There is no saying, as far as I know, that goes “thriving like a pig in an oak woodland.” But there should be. Watching the Berkshire hogs at Six Sigma Ranch shovel the black topsoil in the woods with their noses in search of acorns is a joy. They’re even happier than the cows in the pastures, and certainly happier than the neighbor’s cows. Since I am curious by nature, I wondered why.
Likewise, the grapes thrive. There’s no place in the world better for growing grapes than Lake County (although our friends from Napa Valley, with whom Lake County shares a border, might argue for a tied game.) The small beehive buzzes with enthusiasm. But the apple tree by an old homestead near the tasting room only survives, and makes decent apples most years, but they’re not world-class.
This made me think. What do pigs, grapes and bees all have in common, that apples and cattle don’t? They were here when we got here! Lake County is home to wild pigs, wild grapes and wild bees. And those all do great when we plant them on purpose. But there are no wild apple trees or bovines here. This seems obvious now, but I never thought about it as a rule for farming before: When faced with a new plot of land, what should you plant? Start with what’s already there! Trying to make a living growing apples in our Mediterranean climate? That would be a waste of time.
On that note, Lake County is full of wild turkeys and quail. So you might see some pastured poultry with a Six Sigma logo on it in the future. And the blackberries invading the sheep pasture suggest that jam would be a good idea. It sounds like we will have plenty of options for Farm-to-Table dinners in the next few years.