Savory California Farm Tour

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Monday, October 5th, a bus load of conference attendees still energized from a weekend of entertaining speakers and enlightening conversations at the Artisans of the Grasslands International Conference set off for a day-long tour of ranches in the Pescadero area. First stop was Pie Ranch, an organic operation growing a diverse mix of annual vegetables, legumes and grains with multi-year pastures and cattle grazing integrated into their crop rotation schedule. Pie Ranch has a strong focus on food education and youth farmer education; they have partnered with local high schools to provide hands-on lessons, field trips and internships to teach students about sustainable food production systems. Jered Lawson, co-founder of Pie Ranch, led a lively tour and discussed their farm practices and the day-to-day happenings as well as the challenges and rewards of planning and running a complex farm business and education program.

Next we headed to TomKat Ranch who generously hosted a fantastic catered lunch onsite. After lunch the group toured pastures of the ranch while learning how employees and other stakeholders at the ranch were using Holistic Management to heal years of land misuse by previous owners. The ranch produces grass-fed beef and operates an educational foundation which serves as a learning laboratory for animal agriculture solutions to issues regarding climate, ecology and sustainability.

Our final stop for the day was a tour of Markegard Family Grassfed, a family-owned ranch raising cattle, sheep, goats, hogs, poultry and rabbits using Holistic Management. Owners Eric and Doniga Markegard hosted the group at their home and main ranch site where they explained how they have adapted to the current drought conditions in California and used carefully planned grazing to maintain balance with surrounding ecosystem. All-in-all it was a fantastic day spent learning about what ranchers are doing along the California coast to craft a more resilient and regenerative food system.

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