Our Team

Spencer Marshall – The Beekeeper

Spencer was born in McMinnville, Oregon. His mother, Grace, & his father, Frank were both offspring of many generations of family farmers. Their families farmed wheat & grain, turkeys & cattle. If there was a crop to farm, I believe they farmed it. Spencer’s paternal Grandma loved bees. She had a few hives on their Yam Hill Farm. When Spencer saw his Grandma working the hives, his curiosity was aroused. The Marshall Family moved to Crescent City, where Frank Marshall got into the Logging Business. The Grandparents Marshall moved to California where they started a Dairy in the Lodi area. The successful dairy produced prize-winning milk that was used by California’s schools. The success of the dairy brought Spencer’s family to the Lodi area as well. Frank & Grace took over the dairy. Eventually, the dairy was sold, & the Marshalls bought acreage in Acampo, near Lodi. On this parcel of land, they raised grains & started a harvesting business.

Spencer moved away from the farm, went to college, had various jobs teaching, gardening, producing videos, & running a career development agency. After living in the Sacramento & San Jose areas, Spencer came to Marin County where he earned his living doing carpentry & remodeling in Sausalito. Unfortunately, Spencer’s father was seriously injured, & the family needed Spencer to run the harvesting operations at the Acampo ranch. While living at the ranch, Spencer started up a few beehives so that he would have something of his own to develop while taking over the harvesting operation & caring for his injured father. By trial & error, Spencer learned more & more about beekeeping. Pollination is big business in California’s central valley. The almond crop is totally dependent on honey bees for pollination. There was a need for more hives for pollination. Spencer saw this as a good way to make enough money to pay for his slowly growing bee operation. He signed a few pollination contracts & started moving his bees to the almond groves, the cherry & apple orchards, & the clover fields of the San Joaquin Valley. He used the money earned from pollination to buy used equipment & hives from beekeepers who were “giving-it-up” This is how Spencer began to develop apiaries in several locations. Spencer still maintained a residence in Marin County. He would alternate his family responsibilities with his carpentry & remodeling jobs. The bees, however, became an obsession for Spencer. He wasn’t happy just having bees in the Central Valley. To satisfy his yearning, he started up a few hives in Marin County.

Helene Marshall – The Beekeeper’s Wife

Helene Marshall was a city girl, born & raised in San Francisco. The last thing she ever thought would happen to her would be to have a farmer for a husband. Helene studied Art and got her degree in Sculpture at UC Berkeley. She taught Junior High School Art in Syracuse N.Y. raised two daughters in Hingham, Massachusetts. She had a successful ceramic wind-chime business & sailed her 32′ ketch during those hot, steamy New England summers. Helene always dreamed about returning to the San Francisco Bay Area someday. Because of childhood memories & her passion for boats and sailing, she decided on Marin County as her destination. The time came for the move. Needing a home for her chime business, Helene bought a commercial building on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in Fairfax, the busiest street in Marin County. The Hingham house was sold, & the yard sale was held. The last thing Helene sold was all the “old bee stuff” that was part of her former life. A forestry professor at UC introduced Helene to bees & beekeeping. There was always a beehive in her yard, but she was not a beekeeper & certainly would not need that stuff in Marin! One year after her move, in 1989, Helene was introduced to Spencer. “He’s a Beekeeper,” said the mutual friend who introduced them. Her response was, “Do you have Italians or Caucasians?” “I have Carnolians,” he said. …..and that was the beginning of a sweet relationship & Marshall’s Farm.

Farmer & City Girl Together:

At the time they met, Spencer was dreaming about doing Farmers’ Markets to sell his honey. Helene had been in the gift business doing Craft Fairs & Gift Shows in N.Y., San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, & Atlanta for so long, that doing a Farmers’ Market didn’t seem like such a big deal. It seemed like it would be a lot of fun.

One day, by accident, Spencer left a hive full of bees in Helene’s van. She was going to do a Craft Fair to sell her chimes at Apple Hill near Placerville. When she got there, she found the hive (not yet buzzing) & a bucket of honey. She set the hive out as part of her display & put the honey out – for sale – next to the hives. As the day heated up, the bees buzzed & she put the hive back in the van. She sold $20 worth of honey that day & drove back to the ranch with a van-full of flying, buzzing bees. Spencer greeted her with a smirk on his face. She said, “Here’s some money, honey!” Together they got the concept for the label & decided to name the business in the old family tradition. Spencer liked the Yin-Yang symbol because it is very “Marin.” It also represents perfect balance & honey is a perfectly balanced food. Helene designed the label. Gold (because it was Spencer’s 50th birthday) with the Yin-Yang sun setting behind the dancing Golden Gate Bridge because, by then, Spencer had populated many of the counties by the Bay with Marshall’s Farm apiaries. There were 20 hives on the roof of the building on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. The complementary talents of Spencer and Helene grew the farm to its current state. 

Sadly, Helene Marshall passed away after a long battle with Cancer in May of 2016.  Spencer Marshall, his crew and their hard-working Bay Area bees are now running the show at Marshall’s Farm. Helene is missed greatly although her legacy continues on with the spirit of the Marshall’s Honey.

Ali (Alison) Trotta-Marshall

Ali grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and moved to California when she was 18. She waitressed and worked at odd jobs putting herself through College, graduating from SF State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Peace Studies with a minor in Vocal Performance. She sang in a world music band called Frolic and has been an avid photographer since age eleven. After working for nine years at Merrill Lynch, getting married and raising a child, Ali offered to help her father in law Spencer Marshall run his company, Marshall’s Farm Honey, after his wife, Helene Marshall passed away in 2016. Ali went from being the Executive Assistant to being the CEO and CFO in four years. During that time she took two business classes and received business coaching from the Napa Valley Business Development Center. In 2020 Ali bought in to the company and is now co-owner along with Spencer Marshall. 

She has since made it her mission to learn every aspect of the business and has put into effect many changes out of a commitment to sustainability such as buying biodegradable packaging, eliminating honey sticks that were not all-natural, and reducing the number of plastic jars the company offers. She often does research on how to maintain their hives as naturally as possible, encouraging the beekeepers to raise their own queen bees and use alternatives to pesticides. During the 2020 Covid crisis Ali donated $10,000 worth of honey to food pantries around the Bay Area.

Larry Sigmund

A California native, Larry & Helene Marshall actually went to George Washington High School in San Francisco at the same time.  It wasn’t until years later, at a Farmers’ Market dinner party, that Larry & Helene had “where did you grow up?” conversation and realized that we were both native San Franciscans.  They never would have guessed that they would both be working down on the farm!  Larry is a great asset.  You will see him working at the Farmers’ Markets, delivering honey to Bay Area stores, filling bottles and loading trucks at the farm.  His presence at Marshall’s Farm has been a sweet connection.

Josh Halpern 

Josh Halpern has a background in local food justice and filmmaking from his upbringing in New York and New Jersey, and has worked on organic farms from Hawaii to the Himalayas. In Spring 2013 he received an MA in Integral Ecology from CIIS. His work and art can be found at outsidejosh.com. Sharing Marshall’s Honey with the Bay Area community is his favorite job ever. You will find Josh at our Stonestown and Grand Lake Farmers’ Markets. 

Originally from New Jersey, has worked on farms around the US, in Hawaii, the Philippines, Thailand, India, and Chile. He has a BFA in Film from NYU Tech and an MA in Integral Ecologies from CIIS in San Francisco. He views his decade with Marshall’s Honey as part of his life’s calling ~ to help heal human’s relationships with nature, especially through re-embedding folks within their local ecologies. Helping neighbors with pollen allergies, discussing how bees and pollinators act as indicator species that reveal the health of ecosystems, sharing local honeys is a particularly sweet way to spread respect for the abundant biological and cultural diversity of the Bay Area. When not selling honeys each weekend, Josh also works as an elementary school garden teacher, offers Climate Collapse/Courage workshops for adults, and drinking water source Watershed Witness Tours seasonally. Josh’s projects can be found through climatecourage.org.

Gary Marshall, Jr.

Gary, Spencer Marshall’s son, grew up in the SF Bay Area. Gary has worked most of his life as a Fine Finish Carpenter building high end remodels in Marin County. Additionally, Gary has worked on and off over the years helping his father with beekeeping and maintaining the Napa farm. In 2019, in order to help his father edge closer to retirement, Gary took his father’s place selling honey at the Marin Farmer’s Market in addition to working as a full-time carpenter. Gary enjoys cycling, surfing, snowboarding, and walking his dog Hugo.

Alana McCarthy

Alana works at the Marin Civic Center Market on Sundays. She was born and raised in the Bay Area. She discovered her passion for life at a young age. From art, to people, nature, and beyond. She’s always been enthralled with the many aspects of life. Her late Grandmother consistently encouraged her eagerness to learn. Through spending time at her Grandmother’s house, Alana connected with the next door neighbors, the Marshall’s. While attending Middle College High-school Alana had begun an apprenticeship in the agricultural field. Now a graduate, Alana knew that this was the industry for her. 

Ali Marshall was aware of Alana’s connection to the agricultural industry. So, when a job opening arose at the Marshall’s Farm, Ali contacted her! The rest is history. Alana has been working at the Marshall’s Farm now since June of 2023. Outside of work, she is well on her way to a path of higher education. She’s currently studying Psychology & Sociology with a double minor in Nutrition & Architecture. Alana aspires to own a farm of her own one-day to serve as a community resource and education center. If you see her at the market say, “Hello!” She’ll be more than happy to connect with you. 

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