Cultivating a California delicacy on the Gaviota Coast.
Nestled on the Gaviota Coast between the mountains and the sea, just south of Refugio State Beach, sits Orella Ranch. Acquired in 1866 by Bruno Orella, the ranch has been in the same family for generations. Sixth-generation ranchers Guner and Heidi Tautrim embrace their responsibility to this land, which will one day pass to their children and their children’s children. From cattle grazing operations to dry-farmed lima beans and tomatoes, the land is – and hopefully always will be – steeped in agriculture.
In 2016, the Tautrims launched Gaviota Givings, a ranch-to-table pasture-raisedPature-Raised: Animals raised in a pasture where they can roam freely outdoors and are able to eat grasses and other foods their bodies are adapted to digest. protein business that provides healthy, nutrient-rich food to the community. With each ranch enterprise, the family continues their commitment to leaving the land better than they found it. “At the ranch, we practice the first principle of permaculturePermaculture: Permaculture is an approach to land management and philosophy that adopts arrangements observed in flourishing natural ecosystems. It includes a set of design principles derived using whole systems thinking. It uses these principles in fields such as regenerative agriculture, rewilding, and community resilience.: observation,” said Guner, a permaculture educator and practitioner. “By keeping an eye on the land, we can better understand how the dynamics of the terrain, weather conditions, and ecological needs contribute to creating a healthy and resilient ecosystem.” One way they do this is through rotational grazingRotational Grazing: Rotational grazing is the practice of containing and moving animals through a pasture to improve soil, plant, and animal health. Only one portion of pasture is grazed at a time while the remainder of the pasture “rests.” To accomplish this, pastures are subdivided into smaller areas, referred to as paddocks, and livestock are moved from one paddock to another. Resting grazed paddocks allows forage plants to recover and deepen their root systems.: pigs, chickens, sheep, and cattle are moved around the ranch to manage invasive species, increase the soil’s ability to sequester carbon, promote native species growth, and mitigate wildfire risk. As a result, plants send out deeper roots that, over time, boost soil fertility and decrease erosion.
In addition to rotational grazing, Gaviota Givings has been trialing silvopastureSilvopasture: Silvopasture is the practice of integrating trees, forage, and the grazing of domesticated animals in a mutually beneficial way. It utilizes the principles of managed grazing, and it is one of several distinct forms of agroforestry., another permaculture technique that integrates trees, forage, and livestock on the same land to reap mutual benefit. Trees help the soil retain more water during winter storms while providing additional fodderFodder: Coarse food for cattle and other livestock. to support year-long grazing without relying solely on native grasses. “Over the past few years, we have been working to identify drought-tolerant trees and plants to seed across the ranch,” said Guner. “With increasing dry spells and low rainfall, building soil health is critical to fostering a healthy, resilient ecosystem.”
The learnings gained extend far beyond the ranch – in addition to sharing information and resources with neighboring land stewards such as Cuyama Lamb and White Buffalo Land Trust, Orella Ranch collaborates with the Gaviota Coast Conservancy on projects that illustrate regenerative agricultural practices on the coast. Together, these food system actors are working to preserve and enhance the Gaviota Coast corridor – and offer a replicable model for responsible land stewardship, environmental regenerationEnvironmental Regeneration: Systems of growing food that reclaim carbon and nutrients on the land by increasing biodiversity, building soil health, and improving watersheds to produce healthier food and lessen the impacts of climate change., and collaboration.