Friday, June 17, 2011

10 Years of Farming

I realized today, as I was hauling sheep to various grazing contracts, that we established Flying Mule Farm ten years ago.  Ten years seems like a milestone, so I reflected on where we started, where we are now, and where we may be headed.

Like many families, I count farmers among my ancestors.  I'm fortunate that my parents, while they didn't earn their living from farming, did garden extensively and kept lots of animals.  The Macon family definitely has a farming gene!

Samia and I started keeping livestock on a small scale almost from the time we were married in 1990.  While Sami was in vet school, we inherited an injured ewe, and we helped a friend butcher chickens.  After we moved to Penryn in 1994, we started a garden, began raising chickens for eggs, and kept a variety of animals, including sheep and a bottle calf named Brutus.

In 2001, we purchased our current place in Auburn and founded Flying Mule Farm (named for our first mule, Frisbee - her brother Boomerang was born the next year.  We bought our place, in part, because it was zoned "Farm" - meaning we'd be able to establish a commercial farming enterprise.

That fall, we took our first crop to the Old Town Auburn Farmers' Market - we grew popcorn!  We had great fun - made a little money - and had lots of popcorn for our own use.  The following year, we grew Swiss chard, squash, beans, and other veggies for the market.

In 2003, on the day that our oldest daughter started school, we butchered our first batch of meat chickens - for our own use.  In 2005, we decided to expand our "hobby" sheep enterprise and purchased 27 ewes with our friends the Edwards family (from Colfax).  In 2006, we were the first vendors to bring lamb to the farmers' market.

Today, we have decided to drop our commercial vegetable production and focus primarily on lamb production.  We're still regulars at the farmers' market, offering grass-fed lamb, grass-fed beef, mutton sausage, sheepskins, wool products, and firewood.  We have also developed a contract grazing business - as I write this, we have sheep in the Whitney Oaks community of Rocklin, on the Rocklin campus of Sierra College, in Auburn's Chinese cemetery, at Oak Hill Ranch in Auburn, and at Elster Ranch between Auburn and Grass Valley.  We still own just 3 acres, but we're managing more than 1000 acres of foothill rangeland.

I'm always envious of folks who are the fourth or fifth generation of their family to farm or ranch.  I'm hoping that Sami and I are the first of a new generation of Macons who earn their living from the land!  Happy 10th anniversary, and thanks to all of our friends and customers who've made Flying Mule Farm possible!

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