Edible Marin and Wine Country Summer 2011 : Page 19

Point Reyes National Seashore, encompassing the H Ranch and others in the area. The federal government’s stated mission was to protect the peninsula from development, but what would happen to the families who owned the land? How would they be compensated for the land, not to mention the loss of livelihood for those who made their living by ranching? Over the next decade, various deals were negotiated with the ranch owners in which the government bought their land and then leased it back to the former owners as long as they agreed to preserve it as “pastoral” working farmland. Julie, who grew up in the 70s, also recalls a remote life on the peninsula, except for the steady stream of beach and lighthouse tourists. Back then the Point Reyes ranching families lived truly “off-the-grid”—before “off-the-grid” became a lifestyle choice. “You name it, we canned it when I was a kid,” Julie says. “My mother and grandmother would preserve anything they could get their hands on.” On canning days they could be found in the cozy H Ranch kitchen, preserving everything from blackberries to Brussels sprouts. These days the “fruits” of this family wisdom can be found any Sunday at the Marin Civic Center Farmers’ Market at both Julie’s Point Reyes Preserves booth or her brother David’s Marin Sun Farms booth where he sells Marin Sun Farms Preserves. Dolores, now in her 60s, with a bad shoulder and a bum knee, still seems to have more energy and stamina than many 40 year olds. She is a living reminder that producing food is hard work. She is also one of the fortunate people on this planet who love their home and vocation, including the job requirements that have her hauling and tossing hay bales— the unfortunate undoing of her shoulders. As she speaks, she gazes out toward her cattle—on her lunch break, but always observing. The current H Ranch cow and calf operation involves about 300 head of cattle, an innovative cross of Angus, Herefords and Gelbviehs. As her daughter says, Dolores “knows every single one by its face,” tending them as if they were children, monitoring their health by the look in their eyes and the texture of their coat. “I watch,” Dolores tells me in her concise, matter-of-fact way. “I am always watching.” Both Julie and her brother David, who raises cows, sheep, goats and chickens for his own company, Marin Sun Farms, located just over a southern ridge adjacent to H Ranch, credit their parents for teaching them to tend their livestock with utmost care. “Sustainable” and “cruelty-free,” now trendy terms of art, have been the staples of their family’s farming ethos. This is a hands-on practice, a farm of people tending animals and a far cry from mechanized corporate agriculture. Dolores and Dan Evans do everything from tractor repair to vaccinations themselves, with the help of only one “excellent” long-term employee. “We are lucky to be able to do this,” Dolores says. “Agriculture is getting harder and harder.” As third and fourth generation Point Reyes farmers, Dolores and both of her children express gratitude for having had the opportunity to continue their family businesses. It is hard to imagine anyone else in this young state having quite the same connection to the land they work on, as well as to the people—their parents and grandparents—who worked it before them. “My Italian-speaking great grandfather, Domenico Grossi, immigrated from southern Switzerland in 1892,” David Evans, the family history buff, tells me. Upon arrival in San Francisco, the new immigrant found a shortage of jobs in the city, so he walked 25 miles north. “He first went to Olema, and then ended up on the Solomon Pierce Dairy on Tomales Point around the turn of the century.” There, he drew upon his experience in the Old Country, and worked as a dairyman, milking cows to produce the Point Reyes butter that was so popular in San Francisco. Eventually— and amazingly—he saved enough money to afford to lease a 1400-acre ranch in Olema, and then, in 1917, he and his Dolores Evans and Julie Evans Rossotti EDIBLE MARIN & WINE COUNTRY SUMMER 2011 | 19

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