Can you imagine owning 65 acres of beautiful property in Marin County by the age of 19?
Yeah…neither can we!
But that is how Rancher Mark Pasternak came to Nicasio, CA. The year was 1971 and Vietnam was in full swing, the Kent State Shooting was still fresh in mind, and Mark did not feel the beckoning call to return to UC San Diego for his junior year. He spent that summer visiting his sister in Northern California and soon found himself shopping for land rather than text books.
Luck would have it that the SF Chronicle advertised a 200-acre piece of land at the same time Mark was in the market. He joined forces with two other friends and together secured the property with a down payment of $984. Since the age of two, Mark, originally from LA, wanted to be a rancher and this land was the key to his dream.
Forty-three years later and the dream continues. Now, however, Mark is joined by his wife Myriam, two daughters, and hundreds of animals from pigs to sheep to rabbits to dogs. The rolling hills of his property boast a vineyard where he grows grape varietals and the barn yard bounces with excitement of children who attend day camps made possible by a partnership with the local YMCA.
We spent roughly four hours with Mark pacing the property and talking livestock. During our long stroll, we learned how Mark first started by raising a few pigs but achieved chef/restaurant notoriety with rabbits. Mark’s wife, Myriam (a graduate from UC Davis with a veterinary degree) began the rabbit program as a 4H project with their eldest daughter. It did not take long for classically French-trained chefs to catch wind of the superior product. Soon chefs like Alice Waters and Thomas Keller were knocking on the Devils door.
Mark and Myriam have grown their operation through not only consistent and ethical animal raising practices but also a passion to educate. In addition to kid camps, Myriam heads an agribusiness initiative in Haiti, where she works to pool agricultural resources and empower Haitian farmers.
There is something truly refreshing in talking to people who are evidently happy and passionate about their lifework; Mark and Myriam provide that refreshment. Maybe it was the way the sun was shining or my surprise in how fast four hours flew by, but I left Devils Gulch feeling re-energized and further excited about AgLocal’s own mission to provide and educate consumers about responsibly raised meat, and the farmers who produce it.
We like PIG butts, and we cannot lie…one of my favorite photos of the day.
Post by Emma Porteus, AgLocal Farm Sourcing Team
Visit date: April 15, 2014