Hello! My name is Deborah Raven-Lindley; my husband Ken Lindley and I own Nevermore Farm. In fall of 2005 we met Drew Scofield, a local farmer. With Drew’s assistance, advice, and constant support, our farm has grown up rapidly into its primary focus as the first CSA farm in all of Colusa county. And we’re still growing into the ultimate goal of eventually having our farm support us as a primary source of income while reaching as many people as we can with our boxes of good fruit and vegetables.
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 and also has great mechanical know-how. We are both graduates of UC Davis, although not too much of our book-learning prepared us for life as farmers. 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 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. For many years we were employed by the University of California at Davis, in different staff positions within the School of Veterinary Medicine. Ken still works there, but Deborah resigned her position as a Staff Research Associate in order to pursue farming full-time in May, 2011.
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. Not to mention, we chose it first.
Now, the farm has more focus, with a long-term goal of becoming an increasingly sustainable, largely organic small farm along the lines of the small farm of bygone years. Preserving vanishing kinds of both plants and animals, educating ourselves and others about the nutrition and value of good, chemical-free food, and providing us the space to exercise creativity and uniqueness in how the ordinary is accomplished define most of what we do.
WHAT WE BELIEVE
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