one of her favorite activities – weeding.

I think of there being two kinds of bass players – front liners, like Sting, say, or Jaco Pastorius; and all the other ones who stand in the back with the drummer, keeping the rhythm going and putting a bottom under the sound that makes the whole thing come together. Lisa played bass in pop and punk aggregations in LA in the 70s and 80s, and she kind of plays bass for Churchill Orchard. She hardly ever wants to be out front, but she definitely keeps the rhythm going, provides the bottom that makes the whole operation come together, and writes half the songs. Apart from strategic vision and a ferocious producer’s work ethic (“what’s the deliverable? what’s the budget? what’s the deadline? OK then, here’s how it’s going to play out….”), her art and her sensibility have created our image and are key to why we’re still here.

Mike Sullivan
Mike’s rebar

Mike called me in December of 2013 and informed me that he was coming to work for me. I told him I was all staffed up and didn’t have room. He showed up anyway. For the first year or so we didn’t know what to make of him – he may not have known back then what to make of himself. I still treasure the piece of rebar that he turned into a ram’s horns
the first time he drove the flail mower – watching him careen around that first time was seeing a man finding his Joy. Family lore has it that as a very young child, when his grandmother tried to take him to the toy store, he insisted on going to a nursery instead (that’s plant nursery, not day care.) He cannot be made to put tools away, and he tends to treat small parts, like for instance the nozzles of fuel containers, as not worth keeping track of, but for cajoling production out of the trees, and sheer fierceness of approach to getting the work done, there’s no one like him.

Jim on Jim

I never had much of a plan for my life, I made an art form out of working with what came my way. Despite an absence of ambition I have often been able to recognize opportunity when it showed up, and I do like to work.

An orchard showed up, and over time I have come to understand what an astonishing privilege and opportunity it has been. Lisa and I built our lives out of trying to stay out of the way of the trees, protecting and tending them, and the trees have responded. We had this idea that if the fruit tastes good we would be able to sell it, and so far that has proven true.

Lisa on Who We Are

Jim Churchill

Jim was my husband and partner from 1988 until a couple years ago. We met in LA, but our first anniversary we spent in the orchard, sorting frozen Pixies outside the little shed. And so I was hooked on farming.
I knew Jim was a real farmer when we went out to survey the total loss of  our baby Pixie trees in the1990 freeze. I was standing there thinking, “well, it was fun while it lasted”. Jim said “get in the car! I’ve got to get Brokaw on the phone and order replacement trees!”.

Jim works hard. His belief in farming is unquenchable. He loves his place; he’ll take any chance to keep on growing fruit for people.

Churchill Orchard has been our rock band, our pirate ship, our radio station. Anybody who has been in any of those knows — it’s a lot of fun, also contentious; sometimes dangerous.

Lisa on Lisa:  Did I come to Churchill Orchard as Sammy Hagar following David Lee Roth in Van Halen? Or more like Michael McDonald joining the Doobie Bros?

Lisa on Mike: Soon after he came to work at Churchill Orchard, Mike came over to our house. I found him surveying my book collection. We talked about Italo Calvino.
I’m like “who is this guy?”
I found out Mike is a broad topic. A convention. A one-man team. Hard working. Fun loving. Natural coach. Thirst for knowledge. Loves the game. He is messy, though. But whatever.