MEET THE RANCHERS
THIS Q&A IS FROM
Why did you start Da-Le Ranch? How did this idea/vision come about?
1999-2001: After a major illness, from which I was not expected to recover, my business failed, and we went broke. Leslie had developed a keen presence in the showing of dogs, and became a dog handler, breeder and was developing a champion line of Lhasa Apso dogs. I was unable to work, but helped Leslie with her dog business. Living in the Clairmont/Kearny section of San Diego, she felt a need to move to a rural area to focus on her dog training. She was a vegetarian.
2002: Began serious search for rural home. While ill, I spent time researching and reading about the soil, gardening, composting, vermiculture, etc.. Leslie’s dog business flourished.
2003: Bought current property. It was not suitable for farming. Too hilly and rocky. However, I bought six pigs to raise for the family food, a dozen hens, and a dozen rabbits.
2004: Bought a worm farm, and learned how to clear rocks and hills for agriculture. Moved the worm farm to our site. Leslie’s dog business continued to grow. Leslie tasted the first bite of the first pig we raised on the farm, and was instantly converted to Omnivorism!
2004-2008: Owned and operated the largest worm farm in Riverside County. I completed both the Riverside County Master Gardener and Master Composter training programs in 2007, and earned the certificates. For the next couple of years, I taught many classes throughout Riverside county, until our livestock business began to consume all my time, and I could not afford to volunteer my time.
We raised more animals and added turkeys. We transformed several acres of hills into growing areas, and acquired more animals. We were Invited to sell at two farmer’s markets as a result of some managers attendance at a block party that served one of our pigs. The wanted us to sell there, since the pork was “The best we’ve ever eaten!”
2009: Added ducks, goose, chicken, beef and lamb to our farm livestock mix. Invited to attend a dozen additional farmer’s markets.
2010-CURRENT: Grew the markets, raised more animals, leased pastures, developed contracts with other farms to grow our stock to provide safety net for the business…the loss of one site can’t ruin the business now. Added chicken, pheasant and quail.
When we began to raise animals, we had the choice of doing it like the large commercial companies, or taking a more personal approach. We chose the latter.
We adopted much of the NO steroid, hormone, incremental antibiotic, GMO and soy concept, and wanted to raise the best and most tasty animal possible. We didn’t feel that could be done without love for the animals.
How much time do the animals spend outdoors each day?
All but a few are outdoors all day. Quail, pheasant, chicken, rabbit must be penned, but have sunshine and air movement.
What do you feed the animals?
All animals get grass in some form. Steers are on pasture, and fed supplemental hay. Lambs eat alfalfa. We have a proprietary blend of feed that pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, quail and pheasants are fed. Lots of fruits and veggies to those that can handle it.
What do you do when the animals get sick?
Leslie is a wonderful nurse, with a full line of her own home remedies. She researches every possible disease in the context that it can be prevented, or diminished with natural products, rather than chemicals.
We also have a vet on call if Leslie can’t handle the problem naturally. In 11 years, this has only been necessary one time. The vet did what Leslie thought was needed, but had never done before. It was a confidence builder for her, and next time that happens (if it ever happens again), she will have the confidence to take care of it.
What are some of the challenges you face as a small farm raising animals humanely?
Regulatory agencies are over-burdensome: Most government groups appear to try to figure out why we shouldn’t be in business rather than how we should. Humane treatment comes naturally to us, but we work around obstacles, jump over them, or push through.
Monetary constraints: With sufficient funding more machinery, more workers, more variety of stock would all be possible.
Predators: Too many in our area.
Do you get attached to the animals and how do you deal with that when it comes time for slaughter?
We can become attached, but God gave them to us to eat…check out our teeth configuration with the larger incisors designed for chewing meat. Named animals are usually not slaughtered until they outlive their productive age. It makes it easier to refer to them as “Freezer Pets.”
Who are your customers and how do they find you?
We have hundreds that buy at least 1 time a month. We offer a CSA share program…in fact, we were the first mixed-meat CSA in Southern California!