Category Archives: Member Spotlight

Water Series: Pt 2 ~ Livestock Strategies To Withstand A Drought: Options & Tips from Flying Mule Farm

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Written by Dan Macon, Owner of Flying Mule Farm & the Eat Local Program, UCCE Placer/Nevada County.

Founded in 2001, Flying Mule Farm is located in Auburn, California, tucked in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Our farm produces 100% grass-fed lamb and mutton, fiber products, and targeted grazing services. We operate almost entirely on leased pastures (about 300 acres of unirrigated annual rangeland and 15-50 acres of summer-irrigated pasture), which range in elevation from approximately 1,100 to 1,400 feet.

Our production cycle:

In this region and with our Mediterranean climate, the average annual precipitation is around 30 inches, with most of it falling as rain between November and April. Typically, we’ll receive a germinating rainfall (we need at least an inch of rain to germinate our annual grasses) in late October or early November. Our annual grasses then go dormant in early December until soil temperature and day length support renewed growth, usually around late February. Our annual grasses continue to grow through the springtime, usually reaching peak production in mid- to late-May. At that point, the annuals produce seed and die.

As our unirrigated rangelands die back each spring, we transition to irrigated pasture for our lamb production, as green forage is needed for weight gain. Lambs will typically remain on irrigated pasture through the summer and early fall, while we graze our ewes on stockpiled dry forage until just before turning the rams in with them in early October.

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Yolo Women Farmers Kick Off the New Yolo Farmers Guild!

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Four of the Yolo Farmers Guild founding members

It’s no secret that women are the most rapidly growing segment of the nation’s changing demographics in farming. Maybe you’ve checked out the great resources in our brand new Women in Agriculture Toolkit, but if you want to see these stats in person, look no further than the Yolo Farmers Guild! The driving force behind the latest addition to the Guild Network is a feisty group of female farmers and allies that have taken the reigns and gotten the Guild up and running.

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How to Run a Farm Business ~ Q&A with Farm Academy Program Director, Jennifer Taylor

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Jennifer Taylor and CFA students spend an afternoon harvesting carrots and beets

This week we spoke with Jennifer Taylor, Director of the California Farm Academy (CFA) about the 2014 CFA program! Started in 2012 by the Center for Land-Based Learning, the CFA was developed to encompass the practical knowledge that gives beginning farmers a strong foundation to start their own operations. Now in its third year, the CFA continues to offer a life-changing experience for those who are serious about becoming farmers.

The 2014 program begins on February 11th, so if you’re interested in experiential learning, gaining the practical skills it takes to run a farm business, and want to get your hands dirty in the new year, apply today!

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Regenerative Landscapes & Ecological Training at the Permaculture Skills Center

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A lush landscape at the Permaculture Skills Center, Sebastopol, CA

The Permaculture Skills Center (PSC) is a five-acre educational and vocational site to advance the modeling and replication of regenerative local food systems. Bringing together youth and adults, the PSC strives to educate participants about good business practices, natural resource preservation and social equity. They’re now accepting applications to their 9-month, 2014 Ecological Landscaper Immersion Program. Get professional training in all aspects of ecological landscape design, installation, and maintenance for your farm, vineyard or landscape business!


Written by guest bloggers, Adam Kliegman, Program Director of the Ecological Landscaper Immersion Program at the Permaculture Skills Center and Toby Hemenway, author and permaculture educator.

Back in 1959 in Tasmania, a biggish-sized island off the southeast coast of Australia, forester, trapper, and ecologist Bill Mollison was studying marsupials for a UN agency, and he had an insight that started a movement.

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Featured Farmer Spotlight: Caleb Barron of Fogline Farm

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The bounty of the harvest at Fogline Farm

Our Featured Farmers are brimming with great ideas and knowledge to share with the farming community. Feeling a spark of curiosity? There’s no question too simple or tough. Ask a question or add a Conversation and we’ll be sure it’s answered within a day or two!

This week we’re featuring Caleb Barron, co-owner of Fogline Farm, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Caleb and his business partner, Johnny Wilson, produce a variety of fruits and vegetables, pastured pork and poultry, and have a growing CSA program.  They are some of our younger Featured Farmers, who were nominated by the community for their tenacity in facing the steep learning curve that is farming!

The mission of their business is to design agricultural systems to take full advantage of their landscape’s natural beauty and abundance. They strive to be stewards of the land in the most ecologically responsible ways, and to having their land free of chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and GMOs. All of their animals are raised on pasture and fed organic feed, and their crops are rotated in order to take advantage of the fertility and pest management the animals provide.

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Q&A with Member Dave Pratt: Ranching (and Farming) for Profit and A New Book Release!

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Boots on the ground learning! Summer course 2013, Laramie, WY

This week we’re honored to spotlight one of our members, Dave Pratt of Ranch Management Consultants. Dave has taught the Ranching for Profit School in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia and Africa, and is a respected authority on sustainable ranching. As a former Range & Livestock Advisor with UC Cooperative Extension for 14 years, and having grown up on a small ranch and worked for cattle and sheep ranchers, Dave has done a lot of research on management intensive grazing and strategic issues impacting the sustainability of ranches.

Over the years, he has earned a reputation for innovative teaching with a practical edge. Dave was instrumental in developing the Sustainable Ranching Research & Education Project, a large-scale, long-term effort to develop, research and demonstrate economic, environmental and socially sustainable ranching practices.

In 1991 Dave started working with Stan Parsons, who created the Ranching for Profit School and founded Ranch Management Consultants. In 1999 Dave became CEO of Ranch Management Consultants, Inc., and just released his first book “Healthy Land, Happy Families and Profitable Businesses: Essays to Improve Your Land, Your Life and Your Bottom Line“.

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Farmers Guild Field Day: Table Top Farm with Arron Wilder

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Arron Wilder (left) and Farmers Guild members discuss economic challenges of small-scale farming

Written by Evan Wiig of The Farmers Guild & FarmsReach.

At 2 a.m. last week, a cool draft launched Arron Wilder from his bed. In bare feet, he went running outside into the autumn night toward his car. With a hurried twist of the ignition, there above the dashboard shone a little thermometer: just below forty degrees. Arron went back to bed.

In the few years since starting Table Top Farm, a three-plot diversified vegetable farm in west Marin County, the soil has gotten as much into Arron’s head as it has beneath his fingernails. “Farming is cut throat in the most literal way,” Arron said to a group of fellow members of the Farmers Guild visiting his farm last week. “If I didn’t come out at 2 a.m., when it feels like it’s going to freeze, I’d lose my seedlings and my income.”

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Team Member Spotlight: Tiffany Nurrenbern ~ Bringing Farmers Together!

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Today we are excited to feature the latest addition to the FarmsReach and Farmers Guild team, Tiffany Nurrenbern.

For those who don’t know her already, she has been working in food and farming for many years, most notably at Roots of Change (ROC), where she coordinated and led the California Food Policy Council, a council of councils across the state. Prior to ROC, she worked in communications at Gigantic Idea Studio, which specializes in marketing of environmental programs.

After a great first few weeks helping to get the first Mendocino Farmers Guild and Sonoma Valley Farmer Guild rolling, we sat down with Tiffany for a casual Q&A to introduce her to the FarmsReach community:

FarmsReach: What are your thoughts moving from agricultural policy to farmers and ranchers directly?

Tiffany Nurrenbern: I think that though we all come from different vantage points, most people would agree that we need a food system that brings health to our people, our communities, and our environment. It’s going to take a lot of people working on different fronts to make that a reality for everyone. At the core of the issue is ensuring that farmers can farm in a sustainable and profitable way that enables us to feed our communities more affordably. Policy change can help us to remove barriers that make this work harder and incentivize a new path forward, but that conversation can feel very far away when you’re busy making sure that your crops get to market. I’m excited to be working directly with farmers to support their work on the ground, and provide links to the conversations happening off the farm that impact them.

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Farm Advocacy Attorney Reflects on the CASFS Apprenticeship Program

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Written by guest blogger, Neil Thapar, 2012 CASFS Apprenticeship Program graduate and attorney focused on agriculture issues.

The shorter days and cooler nights of fall remind me that the year is coming to an end. As the planting season winds down, this is a time for reflecting on the past year and planning for the one ahead.

For the 35-40 apprentices who just completed the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food System’s (CASFS) Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture at UC Santa Cruz, this past week vividly marked that transition. After six months of “farming boot camp”, where they each lived, worked and learned both the theory and practice of small-scale, capital-S sustainable agriculture, the apprentices have graduated as its newest class of proponents, practitioners and advocates.

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Put Your Hoes Down ~ A Weekend Celebration!

IMG_8274Full Belly Farm knows how to have a good time!  This past weekend marked the 26th annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival, which brings together over 6,000 people of all ages from Northern CA and beyond.  Under the hot sun of the Capay Valley, it’s fun to find some shade and relax with a beer, or stroll around and take in the breathtaking views of fields, orchards and rolling hills.  Or, take advantage of their jam-packed program of live music, local food, workshops, creek bathing and camping. We did it all!

Full Belly Farm, founded in 1985, is a pristine 300+ acre operation and is considered one of the best examples of diversified organic farming in CA.  The farm grows an amazing variety of over 80 vegetable, fruit and nut crops, as well as poultry, sheep, pigs, goats, and several cows.  One of their main priorities is the long-term environmental stewardship of the land, and for this, the farm focuses on regenerative systems such as nitrogen-fixing cover crops that improve soil organic matter, and planting habitat area for beneficial insects and wildlife.  With almost 30 years of trial and error under their belt, Full Belly Farm has worked hard to nurture the land so that each year leaves it more fertile than the last.

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