Many businesses and industries have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Wool is no exception.
In many parts of the world, we are now feeding ourselves through intensive, large-scale agriculture. But the price of this kind of agriculture might be too high. It is the price of losing our most precious good, fertile soil and an intact environment. We can do better than that.
The small goats and sheep are very easy on the land. Stone Steps Farm is participating in Fibershed’s soil sampling protocol, and the family hopes to implement grazing practices that sequester carbon and increase soil organic matter. They also aim to decrease wildfire risk by using their goats to clear brush that provides a fuel ladder, and by using their sheep to keep grasses down during fire season.
Alison is equally dedicated to breeding preservation, quality wool production, pasture management, community building, agricultural education, and being a business owner. She manages to attend to each priority with grace and aplomb.
There is never a quiet season here. Even with the hoop houses cleared of their summer harvest and the small flock of Icelandic sheep fresh from a fall shearing, the farm is still rich with growth.
Wool, with its unique natural properties, is one of the most versatile and historically important materials, which can be used for everything from clothing to insulation.
Melissa and Spencer lease from the ARC now with the agreement that the land is to be maintained as a working farm. Melissa is excited about soil testing, so they can show the Conservancy how soil health, viewed through carbon content and soil organic matter, can improve over time with proper livestock management.
In California, there could not be a more relevant time to draw attention to the health of the open expanses of land surrounding our towns and cities.
Arriving at Flying Mule Farm on the cusp of lambing season and on the heels of a snowstorm in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the fields are damp with recent rain. Ewes and lambs call to each other and in the morning light. It’s easy to get sentimental about spaces like this where the animals match the rhythms of the land.
Building off one another’s enthusiasm, the Irwins describe their model of ranching that pulls from agrarian traditions of the past and present to create diverse, resilient agricultural systems that are the engines for ecosystem restoration for our future.
Everything is either local or supports American-based enterprise. The wool, after all, is shorn directly from the sheep roaming the hillside below or comes from neighboring farms throughout the Pacific Northwest.
It is lambing season at Bodega Pastures ranch and we are headed out to the pastoral landscapes of ‘west county’ Sonoma to meet the shepherds, their flock, and the new lambs that call this ranch home.