January 11, 2011

Dorrance Ranch

I'm taking a 2 week program called the Conservation Leadership Practicum. On the first day, we took a field trip to visit Dorrance Ranch, which has the highest point in the area, giving a great view of Monterey Bay (from Big Sur to Santa Cruz), the Salinas River, Salinas, and even over the inland mountains over to the white-peaked Sierras in the East. The Dorrances have an easement on the land with the Nature Conservancy, which limits the ability to develop the land, and requires grazing animals to be grass-fed in perpetuity. Hearing Steve Dorrance talk about his life experience, why they decided to go this route, and looking out over the farmland below (some happy, green, organic fields; lots of dormant, empty, even plastic-covered fields that reflect the "scorched earth" policies of the FDA), was so inspiring. It made me remember the conservation goals I set for myself when I was in vet school. Namely, helping Kentucky farmers/ranchers to go grass-fed and/or organic. What I learned, however, is that external forces are unlikely to be very helpful in making this sort of transition. It seems to be a cultural change that comes from the impetus of the younger generations, and from within the 'scene'. I think of our friends Adam and Rae who are organic farmers outside Louisville. Adam's family have been farmers for generations, but he is the one to have spear-headed the organic farming aspect. Rae is new to farming (within her family, anyway), but is gung-ho about the benefits that non-"conventional" farming give rise to.

Golden Eagle atop an oak.

Steve Dorrance surveying the land.

Overlooking Monterey Bay.

Farmland and Salinas River below.
"Scorched Earth" where no wildlife can live. )o:

Our CLP class.
Includes MIIS students, PhD students from elsewhere, professionals from Bhutan and China.

Photos by Colleen Beye's camera.

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