San Gregorio Farms & Its Small Miracle

At San Gregorio Farms, in the 1970s, the main crops weren’t artichokes or chocolate milk cows.

What do you think it was?

I’ll give you one guess…..Nope.

How about a super-agricultural earthworm, a hybrid called “the small miracle”?

The 300-acre ranch at San Gregorio had its quota of conventional farm animals: chickens, ducks, horses, cows, pigs and ponies but the 1970s was the decade of “everything to do with gardening”–organic compost, crocheted potted plant hangers, ferns, ferns, ferns–and so the earthworm, long neglected as a soil enchancing creature, slithered to its very brief moment of glory.

I knew the owners, Channing and Corri Pollock, because my Ex, a talented contractor, turned their woodworking concepts into reality. The Pollocks visited their ranch often, spending days and evenings there–but actually lived in a unusual home overlooking the sea in Moss Beach.

They were an extraordinary couple. He had been a tuxedo-ed magician whose magical spells made his white doves vanish on the wildly popular Ed Sullivan Show in the 1950s and she was a beautiful, artistic and wealthy woman. Now retired, they were drawn to the soil.

“We want you to meet a small miracle,” the San Gregorio Farms pamphlet explained.

“Our most fascinating work is with our domesticated earthworms…and related soil improvement research. We cultivate on a large commercial basis a rugged hybrid species of earthworm uniquely suited to gardening, orchard and farming methnods….”

These hearty creatures were not like fleas performing tricks at the circus; they were hard workers.

In order to get the word out as to how valuable these critters were, the Pollocks signed up for a large display booth at the legendary rock impressario Bill Graham’s “World of Plants” exhibition held at the Cow Palace.

Channing recognized the theatrical possibilities.

The entire event had to be choreographed. Corri designed the brown costumes, even the shoes (see photo of Roland Reese pointing to a custom-made container.) for the booth attendants who answered the public’s questions with the hope of selling worms. The Pollocks intended to spend full time at the trade show and to be comfortable they brought exquisite furniture from their Moss Beach living room. Oriental rug. Coffee table. Couch.

Constructing the display booth turned into a monumental task because the Pollocks required the booth to be hand-carved, using only the earthworm as the motif. Throughout the space, the earthworm was the dominant theme.

Even the redwood containers, home to the earthworms, were custom-made, including one in the photo that looks like a pyramid. The budget buyer carried his or her earthworms home in a clever simulation of a Chinese take-out box.

During the final inspection of the booth, the Pollocks, to their horror, noted the main wall of the booth was blank. Emergency! It needed something quick. A mural?

How about a life-size photo of a pair of beautiful young people holding the reins of super earthworms a they till the soil.

Mark and Flower looked just great–they were a gorgeous couple often asked to model. Michael Powers, the Miramar Beach photographer, took pictures of them in the flower fields of Half Moon Bay or riding on the white sandy beaches. But they’d never shared the camera with earthworms before. (See photo of Mark and Flower below).

San Gregorio Farms was the talk of the Bill Graham “World of Plants” exhibition but the hybrid earthworms never were launched as a business. Everything the Pollocks did they did with style and grace–and the earthworm caper was no exception.

Note: Channing Pollock passed away at age 79 in Las Vegas on Sunday, March 19. His wife, Corri died a few years ago in Moss Beach.

(All photos–June)