April 24, 2018

Photo Essay: Lambing Season at Apricot Lane Farms

I'd eaten some produce from Apricot Lane Farms while dining at Chef Laurent Quenioux's maison.

So, naturally, I wanted to see where those fruits and vegetables had come from.

After all, I've spent a lifetime eating anonymous food—and that's long enough.

Besides, considering the fact that agriculture is one of the top (if not the top) industries in California...

...I've got plenty of opportunity to eat local...

...and meet my local farmers.

Apricot Lane in Moorpark, just inside the Ventura County line, is probably a real-life version of the romanticized vision that most people have of farms, farmers, and farming.

But unfortunately, most farming the U.S. today has become industrialized—and those "factory farms" are no better and no more humane than the assembly lines that manufacture cars or package bologna.

At Apricot Lane, it's encouraging to see that the livestock are part of the overall ecosystem of the farm. The Dorper lambs stay with the ewes, and together they graze the various pastures, with plenty of space to roam.

All the while, they're fertilizing the soil with their poop.

Fortunately, with 200-some-odd acres at their disposal, they've got plenty of pasture to choose from, without danger of overgrazing any of it. In their constant rotations, they graze a third of the grass, trample another third of it, and leave the final third behind as they move onto the next.

What began as a lemon and avocado orchard and has evolved to produce 75 varieties of fruit, from autumn gold navel oranges, grapefruit, and kumquats to cherries and cherimoya.

Although Farmers Molly and John report that this plot wasn't the most fertile at the beginning... years of TLC, biodynamic agricultural practices, and raising animals with jobs to do seem to have transformed it into verdant wonderland.

When I visited in March of this year, it was unseasonably hot and the fruit trees were already blooming...

...the fuzzy tropic snow peaches just starting to peek their heads out of their branches.

A flock of Khaki Campbell ducks were hard at work, tasked with eating the snails that like to crawl up the tall stalks of grass and latch onto the low-hanging branches of the citrus trees.

A small herd of grass-fed Scottish Highland cattle were doing what cows do—grazing and depositing manure, which the farm uses in its compost.

The chickens were doing fowl things—clucking and squawking and prancing about—surrounded by singing and fluttering red-winged blackbirds under the shade of  tree next to the vegetable garden.

The egg-laying varieties of hens—the Rhode Island Reds, Easter Eggers, Olive Eggers, Barred Plymouth Rocks, Blue Andalusians, Cream Legbars, Black Copper Marans, and Cuckoo Marans—forage for and snack on bugs and maggots, which apparently makes the antibiotic-free, soy-free, free-range eggs even more delicious.

I don't know if that's the reason why the yolks were so orangey and jammy, but I was glad to nab a mixed, multicolored carton for a little taste-testing at home.

I don't think I can ever buy anonymous eggs again.

Related Posts:
Kidding Season
Photo Essay: Farming at the LA County Fairgrounds
Photo Essay: Wine Dinner in the Garden
Photo Essay: The Ranch That Built An Empire of Oranges

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