Our Cownty has a long and proud agricultural history. Today, most of that proud legacy is gone and replaced by suburban sprawl. Our COWnty has a service dominated economy with less than 1% of our workers employed in agricultural jobs. About 3% of COWnty land is used for agricultural crops. An additional 16% of the land is suitable for grazing livestock. According to the Department of Agriculture the production value of crops grown in our COWnty in 2010 was $143,700,000. However 69% is accounted for by floral and nursery crops with livestock and apiary equaling only 2%.
There are some reminders of our agricultural beginnings; flowers, pumpkins Christmas Trees along the Coast, and boutique wineries in Woodside and elsewhere. However, an article in the San Mateo Daily Journal alerted us to the surprising news that there is a unique working cattle ranch, the TOTO ranch, run by the Markegard family.
Erik Markegard and his wife Doniga, along with their four children, lease five pieces of land in San Mateo and Sonoma Counties to run their herds using Australian shepherd dogs to herd cattle and keep horses to help with the ranch work. They rent land from the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) and other landowners willing to lease to a working cattle ranch.
They operate as Markegard Family Grass-Fed in San Gregorio and their products include grass-fed beef, grass fed lamb, pasteurized pork; and pasteurized eggs and pullets. It is clear that they are concerned with preserving the quality of the land and improving the health of the ecosystem around it, as well as healthy natural farm products. They sell their pastured, locally born, raised and processed meat and eggs through a community supported agriculture program where individuals and families purchase shares of grass-finished steers or lamb and participate in a weekly or monthly buying club. They offer some classes such as cheese making and some services such as sustainable, permaculture landscape design and implementation.
We’re glad that they are still doing the hard work of honest agriculture in our region, and doing it with such great respect for our environment!