Our dream began when John and I were still just “kids”, really – high school sweethearts with a lifelong romantic dream of ranching. John and I weren’t born into ranching, but we were born for it. Owning our own piece of land, raising good kids, and raising our own food had been something we had “dreamed big” about.
While John grew up in with his family in the suburbs of Santa Rosa, California, John’s grandpa was a farmer down in southern California, growing grain crops as his Swiss Italian immigrant father before him had. John enjoyed visiting the farm and his grandpa whenever his parents would take the four hour drive south to visit, and when he had a car of his own he would find the time to go down just to spend time with his idol. They shared a lot in common, John and his grandpa David. They both never knew how to sit still, always asking inquisitive questions and wanting to know more, and their work ethic was seriously second to none, and their love of old farm equipment could go on for hours of conversation.
I had grown up a bit more rurally than John, with a mother and father who embraced the idea of being able to grow food for themselves and their two girls on the outskirts of town. My mother loved to cook, she loved to garden, and we had chickens, ducks, and milk goats. My dad was a cowboy born in the wrong time, and I was a daddy’s girl. Riding horses, dreaming of cowboys and the great wild west. I did not readily pick up on the love of gardening and cooking as my mom did until much later.
When John and I met in 1998, we would have a lot of conversations about what the future could hold. We dreamt of owning a cabin in the mountains with cows (my horses); we created our own brand at the age of 17. We worked hard and dreamt big, or at least John always dreamt bigger and worked harder. We went from our first home in town to our second home just outside of town, settling on 5 acres. While it was a huge leap from where we had started, John knew within 2 weeks it wouldn’t be big enough. He wanted a huge garden, cows and pigs, and egg chickens, yet we made do with what he had, especially with kids active in 4H. And yet, deep down, he knew we could do it bigger.
There were many events that really led us here, and I don’t think we could narrow it down to just one; however, I think the idea really began to take off in the summer of 2018 when our oldest was raising meat chickens for the county fair, and when John discovered YouTube and the value of pasture-raised chickens. That turned into binging videos of rotationally grazing cattle and the beneficial impacts on the environment it could make, to the importance of raising a diverse culture of animals in a restorative and regenerative way – pigs in the pasture, beef on grass, lambs behind beef to provide a different manure mineral and not be susceptible to the same ailments and parasites, running chickens after that to help push those nutrients into the soil and rid the manure of flies and larvae. It lit a fire in him that I hadn’t seen since we used to talk about dreams of living on a ranch. We honestly hadn’t thought it possible in so long, between the constant hubbub of the city that was growing so quickly around us, the skyrocketing prices of property in the area we lived, having kids active in everything but worrying they couldn’t afford to live where they grew up (and that they were too busy to care about the world around them), and John constantly working because he didn’t know how to say no to a job. Enough was enough, and we were ready for a change – a big one – but how?
In 2019, we scheduled a road trip for a couple weeks in the summer- no fairs, no work, just family and fun, and beautiful countryside exploration. We had a small plan to look in towns that had homes for sale with property but weren’t set on anything; after all, we were still just dreaming, right? Well, immediately we fell in love when after driving for hours through high desert, lonely two-lane highways, and summer heat we found our ‘home home’ in the heart of a beautiful and quiet valley tucked in between breathtaking mountains, rivers, wildlife, and farms. We realized we could make our dreams come true and share them as a family; we could slow our way of living back down a little, even if everyone else kept going at the same fast pace. As soon as we looked at our favorite stop of our travels, I could see the wheels and plans building in John’s mind. He was on a mission. We could farm. We could own our own ranch. We really could build our own dream and we could and would do it, not just for ourselves and our kids, but for the impact we might be able to make on the future of ranching. Small family farms, supporting their community with food, making an important environmental impact at the same time!
So, in January of 2020, we closed on our new home and began our biggest adventure yet, our next chapter, our dream. Our dream was to raise a place our kids can grow up and breathe, learn about the value of hard work and the importance of knowing where our food comes from, how it is raised and cared for and valued, the care and time it takes to nurture the quality of your life and your land, and how to leave an impression on this earth that can benefit us all.
“The future of agriculture will come from people, not technology – from a new generation of farmers who embrace small-scale, ecological, nourishing farming techniques.” Jean-Martin Fortier