The Monkey Ranch Story

Monkey Ranch is our 50-acre former dairy ranch in the rolling hills west of Petaluma, California. I'd been watching this area for several years and when the old dairyman who worked this land passed away in 2009 we jumped at the opportunity to purchase part of his beautiful property. We now live in the same house where the dairyman lived, originally built in 1879 from old-growth Redwood, and updated with indoor plumbing in 1942.

There were seven barns on the property, and we have made a point to keep all of them as close to their original configuration as possible, just cleaning them up and making them useful for us, our family, and our guests.

It took us several months to scrub the barns clean. There was debris, dirt, and cow exhaust everywhere, on everything, and a foot deep in some places. The very first tool I purchased (of many more to come) was a power washer. We spent months washing and rewashing the barns inside and out.

After much contemplation, we named our new home "Monkey Ranch" and moved in during the summer of 2011. We named our new home Monkey Ranch for three reasons: One, the name makes us laugh. Two, we like to monkey around and have fun. And three, we have a cat named Monkey who is the mascot of our spread.

Neither Sue nor are are farmers, actually, between us we have about 4 brown thumbs, but our goal wasn't to start a farm as much as it was to create a place, a place that people wanted to visit, a place that was warm and inviting, and flexible and usable. We have replaced the ranch's rickety and dangerous old wiring with new, safe wiring all according to code, but we've left the barns and outbuildings in their original, funky state. We've replaced some of the rotten siding boards with new ones, but we've left the shape of the structures the way they always were. We like the comforts of technology, so there's a strong WiFi signal throughout the property, but we tried our best to hide the wires from view.

When people ask, "What do you grow on Monkey Ranch?" my answer is, "Young people." We are supporters of the new agriculturalists, and they are primarily young, college educated, raised with an ecological consciousness, and have a sophisticated palate. They want good, healthy, tasty food, and they want to work with their hands in the sunshine to grow it. We supply the land and the tools, and they supply the know-how and the labor. They are not our employees, but are independent business persons. We want them to succeed, but we want them to do it their own way.

Even though it's primarily our home, we always knew that Monkey Ranch would make a great venue for parties and corporate events. Once you see it you will understand why we want to share our good fortune with others who appreciate it the way we do.

Of course, we tested it out with our friends and family at many varied events. For example, the first big party here was my own 60th birthday bash. In 2012, our son, Scott, married his lovely bride, Hannah, in the Tall Barn. That same year we hosted a big party for the software design company that Sue and I own. From these events, we learned what we had to fix up, and we learned what made events successful and memorable.

We love Petaluma, our new home town. It's a community with both ranchers and commuters, educated professionals and family farmers, construction workers and artists. We love the creative energy of the iconoclasts just as much as we love the strong family ties of generations of farmers.

We want our guests to have a peak experience. We will put our efforts into making sure that your memories of Monkey Ranch and your event here are wonderful. Feel free to make an appointment to come by and take a look to see if this is a good fit for you.

Sue and Alan Cooper in front of their 1879 farmhouse, pre-renovation.

Sue and Alan Cooper in front of their 1879 farmhouse, pre-renovation.

The Farmhouse is cleaned up.

The Farmhouse is cleaned up.

The Tall barn “before” picture.

The Tall barn “before” picture.

The Monkey of Monkey Ranch.

The Monkey of Monkey Ranch.

The sheep and pastureland specialist, Aaron Gilliam.

The sheep and pastureland specialist, Aaron Gilliam.

Eric George in his field of greens.

Eric George in his field of greens.

The folks from the San Francisco design company bond at the Ranch.

The folks from the San Francisco design company bond at the Ranch.