Grit Blogs > Ag and Culture

Autumnal Aspirations

  


Callie HeadshotThis weekend my fiance Matt and I were provided a wealth of occasions to enjoy, learn from and consider for the future.

We were invited to visit Toluma Farms, a 200 acre goat dairy in the small coastal town of Tomales (about a 2 hour drive southwest of Sacramento). The drive provides views of sun-baked rolling hills (and pleasant cloud cover), plenty of cows and the smell of eucalyptus to fill our lungs.

 

 


Tomales consists of 204 residents, a cute deli and bakery, a couple churches, post office, an inn and general store. Mostly it seems to be a coffee stop for folks traveling through on their Bay Area weekend excursions.

 
A view of half the town of Tomales

Toluma Farms is another two miles off the Tomales main drag. The Farm offers one internship opportunity about every 6 months; my interest in this internship is the reason we made the visit. There we met Eric, who lives on the farm, is the goat herd manager and general caretaker. He has a BS in Animal Science from UC Davis, so it is no accident that he is the manager of this expanding farm. We also met Anne Marie who was recently hired for her cheese making skills – pending permits from the county, Toluma Farms will produce and sell their own cheese.

Only a small portion of the 200 acres is currently used for the goats; a good amount is rented out for cattle running and dry potato farming. There is a large barn packed with straw for the goats, an outdoor penning area in which the goats commit mischief, a machine milking parlor with a milk storage tank and a building soon to be converted into a creamery. There are approximately 200 milking goats (not all milking at the same time) and the Farm has recently added a flock of ten East Frisian dairy sheep – right up my alley and the same type of sheep I have hand milked (really one of the only kind of dairy sheep available in the United States).

An internship at Toluma Farms appears to be an exceptional opportunity for me to increase and acquire skills in dairying small ruminants and cheese making.

The nearest city to the Farm is Petaluma, a rural, rolling 30 minute drive. We spent some time wandering around their Old Town. One of the neatest businesses we visited is the Seed Bank which sells 1,200 varieties of heirloom seeds out of the historic Sonoma County National Bank building. The Bank is part of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company; I am happy to say we have some heirloom melons grown from their seeds ripening in the garden as I write!

 
 

Besides these most agreeable tours of farm and city, we also enjoyed a folksy, mellow rock concert by Fleet Foxes at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley - a cool outdoor Acropolis style venue. The stone steps throughout the venue provide good views for the vertically challenged.
 

 


All in all, a successful and full weekend ... I look forward to whatever opportunities and challenges the future brings.

callie murphy
9/22/2011 6:07:28 PM

Hey Dave, Square miles of GMO corn is sad to me too, it is damaging in so many ways. A neat thing about the county the goat dairy is in, Marin County, is that they voted to be GMO free back in 2004, that is encouraging. Maybe some of that kind of thinking will eventually migrate over to Nebraska; we can hope :)


nebraska dave
9/22/2011 11:55:05 AM

Callie, it sounds like a great adventure and learning experience if you get the internship. It's interesting to me that other animals are considered for milk and cheese production. Here in the midwest cows are the only thing on the farmer's mind. A few have sheep but they are strictly for wool and meat production. We don't have many goats other than for weed control. Of course in Nebraska the main thing is corn, corn, and more corn. Square miles of corn fields are not uncommon. Unfortunately it's mostly GMO now which saddens me. The farm is not the same as it was when I grew up some fifty years ago. Good luck getting accepted for internship. Have a great learning day.


callie murphy
9/16/2011 4:20:44 PM

I'm assuming by program you mean the internship? I found it listed on ATTRA here: https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/internships/index.php They list internships in the US and Canada. Because ATTRA recently lost their Federal funding they have started charging farms to post an internship. You can still browse through them all for free but because they are charging now, there has been a significant drop in posted opportunities. Another place to look for internships is on Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms here: https://www.wwoofusa.org/WWOOFer_Membership This costs $35 I believe to look through all their internships. Hope that helps!


arixian
9/15/2011 5:28:01 PM

Was there a fee for the program? Do you know of any online resources that list similar programs across the country? Would be great to find out if there are similar opportunities in my area.