Biodynamic Farming with One Gun Ranch
With an endless bounty of Southern California sun and sweeping ocean breezes, the ‘Bu’s natural beauty inspires both active lifestyles and mindful living. In a place so connected with land and sea, healthy eaters are not only seeking energy-inducing nourishment – they’re also increasingly focused on where and how it’s sourced.
More and more, residents and visitors to this serene stretch of coast can find local fruits and vegetables vivacious enough to be featured on their own, not to mention as accoutrements to the artisan cheeses, rustic meats, and just-caught seafood served in CBC (Carbon Beach Club restaurant) at Malibu Beach Inn.
The farm-to-table movement is alive and well at CBC, whose chefs source produce for their seasonally-rotating menus from local farmers’ markets and the nearby One Gun Ranch.
Photo: One Gun Ranch
Nestled high on a plateau in the Malibu hills, and overlooking a vast plain of gunmetal blue Pacific Ocean, the canyon ranch was previously owned by Matt Sorum, the former drummer of Guns N’ Roses. Now, its 20 acres are a haven for growing vibrant, organic crops.
“In the farming community, it’s considered bad luck to change the name of a farm,” says One Gun Ranch’s Farm Manager Tatiana Altman of owners Alice Bamford and Ann Eysenring’s decision to keep the native nomenclature after they purchased the property in 2009.
In the decade since, the couple has transformed the site into an unofficial wellness center, animal rescue, and – for the past 8 years – a self-sustaining farm that uses biodynamic growing techniques to bring fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs to the Malibu community. According to Altman, the principle of biodynamics guiding the ranch’s philosophy has two interconnected yet distinct components.
Photo: One Gun Ranch
“On one end, it’s sort of a mystical connection to the land coming from a spiritual place that’s connected with astrology and the cycle of the sun, moon, and stars,” she says. Drawing parallels to the Farmer’s Almanac (which has been perennially printed for the past 200 years), the ranch uses a biodynamic calendar that indicates the best times for planting and growing certain crops based on the position of astral bodies in the sky.
Biodynamic farming’s other component, Altman says, is a sustainable, holistic approach to agriculture, which includes avoiding waste by recycling natural byproducts back into the farming operation in a perpetually self-feeding loop.
“On a day-to-day level, that means any scraps or unused things from our garden are used to make a compost, or to feed the animals on site,” she says. The composting process — which the ranch’s associates compare to “growing a baby” — involves nine months of aging a mixture of alfalfa, yarrow, chamomile, manure, microbes, and myriad plant matter into the nutrient-rich result, which serves as the basis for all growing spaces throughout the farm.
“Our soil is consistently nutritious, and that means we’re able to grow better produce,” says Altman. The quality of said soil, she points out, is a deliberate result. Between amending beds with regular investments of compost, rotating crops seasonally to maximize available nutrients, and avoiding chemical pesticides, One Gun Ranch synergizes with the ecosystem.
“We’re trying to be stewards of the land by not hurting any natural cycles or doing anything that interferes with the natural rhythm,” Altman says. “The decisions we make now are going to affect us for years to come, so that’s certainly considered with everything we plant and everything we harvest.”
It’s an effort that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the community. In health-conscious Malibu, a growing number of residents looking for local, sustainable produce are finding it at One Gun Ranch’s Sunday farm stand on Malibu Pier or artfully prepared and plated at local restaurants like CBC.
“There’s certainly support for it and we get acknowledgment on a day-to-day basis from the people who buy our produce,” says Altman. While she recognizes that sustainable, organic farming isn’t uncommon in the modern world of agriculture, she notices it tends to be less common in the greater Los Angeles area. “You have to go into Santa Barbara or Riverside County to see much food being produced,” she says, “so I think it’s certainly unique here in the city to see a farm like us doing what we do.”
Because Malibu has a moderate coastal climate, the growing season spans year-round. Despite this, One Gun Ranch cultivates their crops with the seasons, believing that flavor is enhanced when the appropriate plants are grown in their respective weather cycle. Currently, that means the ranch is finishing up the season on tomatoes, jalapenos, cayenne, and sweet peppers — with fall and winter crops of squash, fava beans, ginger, and turmeric soon on the way.
No matter the season, they’ve made regular deliveries of just-picked produce to replenish the kitchen of CBC for the past four years.
“It really changes depending on the season and what the chef wants, but we’re always open to growing whatever is most useful to them,” says Altman, who recently visited the restaurant to sample offerings that were contributed to, in part or in whole, by One Gun Ranch, including a cilantro soup and a sampler platter containing beets, basil, and carrots.
“I think that we’re a good fit because both of our operations really care about bringing healthy, sustainable, local food to the community,” she says, “and our close proximity to each other is really what the farm-to-table movement is all about. It’s a really wonderful symbiotic relationship.”
Featured Photo: One Gun Ranch