As an architect in downtown Santa Rosa, Ken Lafranchi’s connection to agriculture runs deep. His family traces back to an old dairy in Marin, and his father the late Art Lafranchi was a dairyman and attorney in Santa Rosa. Art was heavily involved in the community and always placed an emphasis on agriculture.
Lafranchi’s grandfather purchased a ranch in Santa Rosa at the end of Piner Road in 1960 where he grew up. Lafranchi said the ranch gave him a good grounding, and when he later lived in Petaluma, he just wanted to stay involved in agriculture.
Lafranchi bought out 50% of the ranch from his aunt and uncle 10 years ago, and along with his ex-wife planted 61 acres of winegrapes. When his father passed away four years ago, he bought out the rest of the family so that he would own the entire 262 acre ranch. After purchasing the remaining piece of the ranch, Lafranchi expanded his vineyard by 12 acres. His vineyards are currently managed by Redwood Empire Vineyard Management.
Art Lafranchi had been raising dairy cattle, but the family closed the dairy when he passed away because there was no family interest to continue it. “Growing up, my dad introduced us to the ag industry,” said Lafranchi, “and we still have ties to agriculture.”
Lafranchi said that the ranch wasn’t inherited, it was a purchase, because there were so many siblings and cousins involved. Despite this, he still has the same goal of many others: to keep his property in the family. He said the purchase was a complicated real estate deal involving a large loan, but it will all be worth it in the end. Lafranchi now lives on the ranch with his three sons along with his girlfriend and her two children.
The ranch’s longtime manager, Carlos Soria, now rents more than 140 acres from Lafranchi where he grows corn and organic vegetables. Lafranchi describes Soria, who has lives on the ranch for 36 years, as a true self-made success story.
Lafranchi works full time as an architect where he regularly interacts with the ag industry. He has done a lot of winery design including work for Francis Ford Coppola, Ferrari-Carano and Sonoma-Cutrer. He also did the architecture for Saralee & Richard’s barn at the fairgrounds which he described as a really good tie with the ag industry, the Fairgrounds and the community in general.
“I love my involvement in the ag industry,” said Lafranchi. “It’s extremely beneficial to my family and me. Some of the best people I’ve met in my life have had an ag background. “Ag needs to promote itself and tout all the good and important things it does. Farm Bureau is a good conduit for that. They provide great service to the community, and I chose Premium Membership because I just wanted to be a part of that and promote it more than I had been. Sonoma County Farm Bureau is a leading organization in the county, and I hope it remains so.”
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the author and Sonoma County Farm Bureau when reprinting this item.