This is the next story in a current series about Sonoma Co. CSA farm, Tara Firma. I met with co-founder, Tara Smith, in December of last year when we talked at length about the importance of raising and feeding animals as Mother Nature intended.
As we continue our tour, a couple of things strike me about this farm which is nestled amongst undulating, verdant hills. Except for the mama pigs, with their just-born piglets, all the animals are outside, and their surroundings are grassy and lush. It’s the kind of scene an impressionist painter might be inspired to pull out their canvas and oils for. No muddy feed lots or grass-bare fields here.
A key thing that sets Tara Firma apart is the way Tara and her team manage their natural resources, primarily, the pastures that surround the farmhouse. They’re used in a sequential fashion, not endlessly over-grazed, and the grass is given time to regenerate before the animals are allowed back to eat.
Put another way, they use intensive rotational grazing which delivers ten times more carbon back into the ground than any other form of raising cows. (We’ve all heard the bad rap cows get for contributing to greenhouse gases.) This is important, not just because the animals get the most out of what they are eating, but because it leads to carbon sequestration. The more the grass is allowed to re-grow, the deeper its root system, which science has proven pulls more carbon out of the atmosphere. A win-win. Isn’t it amazing how sublimely divine Mother Nature operates when given a chance to work in her own way?
In practice this means that first the cows are given access to an area of grazing, and every day or two they are moved to a new spot. (They are kept in one patch behind a simple line). Then the chickens arrive at the spot recently vacated by the cows: they get to wander at will through the pasture, picking up bugs to eat and scratching through the cow patties, turning over and fertilizing the soil.
Finally, the pigs come through. Tara reminds me that they are carnivores, rooting through the turf, and eating everything in their patch from rodents to roots. They are the hardest of all on the earth and sometimes might be moved twice in a day depending on the condition of the area.
This is holistic farming. The whole picture is taken into account from the environment, to the animals well-being throughout their life and their final journey to “processing”. The results are plain to taste. The beef, which turns up regularly in my Tara Firma farm box, is gamey and flavorful. The pork has good marbling, but not too much. The flesh of the chicken is a nice pink color, not that yellowy hue that shows corn was in the diet, and the yolks of the eggs are a deep golden color.
And the price for all this? Well, it has to be said, it’s a fair bit more than you might be used to paying at Safeway or Lucky. It’s a topic that Tara is understandably passionate about, and one that deserves an entire post of its own…
(Photo credit to Tara Firma for the images of the cows and pigs in this story)