On Sunday, I took a farm tour that was sponsored by CUESA. The theme of the tour was the "Polycultural Farm" -- focusing on farms that grow a multitude of different crops, and are bucking the national trend of one or two crops per farm.
Highland Hills is a livestock farm specializing in heritage breeds. Ted raises grass-fed highland hills cattle, and also has some pigs, turkeys, goats, and lambs. One of the very cool things about Ted's farm is that he is continually talking to his neighbors and convincing them to let his cattle graze on their land. Everything that Ted is doing runs completely counter to the corporate-feedlot method of raising livestock. His cows are never put on a feedlot, they breed like cows are supposed to breed instead of via artificial insemination, give birth on their own rather than needing aid because their overbred traits cause problems in birth, and have tons of room where they wander around and graze. When we were there, most of the cows were seeking shade and were under a large grove of trees relaxing and grazing.
Eatwell Farms is the polycultural farm to the max. Nigel Walker grows so many different types of crops that he loses count. When he spoke to some people about crop insurance a couple of years ago, they decided that his farm insures itself -- there are enough crops that whenever one fails, there are others to take it's place. Many Bay Area people know Nigel for his "Tomato Wonderland" of organic heirloom tomatoes at farmers' markets throughout the summer, or his lavender.
Both of these farmers were amazingly generous with their time, and so patient with the millions of questions that we threw at them. If you read this blog regularly, you can probably imagine how excited I was to be able to ask unlimited questions to the farmers. I see them all the time at the Farmer's Market, but this gave me a forum where I felt comfortable asking and asking and asking.
When I got home it was a long time before I even gave Jason a brief report because I didn't know where to start with telling him what I saw. All in all, it was a fantastic day.