If you visit Heart Arrow Ranch in early spring, as you approach the 2,000-acre ranch, you see rolling oak woodlands, bright green meadows, patches of conifer trees, and dense chaparral thickets all woven together. As you enter the ranch, you also see that this intricate landscape contains a complex farm organism of winegrapes, olives, pastured pigs, poultry, and more. And on that unique ranch and amidst the beautiful natural habitat is our family farm, Mendocino Meats.
Adam Gaska and I, Paula, are a husband-and-wife team dedicated to farming great food and ecological stewardship. Since establishing Mendocino Organics / Mendocino Meats in 2000, our small farm has evolved to where we currently focus on sustainable meat production but also grow organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Born and raised in Redwood Valley, Mendocino County, Adam’s love of his hometown, the natural environment, and amazing food led him to start his own farm. Since 2008, he and I have been farming together, developing the farm to where it is today, always with the intent of providing delicious, healthy food to our community.
Like many first-generation farmers, we had to find land and capital to establish our venture. Ten years ago, we began a partnership with Julie and Joe Golden of Golden Vineyards at Heart Arrow Ranch with the purpose of bringing more crop and livestock diversity to their biodynamic farm. In exchange for assisting Golden Vineyards in managing the soil fertility and overall plant health of their certified organic and Biodynamic® wine grapes and olives, we have the opportunity to complete the farm organism by growing mixed vegetables, herbs, fruit, and hay, and raising livestock. Our two businesses are working together toward a self-sustaining farmscape.
Starting out by bootstrapping, we’ve found that support from the community in various forms has been essential for us to run the farm without significant off-farm income. From 2008 to 2013, our organic vegetable CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) program was actually our main focus. Diversified production has remained important to us – for soil health, conserving the natural environment, and weathering the ups and downs of running a small farm.
Truly local, sustainably-raised meats have not been widely available for sale in Mendocino County in recent history, thus there seemed to be a market opportunity for us to fill that niche with our meat operation. Other opportunities have culminated to where we can now raise heritage pastured pork and poultry, along with lamb, goat, beef, and eggs, for local eaters and restaurants like The Golden Pig. At the end of the day, we want to provide enjoyable, nutritious food to our community, and now working with SIP and SAVOR at The Golden Pig, we have another channel of satisfying that goal.