While at the Chaffin Family Orchard Farm, and while I was taking some time for myself away from the group, I noticed a field next to our parking space that was full of old farm machinery and other relics. Now, every farm I know of has equipment that wears out past the repairable stage; maybe it can be made into parts, or sold someday, but often it gets left in some field. These pieces seemed more than left, they seemed composed. Now, I am no photographer, and what I know about capturing images can be summarized in the phrase, 'point and shoot.' Still, there was something about these hot, rusted hulks and husks that begged to be put into images. Yeah, not my job. Yeah, the light was all wrong. Yeah, I was stuck on the wrong side of fence. Still, here is what I got:
|Hot Iron 2|
|Hot Iron 3|
|Hot Iron 5|
Before leaving the Chaffin Family Orchard, I should share with you that this is a family orchard/farm that has been owned and managed by 5 or so generations of the same family. All along the way the family has been committed to the idea of producing flavorful, healthy foods. Their orchards produce mouth watering fruits of all kinds including citrus. [I am dying to tear into a massive, delicious-looking grapefruit that was among the cornucopia of food they gave us. In addition to their fruit, they also run chickens, turkeys, goats and cows using what is called a "paddock shift system" where the animals are frequently moved so their grazing feed is fresh and the work they do is useful and not damaging. They have followed the principle of turning outputs into inputs and putting everything in the farm operation to work doing something. The goats help with the pruning, the fowl help with bug control and fertilizing the ground, the beef keeps the pastures under control as they live out their grass-fed lives on the range.
Interestingly, the farm has a "friendly to predators" philosophy they follow. Using guardian dogs and electric fences, they keep their livestock and chickens safe. At the same time, they know that the predators are working to keep the voles and other damaging critters at bay. The Chaffin family operators don't want to spend a lot of time killing predators. They figure by managing their farm operation mindfully, they can co-exist with the coyotes, racoons, mountain lions and other species that are normally considered the animals that terrorize farming operations. Would this approach work on any other farm or ranch? I don't know, but I hope this example gives other farmers something to think about. All critters, after all, are simply trying to do what we are trying to do: survive. As the alpha species capable of destroying everything in our path, don't we have some sort of obligation to think about things as the Chaffin family has?
By the way, as solid and organic and committed as the Chaffin's are to a basically organic operation free of herbicides and pesticides, they are still caught up in the obligation of innovation on their farm. They are excited about permaculture and whether adding permaculture to their operation will make it even better. If you are ever in Oroville, get something produced on the Chaffin Family Orchard farm operation and tell me if you don't agree they have latched on to something with some real bottom to it.
After leaving the Chaffin Family orchard, We headed over to the nearby Woodleaf farm. We had no sooner docked the Land Whale when we met Carl Rosato, the owner and operator. Carl shook my hand with his own strong, calloused farmer's hand and handed me a just-picked peach. If I told you it was the best peach I ever ate, I am confident I would pass a lie detector test with flying colors. The Woodleaf operation is small enough (Carl and his hand, Leo do almost all the work) that their commitment to raising good food is met completely. Whether it is peaches, apples, pears, mushrooms, figs, or other produce, it is ALWAYS harvested at the peak of ripeness and good flavor. Carl deals primarily with his customers through markets he attends. After 32 years attending his farm, Carl ought to know what's what and his peaches speak loudly for him.
In addition to seeing his excellent orchards and gardens, Carl showed us around his many construction projects which are in various states of completion. Among the projects is one he called his "man-cave," a place on his property that he can retreat to to edit his video productions and simply find a cool place to retreat. Like many operations, things take a while to become fully visualized and even longer to become realized. Carl seems to be both urged on by his projects and yet wise enough to let them season in time. He is a consummate farmer, both thoughtful and innovative. He also has some quality that strikes me as being definitively human. He is an admirable man.