About the Rancher

AboutTheRancher“When I came to Berkeley, I had no idea what I wanted to do,” said John Swift, “I could have gone into psychology, criminology or forestry.”

But his interest in eco-farming led him to the College of Natural Resources.

Now he owns and manages Swift Subtropicals near San Luis Obispo, California. Swift raises organic specialty fruits and vegetables such as Feijoas from Brazil, Pepino Melons from Chile, and Horned melons from Africa. Swift sells the produce to farmers’ markets to promote the food locally and to specialty brokers in Los Angeles.
“The College was a stepping stone,” said Swift. From there, he traveled by truck from London, England to Kathmandu, Nepal, “pretty much for fun,” but also looking at agricultural systems across Iran, India, and Afghanistan. Then he returned to California Polytechnic Institute and graduated in 1979 with an M.S. in international agriculture.

He remembers Insect Biology, Professor Donald Dahlsten’s holistic approach to viewing systems and Berkely’s approach to looking at broader issues as motivating influences.

“I remember a discussion paper on the Green Revolution and the problems with introducing some of the technologies in Third World countries,” he said. “Those ideas were validated later on in my career when I was overseas.”
John Swift Feeding Horse
After Cal Poly, Swift volunteered for two years as a project manager in Papua, New Guinea with the International Voluntary Service. At the Wau Ecology Institute, he worked to improve traditional cultivation techniques during the shift from slash-and-burn agriculture to using composting and agroforestry.

Swift returned to the states in 1982 and began identifying, importing and propagating specialty produce varieties on the 600-acre Bear Creek Ranch that he purchased with his brother, Jim. Swift Subtropicals takes up 25 acres on the ranch. On the rest of the land, the Swifts raise purebred Texas longhorn cattle and thoroughbred horses.

“My background gives my flexibility to try new things” he said.