Old Is New On The Prather Ranch

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James Rickert of Bella Vista, who helps run the well-known Prather Ranch in Siskiyou County, recently picked up a statewide innovation award for practicing agricultural techniques that are hundreds of years old.

The big innovation: Growing plants and livestock on the same patch of soil.

“It’s not that groundbreaking,” Rickert said with a laugh when I asked him about the award. “We looked at what people used to do, and we apply modern technology.”

Prather Ranch may be best known around here as a grower of organic beef. (Kent’s Meats and Groceries, on Airport Road in Redding, carries a selection of Prather Ranch beef.) In 2004, Rickert, the Prather Ranch organic production manager, recognized a market for organic strawberry plant stock.

“Until about five years ago, nobody was trying to grow their plants organically. All of the organic strawberry growers were using plant stock grown on fumigants,” Rickert explained.

Organic growing rules require organic fruit growers to use organic stock if it is available. So Rickert set about raising organic strawberry stock. The first year, he recalled, was a complete failure because of problems with the soil. After doing more soil testing and studying the situation intensely, the Prather Ranch folks figured it out. Within a few years, they were selling 2 million plants a year to commercial growers and retail nurseries.

What Prather Ranch does is choose a piece of pasture that cattle have already grazed, close it off to the cattle, and use that soil to raise the strawberry plants. The following year, that plot becomes pasture once again, and a different patch of pasture is used for strawberry plant cultivation. This arrangement fits well with Prather Ranch’s normal practice of rotational grazing, in which pastures are grazed intensively and then allowed to recover before livestock returns. This “regenerative agriculture” is healthier for the land and more productive for the grower, Rickert said.

Earlier this month, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation named Rickert one of eight IPM (Integrated Pest Management) innovators.

“I’m a fifth generation Shasta County farmer, and it’s been nice to continue to do things the old-fashioned way,” he said.

Learn more about regenerative agriculture from the Pennsylvania-based Rodale Institute, of which Rickert’s uncle Tim LaSalle is a former CEO.

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• Count me among the virtual hordes who can’t stop watching the Turtle Bay Eagle Cam now that the three eaglets have hatched. In case you missed it, the eaglets busted out of their shells Thursday and Friday, the third one on Monday. Their names, based on a Caltrans contest, are Peace, Justice and Shasta. Right now, they are fairly inactive gray balls of fluff. But keep the Eagle Cam rolling long enough and you can watch the parents feed the little ones and shelter them from the rough weather. I’m a little worried about the youngest eaglet, though, which doesn’t appear to be getting as much attention as the other two.

• Tickets are on sale for Taste of Dunsmuir, a progressive dinner scheduled for April 12. Sengthong’s Blue Sky Room, Cornerstone Bakery and Café, Dunsmuir Brewery, Café Maddalena and the Brown Trout Café will provide the food and drink for this always-popular event. Tickets cost $65 and the proceeds benefit the Dunsmuir Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. For tickets and more information, contact the chamber at 235-2177.

• My wife and I have the world’s most annoying refrigerator. It runs all the time, it’s noisy as heck and it doesn’t really fit in our kitchen. And it just won’t die. But we may go ahead and euthanize the darn thing on April 22. That’s the day the California Energy Commission’s “Cash for Appliances” program kicks off. Some of the program details are still forthcoming, but the basic idea is this: Swap your energy-guzzling refrigerator, washing machine, air conditioner or other appliance for a new, efficient model, recycle the clunker, and you’ll get a check from the state. You’ll also save money on your monthly utility bill. And, if you’re like me, you won’t have to listen to the wretched rattling every time the ‘fridge starts up. The website: www.cash4appliances.org.

shigley-mugshotPaul Shigley is senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a frequent contributor to Planning magazine and co-author of Guide to California Planning, a reference book and college text. He lives in Centerville. Paul Shigley may be reached at pauls.anewscafe@gmail.com.

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has been a professional journalist since 1987. For 12 years, he served as editor or senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a statewide trade publication for land use planners, real estate development professionals and attorneys. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter or editor at newspapers in Redding, Grass Valley, Napa and Calistoga. Shigley's work also has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Planning magazine, Governing magazine, California Law Week, National Speed Sport News and elsewhere. In addition, he is co-author of Guide to California Planning, a college text and reference book, and is currently working on a book for the American Planning Association about the Bay Delta and California water resources. A graduate of California State University, Sacramento, Shigley has contributed to A News Cafe since 2009. He and his wife, Dana, live in western Shasta County.
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5 Responses

  1. Avatar Tammy D says:

    Have you checked out the Sun Frost refrigerators that they build in Arcata? They use 1/10th the energy of regular refrigerators. We have had our 19 cubic foot, half-freezer, half-refrigerator for 10 years. It runs on 24 volts DC, but they come in a 110 version. (Needs to be defrosted once a month and it does not come with an ice maker.) However, no matter what, you need a new one!

  2. Avatar Ginny says:

    With the State being giantly in the red, where are they supposed to get the money? From the Federal government? They are poorer than CA.

  3. Avatar Karen C says:

    Paul, regarding the youngest eaglet…I, too, thought the same with the first triplets, but they all fledged on time. It may be that the youngest does not eat as much yet, but will catch up. Let's hope for the best. It would be great to have another triplet story to tell. I feel like a grandma all over again.

    Wonderful feeling!

  4. Avatar Jon Lewis says:

    For a little more on the Prather Ranch, which really is a fascinating operation, check out this article from the September issue of Enjoy:

    http://enjoymagazine.net/articles/article/id_cmsa

    (fyi: I wasn't the one who misspelled Macdoel in the little headline)

    Cheers,

    Jon

  5. Avatar Candace says:

    Paul, so glad you mentioned the eagles. I can't stop watching them either. My favorite part of last year's triplet show was when the eaglets started testing out their wings in the nest, bouncing up and down.

    Given Mom and Dad's track record for raising healthy multiples smack in the middle of a construction zone, I'm hoping for the best with this batch, too.