Posts Tagged ‘Pescadero’
I figured I knew Pescadero pretty well since I covered the town when I worked for the Half Moon Bay Review many years ago. But I had no idea what was in store for me when I turned off Pescadero Road into TomKat Ranch.
The ranch was once a dairy farm, but had fallen into disrepair over the years. The owners were mining soil off the hilltops, an environmentally destructive activity right up there will clear cutting forests. Enter Tom Steyer and Kathy Taylor (TomKat, get it?). The couple bought the 2,000-acre ranch with an eye on environmental restoration. They introduced cattle as a way to restore the scenic valley. Properly managed, cattle can perform a great environmental service, helping to restore the land, increase biodiversity of native species, retain water, and even sequester carbon, just like undulates used to do before man and his livestock ran roughshod over grasslands.
It was Kathy Webster, the ranch’s educational foundation director, who struck upon the idea of raising the cattle for beef and Leftcoast Grassfed was born. She also helped revamp the lunch program at the La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District.
There’s a growing demand for grassfed beef and she thought the ranch could help supply a growing market. Today the ranch is home to 101 head of cattle with plans to grow the herd to 300 or so. While they’ve only been at it a few years, the grassy hills are already showing signs of restoration. Blue eyed grass, a native species, has made a come back along with several other species of grass.
Our friend Joe Morris of Morris Grassfed helped establish TomKat Ranch’s rotational grazing program. The ranch is now recognized for its commitment to the environment and animal welfare with certification from Animal Welfare Approved, the American Grassfed Association and the Food Alliance. Oh yeah, the beef really tastes good, too. For me, the ranch is another example of what the pay-offs are for doing right by the land, animals and people: environmental restoration, commercial demand and a delicious product. Everybody wins.
While Pie Ranch is only a half an hour drive from Santa Cruz, it’s been a great first stop. Not only are Jered and Nancy great hosts, what they’re doing in this beautiful stretch of coastal California is truly food forward. While my head is still swimming from the move, a few days here is just what I needed to affirm what this trip is all about.
Jered grew up in LA and had always longed for a more rural, land-based existence. Whenever he went to a park or on a camping trip he knew the cleaner air and open space were what he needed. So he devoted his life and education to sustainable agriculture. He went to UCSC’s agroecology program. He worked on Covelo’s pioneering Live Power Farm, California’s first CSA and a true pioneer in the good food movement.
While living in San Francisco he and his wife Nancy Vail and co-founder Karen Heisler conceived of the idea of an outdoor educational farm that could serve city-bound youth like Jered once was. Pie Ranch, which calls itself “a rural center for urban renewal,” takes its name from the wedge shape of the property. The farm’s pie business connects kids with the source of the land, the earth, and ultimately where they come from. Jered wants kids to have the same eye opening experience he did when he was young.
“Kids need to be exposed to the outdoors and nature because it’s just part of what it means to be alive and to be intimately aware of the things that keep you alive,” Jered told me. “Food production and farming provides that connection, that really great tangible way of connecting with nature.”
My kids have a pretty good sense of where their food comes from, at least I try to get them to understand. One of my greatest pleasures during our brief time here was watching Everett milk Sylvia the goat. We got up at early and he was cranky, at first and didn’t want to do it. But he did and then couldn’t wait to try some of the milk. He doesn’t generally like goat milk, but when it’s fresh, it tastes just like cow milk and he loved it over his granola that morning. If that’s not a tangible connection with nature I don’t know what is.