Devils Gulch Ranch, a Diversified and Sustainable Family Farm

On our way to San Francisco, we’ve met some active people engaged in the SlowFood movement. Even if we did not have the opportunity to meet them, we have the pleasure to share our discussion with Mark and Myriam, farming in the San Francisco Bay area, Marin county. Here below is an extract of our online interview with M. Mark Pasternak.
What is your activity about?
Devils Gulch Ranch is a diversified family farm, in Nicasio, Marin County, California where I have been farming for over 40 years now. My wife, Myriam and I raise and sell rabbits, pigs, sheep, asparagus and winegrapes both retail and to many well-known restaurants throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and California. Sustainable, humane agricultural practices are utilized, organic whenever possible. DG Educational Services (DGES, a 501c3 non-profit www.dges.org), was founded in 2008 to provide agriculture and nature educational programs for diverse communities, both locally and globally. These programs help develop the skills to produce food and to live sustainably while building an understanding of our interconnection with nature.

Sheep grazing as natural mowing machine!

Sheep grazing like a natural mowing machine!

We have been working in Haiti since 2007 providing agricultural education, mostly for rabbit production, but have recently also become involved with coffee producers and now offer locally roasted, 100% Haitian single origin coffee direct from the mountain forests of Haiti. The DGES provides agriculture and nature educational programs locally, and international agriculture development work in Haiti and other countries.

Can you tell more about your agriculture in the ranch, organic, humane, sustainable… and why does it appear important for you and your business?

Agriculture is of fundamental importance to humans. Interacting with the environment, animals, plants, people, in a sustainable way is vital to the survival of the planet and our species. It also happens that I find it personally rewarding. I try to use critical thinking to evaluate the methods I use, so as to do what is best in the big picture, not just from an ideological point of view, always striving for the most eco friendly, and long term sustainable result.

Why did you start to work with Haiti?

Myriam and I are passionate about sharing our knowledge and skills to help out in developing countries. We became aware of an opportunity to work with rabbits producers in Haiti, and went there in 2007 as part of the Farmer to Farmer Program. We believe in helping Haiti develop environmentally friendly agricultural production for their own consumption and for possible export to produce income. We became aware of challenges they were having with coffee production in 2010, as many of the rabbit producers we were working with also had coffee or connections with coffee producers. We now import Haitian green coffee beans, and sell them green and roasted locally in Petaluma.

In which terms do you think it is important to preserve the natural resources and the biodiversity and agricultural diversity? 

Dinner in the middle of wines

Natural resources can and must be sustainably utilized without exploiting and depleting them. Biodiversity and agricultural diversity is critical to the natural interactions of nature. Monoculture is not natural or sustainable. We allow the natural rangeland plants to grow in our vineyard between the vine rows, and mow and graze it with sheep it rather than tilling it into the soil. We have much of our property that is in native forest woodlands and rangelands. We use guardian dogs to protect our sheep rather than lethal predator controls.

What is your activity with the network of Slowfood?

I am on the board of our local Slow Food section in Marin/Petaluma, California.

How do you see the future of food and agriculture in California and more generally in the US?

Outstanding 2011

Outstanding 2011

California (and especially the SF Bay Area) is fortunate to have a large consumer population that supports good, clean, fair food. The first step of this is to support the farmers who are producing good clean fair food, and that too, is happening in this area. I do not know if this will extend more to all of California and the nation as a whole, but I certainly hope it will.

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