History of Martial Cottle Park
Established by Edward Cottle in 1864 and continually maintained and farmed by his descendants until 2014, this land remained in agricultural production under one family for 150 years.
Vermont-born Edward Cottle emigrated from Missouri to Santa Clara County by wagon in 1854 and settled near Coyote Creek. Ten years later he purchased a portion of Rancho Santa Teresa from the Bernal family and began raising milk cows, cattle and planting grain and row crops. Edward later divided the land between his two sons, Martial and Warren. Martial Cottle’s approximately 350-acre parcel remained in agriculture with his descendants living and farming there until 2014, when his last living heir, Walter Cottle Lester passed away.
As the agricultural economy of the Santa Clara Valley changed, so did the products of the Cottle ranch and farm. From cattle and dairy pastures—to wheat fields and row crops, this land helped sustain the valley’s growing population and changing agriculture markets. During World War I and again in the 1920s and 30s, portions of the ranch were leased to Japanese tenant farmers who grew sugar beets, onions, carrots, peppers, and strawberries.
“I was born here. I’ve spent my entire life here. It would be nice for kids in future generations to know what it was like before it all changed.”
-Walter Cottle Lester
Although large-scale fruit orchards symbolic of Santa Clara County’s agricultural history were not planted here, there were some plum, apricot, cherry, quince and apple trees. The Cottles and Lesters did, however, manage large fruit orchards on other family-owned properties around the valley.
In order to maintain its agricultural history and preserve this land for future generations, the Cottle-Lester family withstood the pressures of urban development and turned down fortunes offered by developers. In 2003 Walter Cottle Lester, in accordance with his mother Ethel Cottle Lester’s wishes, transferred his remaining 287 acres to the State and County for development of a public park that informs and educates the public about the agricultural heritage of the Santa Clara Valley.
Past and present Martial Cottle Park
Jacobs Farm del Cabo at Martial Cottle Park
To achieve the wishes of Ethel Cottle Lester and her family, Santa Clara County Parks has partnered with several entities to keep agriculture alive at Martial Cottle Park.
Jacobs Farm, a leader in organic farming, is partnering with County Parks for long term organic agricultural production and community education on 180 acres of the park.
Prioritizing water-wise irrigation and sustainable farming practices, Jacobs Farm grows “Dry Farmed” Early Girl tomatoes. The crops need some water to get established initially but then are grown up to harvest time without a drop of water. Other featured crops at Jacobs Farm’s Martial Cottle Park farm have included melons, cherries, stone fruit, summer and winter squash, corn, pumpkins, culinary herbs, blackberries, and fresh-cut flowers. Many of the flowers are considered the organic farmers’ best friends because they encourage the beneficial activities of insects and butterflies.
Jacobs Farm sells its produce locally and in grocery stores across the country. Jacobs Farm also operates a Farm Stand at Martial Cottle Park, selling its organic produce, offering u-pick, field trips, and other seasonal opportunities. It is a rare opportunity to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to the community directly from “field to fork.”
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