Steve Jobs in my small world

Apple’s co-founder and his connection to rural Oregon

Steve Jobs in my small world

Fir Crest Road, near Steve Jobs’ former property

I followed Steve Jobs’s career for many years but when I read Walter Issacson’s exhaustive biography of Jobs, his time in Oregon jumped out at me. Like Steve Jobs, I grew up in California, and though I knew he attended (and dropped out of) Reed College in Portland, Oregon, I was surprised to read that Steve took frequent trips to an apple farm-slash-hippie commune near McMinnville, Oregon established by his friend (and Reed College student president) Robert Friedland.

Downtown McMinnville, in snow a few months ago

The reason that surprised me was I was sitting in my house in McMinnville, Oregon when I read that. McMinnville is a fairly small town about 35 miles southwest of Portland, Oregon, but thanks to farm roads and small two lane highways, it takes over an hour to get to Portland. Often people I meet in other parts of Oregon have never heard of it. It’s rare to meet anyone in California or beyond in any other US state that has heard of the city. When I read that Steve Jobs spent time near the place I’ve called home since 2003, I did some research.

The apple farm a young Steve Jobs took frequent trips to is called All One Farm, and to this day it still operates. Though they’re secretive about the exact location of the place (they don’t want visitors poking around), I have heard it is somewhere off the beaten path about 10 miles north of McMinnville, near Gaston, Oregon. This is the same farm where Steve is rumored to have come up with the name “Apple” for his company when returning to the Bay Area after a trip (no pun intended).

While poking around for more information on the farm and Steve’s time here, I stumbled onto a recent auction where Steve Jobs’ signature was sold for $40,000.

The document in question is an agreement between Jobs and Friedland to establish a real estate investment corporation together, based in McMinnville in the late 1970s. After researching that document I found another story where Steve Jobs purchased 30 acres of farmland intended to use for growing grapes for an eventual winery (was it purchased for the real estate company or personal?). From 1978 until 1985 Steve Jobs owned land at the corner of Willis and Fir Crest roads, though he never developed it. You can look at the area on Google Street View here.

The crazy thing is I knew that intersection and plot of land, as I’ve ridden my bike by it hundreds of times while training in the local hills. It’s barely a mile from my house, so I decided to take a long ride up and around the area and take some photos. It was a gorgeous sunny day until about an hour into my ride when storm clouds started to roll in, but as you can see it made for more dramatic photos of the vineyards that sit on his former land.

From Apple to Vines to Grapes to Wines
Cherry blossoms still in bloom

There’s lots more coincidences in the story of the current owners of the land, where they have established a vineyard producing wines under different labels. The owners grew up in the Bay Area and attended the same high school as Jobs. The wife was friends with Jobs’ younger sister and the husband was friends with the guy that introduced Jobs to Woz. The winery owners are also former Silicon Valley tech employees themselves.

I don’t know why Steve Jobs bought land during his days of launching the first Macintosh. I assume he was quite busy, but he was also rather wealthy by then and perhaps this was where he wanted to retire or build a vacation home close to his old haunts or maybe he just wanted to start making wine. It’s a wonderful plot of land and it looks like it’s being well-loved and used today, but every time I ride past it I’m going to think of Steve Jobs.

All photos were taken with an iPhone 5s, of course.