All of us at Toluma Farms consider ourselves farmers and environmentalists. Taking excellent care of the animals and land goes hand-in-hand; you cannot achieve one without the other. In April of 2007, Toluma Farms received Organic Certification (Marin Organic Certified Agriculture) for its 160-acre parcel. As of March 2008, we are proud to be the first and only Goat Dairy in Marin County that is certified Animal Welfare Approved. In 2010, Toluma Farms received its Certified Humane certification.
In our commitment to being faithful stewards of the land, our focus over the past several years has been on restoring our creeks and watersheds. Elaborate work for erosion control has been recently completed with expert help and guidance from NRCS and RCD. We have planted hundreds of trees with the STRAW (The Bay Institute) project in concert with our restoration work. One type of tree planted, the Gray Willow, is native to West Marin and the branches are used by Native American Tribes for Ohlone basket weaving. Taking great care of the land is not only the right thing to do for environmental reasons, but it is also the only way to have healthy animals. As Michael Pollen writes in his book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, “when animals live on farms the very idea of waste ceases to exist; what you have instead is a closed ecological loop-what in retrospect you might call a solution.” We at Toluma Farms strive to be part of the solution and not the problem.
Although it isn’t an easy task to start a family farm, we are fortunate to have learned from the legacies of the visionaries who have worked tirelessly to protect this land and create food that, in the words of the Slow Food Movement, is “good, clean and fair.” Many of these visionaries are in our own backyard. In 1980, through their beliefs in the viability of sustainable agriculture, Ellen Straus and Phyllis Faber founded Marin Agriculture Land Trust (MALT). If it were not for their pioneering efforts, this land might be filled with condos rather than with goats. In 2010, Toluma Farms placed the property into a land trust with Marin Agriculture Land Trust (MALT), ensuring its protection in perpetuity. As of 2013, MALT has protected over 71 family farms on more than 45,000 acres. The Straus Family has continued paving the way for farmers who are committed to organic farming. The neighboring Straus Family Dairy was the first dairy in California to become organic. The local list of visionaries who have made this path easier for Toluma Farms could go on and on. Just as Toluma Farms has received significant support in its conservation work, we have received an abundance of guidance and encouragement in getting the dairy/farm off the ground. We have no doubt that if it weren't for the following group of people and businesses, we never would have made it. Our deepest gratitude goes out to: Tim, Timmy and Kevin Furlong, UC Davis Cooperative Extension, Marin Organics, Lee Erickson, Lisa Shanks, Friedmans, Scott and Addy Murphy, Sue Conley, Peggy Smith, Anita Sauber, Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., Gary Giacomini, Hilary Harkins, Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery, Martin and Sally Pozzi, Phyllis Faber, NRCS, RCD, USDA Rural Development, San Francisco Bay Area Builders, Ballatore Construcion, McCloskey Electric, Albert Straus, Vivien Straus, Nicasio Vally Cheese Company, Marin Agriculture, Land Trust and First Republic Bank.
And then we can go way back. Agriculture has thrived in the western part of Marin County since the mid-19th century when the Californios, the first Mexican land grantees, settled here. As the birthplace of the California dairy industry, Point Reyes became a vital part of the Bay Area’s agricultural economy. Butter was produced here and shipped by train or schooner to cities and towns throughout the west. Immigrants from Ireland, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, and other countries established family farms that are still a central part of the local economy, both on the Point Reyes peninsula and along the eastern shore of Tomales Bay.
And now we end this story with the beginning of it all: the Coast Miwoks. The Coast Miwoks were probably the first people to live in West Marin (and perhaps on this very soil of Toluma Farms). For thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans, they fished, hunted, and gathered wild foods, harvesting salmon and steelhead from creeks and streams, shellfish from Tomales Bay, and abalone from the Pacific Ocean. So it is with immense gratitude that we at Toluma Farms are now a part of this Sustainable Agriculture narrative.