Posts Tagged ‘Farm’
In Italy there are many festivals in November to celebrate the olive harvest, when family and friends gather to harvest the plump green and purple fruit by hand.
It was a cold but sunny morning three years ago, when we started our own family tradition: picking the fruit of our young trees by hand to make “green gold”—the buttery, peppery, and delicious olive oil.
This year, the harvest came earlier than expected, with the olive oil extracted at a local press in Hopland on November 4th. The harvest amount varies each year—the trees are growing and produce a little more each year. Weather conditions and other factors can also determine total pounds that are produced.
We have five different varieties at the farm, including Frantaio, Leccino, Maurino, Pendolino and Ascalano, which make a great blend of extra virgin olive oil. Olives start out green, then turn purple and later black. We always look for a good balance of green and purple olives, to get the flavor profile we are looking. Maybe, one day, we will be marinating our feta with it.
We harvested 35 olive trees that have been in the ground for nearly 5 years as well as another 60 that have been in the ground for 2-3 years. All in all we were able to fill buckets that hold approximately 45 lbs., getting six gallon of oil. The precious bottles are only opened for holiday-themed potlucks or gatherings for family and friends, which lasts us throughout the year.
At Redwood Hill Farm, we’ve been farming gardens and orchards just as long as dairy farming—nearly 50 years.
It is typical in Sonoma County to experience an extended dry period each summer without rainfall for many months. We are therefore accustomed to using water wisely and have implemented different water conservation systems which include composting, drip irrigation, reclaiming and reusing water, and dry farming. The severe drought conditions of the last four years have challenged us to perfect these techniques as we make the most of the water we have, now more than ever.
One of the most effective water conservation programs we have in place at our Sonoma County farm near Sebastopol is composting. Composting enables us to use less water while enhancing the cultivation of some of our goat feed, growing our own food, and enriching our farmland overall. Composting is a natural process that turns vegetable matter or manure into a dark rich substance compost or humus.
We lovingly call our compost “black gold”: Straw and goat manure are gleaned from our loafing barns and are composted over time in large piles and then spread throughout our gardens, apple and olive orchards. Composting conserves water as it decreases evaporation of moisture from the soil and enables the soil to hold more water in. In addition, it reduces water runoff and topsoil erosion during the rainy season.
As rainwater is caught and filtered through the straw down into the soil, orchards and gardens are fed with the nutrients from the rotting compost. Over the winter and into the next spring, the straw and manure compost continues to break down. The bottom layers, with the help of worms and other composting insects, turn the compost slowly into rich, loamy topsoil.
In addition to mulching our food and flower garden boxes at the farm, we use drip irrigation systems throughout the farm for our young, olive orchard as well as for the raised garden beds, blueberry shrubs and other berries that we grow for food each year. Drip irrigation, also known as “trickle irrigation” is a simple, but very effective system that consists of a network of tubes and emitters to focus the water close to the plants and young trees. This allows the water to drip slowly in those areas. Compared to traditional, overhead watering this method is very efficient in reducing evaporation and delivering only the necessary amount of water directly to the base of the plant, just where it is needed.
In the dairy milking parlor we continue our water conservation efforts by reclaiming and reusing water from our equipment’s automatic wash cycle. After the wash cycle, the water is directed to a holding tank where any sediment settles. The grey water from that tank is siphoned, pumped and then used to wash the floors of the dairy barn each day.
Sonoma County has long been known for the delicious Gravenstein apple’s commercial production and growing apples has been a tradition from Redwood Hill Farm’s very beginning, almost five decades ago. We have over 15 different apple varieties in our abundant orchard, which is entirely dry farmed. Dry farming is a system of growing crops in low water or arid regions and means that no water or artificial irrigation are used on the trees except for the water they receive with the winter and spring rains. While the fruit size is typically smaller than an irrigated orchard, the yields are very good.
Healthy topsoil is critical to sustainable dry farming, and preserving the soil is considered an important long-term goal of our orchard’s dry farmed operation. We use no- or reduced tilling, and straw compost spreading throughout to protect and replenish the orchard’s valuable topsoil. Our free-range chickens as well as the rabbits, deer, turkeys and other wildlife that live in and around the farm appreciate our efforts as they enjoy the abundance of the land.
As we continue to harvest our apples and notice the leaves that begin to turn to their bright fall colors, we’re hopefully optimistic for more rainfall this winter. Meteorologists are predicting with a high certainty that an “El Niño” weather pattern is developing. This means winter and spring rainfall for the West Coast – and hopefully lots of it to soak the fields and gardens on our farm once again.
We are thrilled to be in Issue 3 of Conscious Company Magazine as a handful of the nations top sustainable cheese producers! Redwood Hill Farm Owner and CEO Jennifer Bice was interviewed about her woman-owned company and her 45+ year commitment to sustainability and the environment.
You can pick up a copy at Whole Foods Market, Sprouts, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and other local retailers—you’ll be supporting sustainable businesses.
CLICK HERE to read the full article.
Part 1: Growing Our Own Drought Resilient Goat Feed – Tagasaste
Conserving precious water is on our minds as we are facing another year of severe drought in California. We’re resilient folks, and are constantly looking at ways in which we can do our part at the Farm as well as at the creamery. Redwood Hill Farm Manager Scott Bice’s most recent water-saving project on the farm is one we’re very excited about. We are now growing some of our goat’s feed, a drought-tolerant, leafy shrub called Tagasaste, right on the farm – and the goats love to eat it.
How much do you know about goat kids? At Redwood Hill Farm we’ve been raising dairy goat kids since the mid 1960’s, and over the years have learned much about these intelligent, cute and cuddly young animals. Here’s our ‘top ten’ of fun facts about goat kids.
Humans and goats have enjoyed a close relationship for thousands of years. Nicole Bice, pictured left, and her brother Colton, below, are the next generation of human kids growing up with goat kids on our Certified Humane® farm—kids playing with kids, living and learning together on the farm.
by David Bice
Redwood Hill Farm has been a family farm for over 45 years. It began in 1968 when our parents, Cynthia and Kenneth Bice (with then seven kids), moved from Los Angeles to Sonoma County and bought their very first goat named “Flopsy”. As a family and later under the leadership of oldest sister, Jennifer Bice, we have been making our cultured yogurt, kefir and artisan cheese for our goat milk loving customers since the early 1970’s. We invite you on a journey to follow our fresh goat milk as it travels from our Certified Humane® goat farm in Sebastopol, CA, to your neighborhood store.
“Goat people” love to collect all kinds of goaty items. Enjoy this collection of some of Jennifer’s favorite art pieces collected over her 45+ years of owning and loving dairy goats.
We’ve set our annual Farm Tour dates and hope to see you
Mark your calendars and please join us this year as we celebrate life on our goat farm. Our dates have been set, and we hope you will be able to join us in beautiful west Sonoma County, a truly magical place in springtime.
Jennifer will be honored at the 42nd Annual Ag-BBQ
We’re so happy to share that the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce recently announced Redwood Hill Farm owner and CEO Jennifer Bice will receive the Leadership in Agriculture award at this year’s Agri-Business BBQ on July 29th! The 42nd Annual Agri-Business BBQ honoring the diverse and pivotal role of the agriculture community in shaping the quality of life here in Sonoma County, will take place at Shone Farm, Santa Rosa Junior College’s 365-acre outdoor learning laboratory. Select HERE for more details on the awards event in July.
In 1978, Jennifer Lynn Bice assumed ownership of Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery, Inc., the family farm and Grade A goat dairy the Bice family started in Sonoma County in 1968, and never looked back. Along with her late husband, Steven Schack, Jennifer expanded the business to produce a greater variety of goat milk products, and diversified the dairy goat-breeding program.
Today Redwood Hill Farm is owned and operated by Jennifer, along with five of her siblings that worked to establish Redwood Hill Farm in the 1960’s. In addition, more than 50 dedicated employees now run the day-to-day operations at the Certified Humane® farm and state-of-the-art organic creamery in Sebastopol. Promoting the benefits of goat milk products and developing a genetics program of excellence for the Redwood Hill Farm herd remain her top priorities, and this commitment has positioned Redwood Hill Farm at the forefront of the dairy goat industry.
2014 Spring Farm Tour: lots of happy memories…
The first weekend of our annual Farm Tours are behind me with a head full of happy moments shared with family, employees and a farm full of new friends. We’re all on our second cups of coffee this morning as we laugh and share stories of a great weekend!
Redwood Hill Farm customers from near and far drove up beautiful Thomas Road in Sebastopol to arrive at the farm, park in the olive and apple orchard and walk Apple Blossom Lane to enjoy a taste of farm living.