Community Matters: Jalama Canyon Ranch
Our Community Matters series is a grassroots approach to supporting those who support the nation—the communities that feed America, build America, and protect America. Our newest story highlight is on White Buffalo Land Trust, a non-profit working to restore our ecosystem through agriculture at Jalama Canyon Ranch. Their mission is to practice, promote, and develop systems of regenerative agriculture for local, regional, and global impact.
Nature’s health is declining. And that is the message White Buffalo Land Trust wants the world to know.
It's really important to understand that over the last 50 to 100 years, humans have had this steady trend of moving away from agricultural landscapes and off of the land into cities and have become disconnected from the importance of healthy ecological cycles, and how they sustain us says Jesse Smith, director of land stewardship. Situated on a 1,000-acre property off the Pacific Coast in Central California, Jalama Canyon Ranch was once a conventional vineyard and event venue space that has been transformed by White Buffalo Land Trust into a center for education, training, and research on regenerative agricultural principles and practices. It is a relatively new approach to agriculture, only just having been developed in recent decades yet with roots as far back as humans have tended landscapes. White Buffalo Land Trust is on a mission to share these methods to ranchers and farmers in an attempt to save the planet. We recently visited the ranch and met with Smith and Steve Finkel, president and founder of White Buffalo Land Trust, to learn more about their work and how they are working with other farmers, ranchers, and organizations to bring regenerative agriculture to the forefront of our food system.
In a lot of ways, regenerative agriculture is about getting back to the basics of farming and agriculture. White Buffalo Land Trust tells us it is about
regenerating our relationship to land and nature and they are demonstrating this at Jalama Canyon Ranch through
holistic grazing, training in ecological outcome verification, and helping current and future land stewards understand and implement regenerative principles and practices focused on nutrient cycling, watershed health and increasing biodiversity on the land they manage.
However, their biggest hurdle is getting people to believe in the power of regenerative agriculture.
We get a lot of people as well as those who have built their businesses off of a conventional form of agriculture questioning what the potential of regenerative agriculture really is, says Smith. In response to these types of questions, Smith focuses on how regenerative agriculture is meaningful on a personal level and how it can create positive outcomes in the environment.
For ranchers, it's the memory of sitting on their porch with their grandfather watching birds as a kid that are no longer there. It’s the taste of the food that they're producing that has diminished over time. For a lot of people in the south, it's the lack of insects on their windshield as they're driving through the streets. That is recognition of biodiversity loss. White Buffalo Land Trust believes regenerative agriculture starts with people. According to Finkel,
Regenerative agriculture is about health, it's about wellness, it's about the health of the farmer, health of the rancher, economically and physically. It's about the health of the land, the soil, and our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Smith adds,
Regenerative agriculture has this opportunity to reconnect people through food to these living ecosystems because eating is what connects us all. We do it three times a day. And every moment is an opportunity for us to understand where it came from, how it was produced, and what impacts it had on our ecology. Regenerative agriculture, in its innate nature, has this really beautiful reciprocity between humans and natural ecosystems. Their partnership with Richards Regenerative is an example of this. Richard’s brings their cattle to graze at Jalama Canyon Ranch which produces
grassfed, holistically managed, Land to Market beef. The result, Finkel says, is “incredibly high-quality beef, and we're able to verify that the land is getting healthier by grazing these cattle on it” through a
boots on the ground, hands in the soil method that is
supported by a direct relationship with the high-tech world in which we're currently living with drones, satellites, remote sensors, and telemetry. This allows them to gather and transmit data on everything from soil moisture to vegetation cover and help them closely monitor the health of the soil.
As more operations join Jalama Canyon Ranch, Finkel and Smith are excited about the possibilities that regenerative agriculture represent. Finkel tells us,
Sandhi Wines is partnering with us in our vineyard, making a world class wine, and then sharing the story of regenerative viticulture with their community and hopefully inspiring other winemakers and growers to begin to shift towards a regenerative approach. White Buffalo Land Trust has developed a center for regenerative agriculture where they can do work in service of a world they believe can support healthy, vibrant human life in balance with a healthy functioning ecosystem. They remain relentlessly optimistic for future generations in agriculture and for more people to discover a regenerative mindset.
One of the beautiful things about regenerative agriculture is that there are many doorways in, explains Finkel.
Some people find it through a culinary experience of wanting to find the best ingredients. Other people find it through science. All these different doorways are available, and people are walking through them to find their way into regenerative agriculture. Jalama Canyon Ranch will continue to welcome people in through education and hands-on methods of regenerative agriculture. Motivated by the goal of healthier soil and ecosystems, Jalama Canyon Ranch paves the way for a brighter world, where agriculture, ecological restoration, and human development work in harmony. The campaign for Jalama is a local solution to a global phenomenon.