GIM News Winter 2011
Finding the right rotation
The Marshall Ranch, now the Thornton Ranch in Tomales, was settled in 1852. All kinds of agriculture typical of the Tomales area were practiced on this ranch over the years: farming, grazing, dairying, and forage production including hundreds of acres of grain. According to the agricultural statistics for 1867, Marin harvested 102,240 bushels of wheat grown on 3,936 acres that year.
Today, Gary and his daughter Marissa are planting a field of beardless barley, and in the spring, some potatoes, along with running 1300 acres of cattle and sheep. The standard rotation of the past was spring grains to feed horses and livestock, followed by potatoes for fall harvest followed again by feed grains. Fields could be rotated with a grazing rest with livestock. Sometimes fields were rested from cultivation with periods of livestock grazing.
Today, almost by default, we are rediscovering what works best in the Northwestern part of Marin County, and it looks very much like what the first farmers figured out. There isn't much available water for irrigation. It rains 44 inches on average per year, all in the winter. It then dries up for as much as 8 months during spring, summer, and fall. It is hilly and there is almost no perfectly flat farmland.