On Saturday a group of friends and I visited Toluma Farms (www.tolumafarms.com), a picturesque goat dairy in the town of Tomales. We were there as part of a tour sponsored by the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (www.malt.org). It was such fun to visit a true working farm, especially one that cares so much for both its animals and the land.
The owners—David Jablons and Tamara Hicks (and their two proud daughters Josy and Emmy)—purchased the farm with the express intent of improving the quality of the land. Committing to such intense capital requirements (especially in farming, which is notoriously low-margin) is not for the faint of heart, but David and Tamara were undeterred. They understand that a farm does not just exist in isolation, but plays a crucial role in the management of an area’s larger ecosystem. They also are dedicated to the well-being of their animals, and were recently the first goat farm in Marin County to be animal-welfare certified.
One of the most important ways in which a farm can help or hinder environmental quality is through its watershed. Many farms have creeks running through them. Besides providing power or a water source, these creeks also provide crucial habitat for creatures large and small, including those at the bottom of the entire food chain. The quality of a watershed usually dictates the quality of its overall environment. To improve the quality of the water on their property, Toluma Farms partnered with a peerless organization called STRAW—Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed (www.bay.org/watershed_education.htm). STRAW coordinates with groups of school children who the hard work of shoring up creek banks, partitioning water from livestock, and reintroducing native grasses on the perimeter. This project was a vital first step in restoring the health of the overall farm and bringing back native flora and fauna.
As for the farm tour, the goats themselves could not have been friendlier! The babies especially were very hospitable, greeting us warmly as we entered their paddocks. At one point, my friend’s daughters and I were literally surrounded by nuzzling goats, who plied us with kisses and good-natured head butts.
I encourage everyone to learn more about local farms, especially ones run by families with their hearts in the right place.