Spring is here and we are pleased to report our livestock is happily growing fat on the plentiful forage in our pastures. Yet despite the abundance of lush green grass at Stemple Creek Ranch, California as a whole is still facing another year of serious drought and the agriculture community is hunkering down. Although we are grateful for the early storms that dropped 20+ inches of rain in December of last year, we are by no means out of the woods. These photos show the stark contrast in our pasture grass between last Spring and this Spring.
It’s been 10 years since we took over the family ranch from Loren’s parents, and we’ve learned a lot in that time. Managing our natural resources wisely to produce the greatest yield is a critical part of our business success. Since we are committed to raising grass fed and finished animals, we must also be dedicated stewards of the land to insure our soil is healthy and productive. These two tenants go hand in hand. For us, grass above ground is like money in the bank.
We use several practices to achieve the best results. We start by grazing our animals on an intense schedule of pasture rotations which allows the fields to rest and regenerate while being naturally fertilized by our stock. It is common for our herds to rotate to new forage every three to five days.
In addition, we have worked hard on water conservation measures like planting trees to create natural windbreak and prevent erosion, protecting sensitive riparian zones, and installing gravity-flow tanks to collect and distribute water for livestock.
Stemple Creek Ranch is also one of three West Marin test farms currently partnering with the Marin Carbon Project on a decade-long study of carbon farming. Organic compost was spread over a portion of our pastureland to help capture the carbon in the soil. This improves moisture retention which helps extend the growth cycle of natural forage. If successful, the lessons learned have potential to increase the capacity and long term productivity of agriculture systems worldwide.
These combined measures have slowed the water cycle on Stemple Creek Ranch and improved water retention in our soil. More ground moisture means a longer growing season for our grasses, and more food for our animals. By being vigilant stewards and planning strategically, we are optimistic about success despite the struggles Mother Nature throws our way.