Hello! My name is Deborah Raven-Lindley; my husband Ken Lindley and I own Nevermore Farm. We came to Arbuckle from Davis, CA to fulfill a dream of owning a rural property.
I had always wanted to live in the country, having had a lifelong love of plants, animals and places that are not cities. Ken grew up in the agricultural belt of the San Joaquin Valley, and has exceptional talent at building landscaping features coupled with great mechanical know-how. We are both graduates of UC Davis. I hold a degree in Comparative Literature with an emphasis on German, and Ken earned a degree in Biology. We were both longtime employees of different departments of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. We met in a laboratory that made veterinary biological media, an extremely arcane facet of microbiological studies in which we both earned expert qualifications.
As time went on, I took a different job at UC Davis, this time in the flagship state veterinary diagnostic laboratory at California Animal Health and Food Safety. During this time I was privileged to learn a great deal about poultry in sickness and in health, and formed many ideas about what raising livestock ought to look like. I resigned my position as a Staff Research Associate in order to pursue farming full-time in May, 2011. Ken retired from UC Davis in June, 2014.
In the beginning, we knew we wanted fruit trees and room for our poultry, but exactly what we wanted to do wasn’t yet clear. When we moved to lovely rural Arbuckle in January 2002, the property came with a shop, a modular home, a 250 gallon diesel tank, a Kubota B2150 tractor, and 68 sadly neglected 90 year old almond trees. That was it. Everything that developed since then has been the aftermath of chance happenings, bright ideas, trial and error, and a lot of hard work. What we have accomplished, we accomplished with our own resources and the generosity of friends….no grant monies, government programs or family inheritances assisted our efforts.
We began tentatively selling produce to friends in 2004, as well as dabbling with selling our flowers and vegetables at local farmer’s markets. I have a vivid memory of wondering if I was ripping people off, for selling a quart of perfect sweet blackberries for $2…..there is a lot a person doesn’t know, when starting from scratch. Not long afterward these small sales bloomed into a small direct sales program of weekly produce boxes, and it never stopped. Season after season we gained more knowledge. I was fortunate to learn a great deal about orchard and field operations from a local man who had farmed professionally. This included a truly extensive understanding of growing commercial almonds.
We finally reached a point, around 2011, where we felt like we knew what we were doing, though the learning never stops. We mastered summer crops first, then finally got the hang of production in winter. We gained many “customers” who we are proud to call our friends, both former workmates as well as growing families and academic professionals. We still retain connections to the university community in Davis, as the majority of our supporters live there. Through them we have come to realize that however small our efforts by comparison to much larger local farms, we have made a positive difference.
At one time, we described ourself as operating a CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) farm, but we have evolved past that description. I believe our ongoing changes reflect our relationship with our farm members. We don’t really seem to have “members” because before long, we become friends. We don’t view our connection to our farm members on a “transactional” basis….meaning, we do not see ourselves as a place one goes to pay for individual services or food items. While we are by no means wealthy, over time our finances have stabilized somewhat, and we are no longer living on a bare margin of financial survival. We are looking harder at what we want to really accomplish instead of what we need to do to earn every last dime. And we have a luxury in this; many small farms are run by people who are working unimaginably hard, for poverty wages.
Our farming activities have taken on a vocational aspect. We aren’t interested in selling food; you can buy food from any farm or even those places called grocery stores. What we are interested in is offering a unique connection to the gargantuan subject of food: How people used to eat it, how the changes happened, why nutrition and health have slipped away from many, how and why the commercial food supply became skewed, and how we can take back the basic human right to have fresh, unadulterated food. The food that was raised 150 years ago was made “better”….in some ways. I find over and over that lost flavors and colors are in those old varieties, and that many of them yield more than enough for our purposes while imparting a superior culinary experience. I’m deeply attracted to truly ancient food varieties; the crowns of my collection are Ethiopian Blue Tinge Emmer and Black Kabuli chickpeas, which date back to pharaonic times and beyond. There is something about tasting a 3500 year old food item and understanding that it would have been known to an ancient Egyptian….food is the history of all humanity, and I believe it is foolish to abandon old wisdom.
We put far too much care and effort into choosing, growing, harvesting and packing the food we produce for you to have our work distill down to “food in exchange for money.” Being a member with us means, if we have it and you want it, it is yours. If we can teach it and you want to learn it, we will make that happen. You support us with your membership to help us keep the lights on, and to the extent that we are able, we support you in return with a wealth of knowledge and information and…..amazingly interesting food. We reached out to have a lifestyle that revolves around food and all its possibilities….we call it a Foodstyle, and we want to open the door to you having one as well. Become a member, and the wealth of our farm, in food, is yours as well. Farm membership centers around subscribing to receive our produce boxes, but it extends far beyond “getting a box” for anyone who is interested. Most homeowners cannot manage a large fruit tree orchard, multiple vegetable gardens, raising grains, and a largish flock of chickens. We can, and we wish to connect with those of you who embrace what we are trying to achieve here. If how to make heirloom peach jam, or discovering what fresh foods are most nutritious, creating your own food preservation project, having pet chickens, or learning about the farming side of life is your idea of interesting stuff, you may find we are a perfect fit. Our membership is limited for a reason…to our knowledge, no other farm does anything quite like this, which is why we seek out members who are just as passionate about farm to fork…or at least interested in investigating the subject.
Some people wonder about the farm name. It has to do with my name, and Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” (one of the great poems of America literature), and dry humor concerning the wisdom (or lack thereof) of laboring incessantly at futile endeavors. We also prefer not to take ourselves too seriously!
Moving into the future, the farm has more focus, with a long-term goal of becoming an increasingly sustainable small farm along the lines of the small farm of bygone years. We are moving into a phase where instead of scrambling around, we are interested in doing whatever we do….very well. We eliminated many ventures that were not serving us well financially or by use of our time. We have many projects to work on, and we are looking forward to many more seasons of glorious food!
(January, 2016–I was going to update this section, too….but I find it doesn’t need one word changed.)
The philosophy behind Nevermore Farm revolves around one central idea: that which creates sustainable, nutritious food. Two main categories come under discussion– food from from plants, and food from animals. It’s almost a doomed effort to try to write about this concisely. The subject constitutes the hub of a wheel with many spokes, and each one merits consideration. But, we try. It goes something like this:
A seeming abundance of food lines the shelves of every grocery. Yet, many produce sections offer frequently tasteless pesticide-laced fruit and vegetables, while the store aisles overflow with products that no one knew they needed fifty years earlier. Research and observation has connected these modern, convenient, highly processed foods with an increasing loss of health and vigor for those who overindulge in these refined-sugar/trans-fat/sodium-laced goodies. Un-awareness concerning food is hardly the sole fault of the average citizen, considering that all the forces of consumer marketing are aimed at convincing individuals that they must have every new advertised box of “whatever” that crosses the television set. The corporate giants that have increasingly centralized food production create secondary problems, less visible to the supermarket shopper. Small meat growers have been replaced by huge factories that take extraordinary measures to keep animals gaining weight quickly while cutting costs as much as possible. Cattle were never meant to eat cottonseed or bizarre liquid feed supplements nor antibiotics to aid rapid weight gain, yet these items are common to the rearing of all non-organic commercial beef. Dusts and animal wastes overwhelm the areas occupied by these mega-producers. Groundwater and air quality plummet, and concerns arise over fecal contamination of wells and ocean-going streams. It is hardly possible to have an ordinary manure pile for thousands of dairy cows! The commercial large-scale practices for rearing poultry are the worst of all. Most of the millions of chickens that live and die never get to have what each wants, which is to just behave like a chicken. Most turkeys experience stress and brutality all throughout their rearing. (That Butterball at Safeway wasn’t happy.) Poultry, more so than other food animals, are treated as objects and not living creatures. Currently, the United States has no humane slaughter requirements for poultry, and appalling abuses occur. Some eye-opening reading can be found at: Blood, Sweat, and Fear: Workers’ Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants
and The Need for Legislation and Elimination of Electrical Immobilization
It has been an uncomfortable process to realize that purchasing the products of these industries supports their practices. Consumers unaware and isolated from the source of their foods in turn raise children unaware that an egg comes from a chicken or that milk comes from a cow. Our forebears peppered our English language with idioms concerning poultry: Cock of the walk, Madder than a wet hen, Don’t cackle unless you lay. Now hopelessly outdated, these wonderful sayings mean nothing to people who have never even seen, much less held, a living chicken. In the case of plant producers, thousands of acres of monoculture crops are grown, necessitating increased fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide use. Market forces do not allow most growers to rest the land, thus more synthetic products are needed to keep the soil productive. Farmers grow relatively few varieties of fruits or vegetables, favoring those which have proven most adaptable to mechanized agricultural practices. The rich diversity of the crops our ancestors knew has distilled into a scant handful of offerings at the supermarket. Home gardeners are bombarded by advertisements for OrthGro Kill-It and MiraclesNo must-have products, just to make sure that home-grown crops have the right amount of synthetic chemicals. Some justifiably argue that modern living and its amazing accomplishments rest on the shoulders of our society’s access to abundant, inexpensive foodstuffs. People no longer need to spend most of their day laboring to produce their food, and can turn their attention to other pursuits. The lifestyle of raising food does not appeal to everyone. But many people find a deep satisfaction in working with their minds and hands to achieve a tangible result. The tiredness felt at the end of the day is not the tiredness of mental stress, but that of good exercise. Other choices exist, ones which reduce environmental damage, and turn back toward natural cycles which have existed for centuries. The difficult part is stepping back and taking a look at what is common to modern life, and then deciding if you are really in agreement with what you see. And lastly, deciding what you want to/can reasonably do about it in your own small way. We can’t control what the world does, but we can have some say regarding what happens on our own ten acres. We take some inspiration from those others who have started down this path, and hope in turn that we too can create something positive. For us, the following thoughts have emerged:
- animals on our farm will have the benefits of veterinary knowledge. They will be housed, fed and otherwise cared for in a manner that abides by the principles of animal welfare and allows them to express the full range of their natural behaviors.
- endeavor to decrease our purchases of commercially raised non-organic poultry products for our own consumption.
- make it a point to grow a great variety of produce items that are not well-known commercial cultivars.
- introduce others to the great taste and other benefits of good produce.
- continue to purchase most vegetable seeds from independently owned companies featuring sustainably or organically grown heirloom varieties from around the world and save seed from these.
- keep as close to organic growing practices as possible, in order to preserve healthy soil and a balanced ecosystem on our farm.
- protect, create habitat for, and otherwise encourage our toad population.
- expand our infrastructure to include solar power (DONE, June 2006), a root cellar for natural refrigeration and storage (DONE, Fall 2011), and a greenhouse (DONE, March 2007) to create advantages for growing our plants
- continue to learn about plant propagation; we hope to become skilled at producing more plants from current stock.
- purchase fewer store-bought, refined foods in favor of cooking from real ingredients.
- learn new ways to prepare and enjoy the food we grow.
- continue learning about food preservation and storage, and become skilled at dehydrating, canning, pickling, freezing and other methods.
- forge partnerships with other like-minded local farms and ranches where possible