Best known for his successful, award-winning direction on the blockbusters Pleasantville (starring Reese Witherspoon and Tobey Maguire) and Seabiscuit (also starring Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper), Gary Ross has established himself as an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, actor, producer and Hollywood powerhouse. Those who are fortunate enough to enjoy such prominence and success in the entertainment industry might be inclined to bask in the glow of personal excess by living large, but Ross is content escaping to his family’s 3,500 square foot weekend home and appreciating the simple pleasures in life…like pure organic fruit and lots of it.
The 53 year old Goleta, California resident realized well over a decade ago that if he was ever going to be able to afford a decent chunk of land in decent range from the entertainment capital, he’d better score a precious parcel and build his own home-away-from “dream home”. He wisely selected a plot slightly off the beaten path (20 minutes away from Santa Barbara) and at his wife’s request, converted what would end up being 11 acres into an organic farm complete with prolifically producing seedless Satsuma mandarin tangerine and avocado orchards – 750 to be exact.
Married to fellow film producer Allison Thomas, it is the fairer member of the Hollywood couple who professed great enthusiasm for maintaining their grounds as close to what Mother Nature intended. Her appreciation for Henry David Thoreau’s Walden – a classic tale of self-sufficiency and becoming one with the environment – served as the impetus to what ended up being a several year journey exploring the organic process and comprehending the best techniques for pruning, weeding and combating pests with natural methods. Armed with a head full of practical information, she personally tends to their crops and relies on a farm manager to take over when the family is forced to leave town.
200 of their closest Hollywood compadres eagerly accept the organic fruits of their labor during the holiday season – among the most notable are William H. Macy (who has whittled their avocado wood into bowls and is apparently still waiting for his stash of fruit), Sigourney Weaver and naturally, Tobey Maguire. It’s also nice to note that they make a point of donating additional fruit to a food bank in the Los Angeles area and transform any remaining crops into fresh organic apple sauce, jams and jellies. Sounds like a perfectly unexpected yet sweet Hollywood ending.