Soil hungry farmers came to the Salinas Valley in the early 1900s to establish this town, the first pre-planned community in the region. Getting an acre of land was truly the luck of the draw for these early settlers, many of them Danish and Swiss immigrants. It was the lure of wide-open acreage, 4,000 acres in total, that enticed them to settle this arid, windswept area.
The land, part of the original Arroyo Seco Rancho, was owned by the California Home Extension Association. It was put up for sale in a public drawing in Los Angeles in 1905. Each acre came with water rights, and a purchase of 2.5 acres gave the buyer an option on a lot in town.
Those fortunate property owners were the beginnings of Clark Colony. They were an intrepid group with a common bond, an understanding that to flourish they needed to create a community. The official town name became Greenfield after the president of the Association, Edward Greenfield. Or, it could have been a nod to the color of the surrounding alfalfa fields. The historical consensus leans to the side of Mr. Greenfield.
In the early days, dry farmers pitched tents for their families who all worked the land, growing wheat and barley in addition to alfalfa. The Clark County Water Company developed an irrigation system of canals, bringing water from the Arroyo Seco River to the thirsty crops. The struggle to farm challenged even the hardiest families. Land was sold to a new crop of immigrants, the Swiss. They brought with them the expertise for a new industry, dairy farming. Wells were dug to help supplement the irrigation system and milk cows were a fixture of the landscape well into the 1940s when row crops began to dominate the agricultural panorama of the Valley.
Greenfield continues to be a destination for those looking to put down roots in place that honors its past by staying true to the ideals of its forefathers — celebrating together is key to this forward thinking community.
It’s early history is notable.
It began as a dry city and stayed that way until 1932.
At one time, it was considered the “Corn Nut Bastion of the World” and boasted a processing plant in town.
Claus Spreckels considered expanding his sugar beet operation to include Greenfield.
Early buildings were constructed with limestone found near the Arroyo Seco River.
It was the fourth fastest growing city in the state in the early 2000s.
It hosts a Harvest Festival every October.
Greenfield is a jumping off point for:
The Steinbeck Literary Trail
From its earliest beginnings, this has been an agricultural community growing everything from barley to alfalfa to beans to stone fruit and, of course, lettuce.
Farmers planted orchards in the fields around Greenfield in the early 1900s. By 1930, more than 50 railroad cars a season left the Salinas Valley full of apples for destinations across the country.
Greenfield was originally called Clark Colony until the U.S. Post Office determined that was too similar to Clark, Colorado. The name is a nod to early town father, Edward Greenfield.
irrigation in the valley
A viable network of canals and ditches still traverse the fields around Greenfield, a reminder of the city’s earliest beginnings as Clark Colony.
In 1905, John S. Clark organized the California Home Extension Association and purchased about 4,000 acres of land, originally part of Rancho Arroyo Seco, with the intent of building a subdivision near the opening of Arroyo Seco Canyon. The Association advertised that 20 acre parcels were for sale at about $35 per acre. The property came water rights, as well as right-of-ways for canals and ditches.
The Clark County Water Company, founded in tandem with the Colony, was formed to distribute water, from the nearby Arroyo Seco River, to settlers. At the time, it was the largest irrigation system in the Salinas Valley, and one of the first.
The water company continues to hold water rights, guaranteeing service to its members. If you know where to look, you can see these early canals, still viable more than 100 years later.