There’s a ranch in Stonyford, California, only a little ways north of the San Francisco, where cows are raised for certified organic beef. I had the chance to visit Hester Ranch for an extended weekend this October, thanks to the beefy patronage of my brother and his hungry young family.
The ranch was a point of contention in our veg home back in Oakland, but I was curious to witness the care of an organic farm (and how my niece and nephews would take in the experience).
Bright and early each morning, we accompanied our host, Tim, in feeding the cows by truck. We guided the cattle to greener pasture on horseback in the mid-afternoon. And the Hesters led us in a prayer of thanks for the company and home-cooked meal, come evening.
Tim’s generosity extended to his openness on the pleasures and hardships of raising happy cows. Cows were birthing, introducing new young onto the ranch; and a steady stream of guests demonstrated how the line separating family and community blended together in this small town. Alongside the blessings, the Hesters voiced the dilemmas of the trade, like whether or not to sacrifice profit for animal well-being when choosing to vaccinate a sick calf, and of course the mounting costs of agricultural business in California.
Our luck had it that the Hesters were good family friends with the neighboring Pendell Apiary, who gave us a tour of their honey farm on our second day — enlightening us to all the hard labor that goes into making a mere tablespoon of honey.
The weekend in Stonyford was an experience. We talk about the ranch each time we meet, the kids eager to visit “Mr. Tim” next spring. The trip obviously made quite an impression!
If you’re local to the Bay Area and are in need of beef, give the Hesters a ring. If you need honey (or mead!), keep an eye out for the Pendell Apiary label.