David Anderson and Marie Chandoha are the first to admit the name of their farm—Quailbrook Farm at a Place of Hope and Beauty—might be a bit of a mouthful! But, as David explains, it serves a purpose: “The name helps us remember what we’re doing here, what it’s all about.”
When Marie had a dream that the couple would create a “place of hope and beauty,” they began searching for land where they could make this vision a reality. In 2007, after six failed escrows, they discovered a 160-acre property on the northwest slope of Sonoma Mountain in Penngrove, California. Although the farm was much bigger than others they had previously looked at, they felt like it was the right place to put down roots. The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation District bought some of the development rights to the land, allowing them to afford the property, and since its purchase they have been dedicated to learning how to care for the land they steward.
David and Marie knew they wanted to create a model of regenerative agriculture—one that would improve the ecology of their land, rather than extract resources and leave it damaged. They quickly learned that grazing animals would form a central part of their oak grove savannah landscape. Today, they raise Belted Galloway beef cattle on 120 acres of pasture, which they have divided into 26 paddocks that allow them to rotationally graze their animals. As an AWA source farm for beef cattle, Quailbrook Farm is approved to raise and sell beef cattle to other AWA-certified farms.
“Rotational grazing requires that you’re attentive to the needs of the various pastures—for example, the right time to move cattle to fresh grazing so that perennial grasses can compete with very fast growing invasive species,” says David. “Without grazing, you get a tremendous amount of dead grass, which smothers native perennial grasses. If you overgraze, it can also allow weed species to become dominant. Aside from reasserting the natural ecology of the land, encouraging perennial grasses can provide grazing during drier months. Perennial grasses have roots that go down three feet, as opposed to 1 inch, drawing moisture up from deep below the soil’s surface. This means the pastures stay green for much longer during the many months of dry weather in northern California.”
In David and Marie’s opinion, raising cattle on pasture is a win-win: “When cows eat grass, it encourages root growth, sequestering carbon and building soil, reestablishing natural ecology, creating food for people from animals that are very happy.” Having AWA certifications not only verifies that Quailbrook Farm’s animals are raised according to the highest welfare standards, but it also helps Marie and David to learn more about what it really takes to manage their cattle in a way that is truly caring: “You can only go so far on good intentions,” David states. “You have to educate yourself. AWA is a great resource to help us connect to others, improve our practices, and help us make sure we’re raising animals with integrity.”
Marie and David are still figuring out what the land needs. At present, their focus is on building the soil and preventing erosion on the property by paying attention to how water is moving and helping to replenish the mountain’s aquifer, but their intention is that whatever happens on the farm will move in harmony with the natural ecology of the land. As David explains, the herd of AWA-certified cattle already plays a vital role towards these efforts and he and Marie believe that caring for them is an equally important responsibility: “Our animals are doing a lot of work out there,” says David. “They trust us a whole lot, so I want to do my best to do right by them, too.”
For more information about Quailbrook Farm at a Place of Hope and Beauty, contact David at email@example.com or (707) 795-5882.