When our musician friend Jack Johnson (local resident, and UCSB alumnus) comes to town there is always a good reason to celebrate. Not only did he bless us with an incredible 2 night run at the Santa Barbara Bowl, but as usual he shared his good fortune through advocating and supporting issues that matter. This time around his organization “All At Once” focused on sustainable and local food production as well as education and action around reducing our dependency on plastics.
When Jack and the “All At Once” crew contacted the Naples Coalition about wanting to host a preconcert event that focused on sustainable agriculture I was brought into the fold. As a 6th generation land steward on the Gaviota Coast and a long time board member of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, I have been trying to learn, teach and implement agricultural practices that aggregate our precious resources rather than degragate them. With the opportunity to host a large work party I wasted no time in preparing for implementing the next phase in the development of one of our agricultural fields. My training, philosophy and guiding inspiration is rooted in the design science referred to as Permaculture.
About a year and a half ago we began to focus on a small paddock (field) here on Orella Ranch. The first major work we did in this field was to establish a contour strip forest or shelterbelt. This assembly of long lived tree species will provide wind protection for the field below it as well as serve a multitude of other functions, including but not limited to, a wildlife corridor, soil stabilization, moisture collector through fog drip and a valuable economic resource once the high value timber trees mature and need to be thinned out. This contour strip forest planting set the stage for the next succession of this field’s development. What followed was a very productive day of over 50 volunteers coming out to Orella Ranch to help in supporting local, organic and sustainable food production on the Gaviota Coast.
In preparation for this planting I constructed a 400’ long swale (uncompacted ditch on contour). Swales are water features that help slow, spread and sink water back into our soils in times of rain. They help to better utilize our short, sporadic and increasingly rare precipitation events. With this in place we were able to focus on the task at hand which included planting a sub tropical guild (an assembly of plant species). In this guild were Passion Fruit, Goji Berry and Dragon Fruit. These species all contribute a different benefit to our guild, yet complement each other well in many ways. Although all are considered sub-tropical species, they are all surprisingly drought tolerant. In fact our current passion fruit vines are producing like crazy and I cannot tell you the last time they got water (many moons ago).
The day was filled with over 50 volunteers arriving with shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows and work gloves in hand. By days end at 4pm we had 60 Goji Berries, 37 Dragon fruit and 22 Passion fruit all planted, protected with gopher baskets (hand made on site!) and on drip irrigation. To celebrate our achievements we ascended to the top of the hill where a spectacular view unfolds of the Gaviota Coast. There we enjoyed fresh baked pizza out of the earthen oven and quenched our thirst with some tasty local beer and wine. A great day was had by all and we at Orella Ranch want to thank everyone that came out to lend a hand. This particular paddock will continue to get more love and attention in the future and one day we hope it can be a shining example of agriculture that lives in harmony with its surroundings.
Along with all the hard workers that came out on that August day we’d like to say thank you to the Naples Coalition and Jack Johnson for making this happen. We would also like to thank our sponsors which were many: Goodland Organics, Island Seed and Feed, Ellwood Canyon Farms, La Paloma Ranch, Village Modern Foods, Buttonwood Winery and Pure Order Brewery.
— Guner Tautrim and the Orella Ranch team.