Grass Fed, Open Range
Hey, that place is only 90 miles from here. I had forgotten about it. They don't ship, but it's not that long of a drive. It might even be fun to stay there at the B&B. I will make sure it is on our list of sources to consider. Thanks!
Well, we've been to Beltane Ranch and back now, and I didn't learn very much more about grass-fed cattle, but it was a useful learning experience as well as a good work-stress break. We actually only saw one cow on the ranch itself. The rest are, as the website says, grazing freely in the hills above Sonoma, and we weren't really out for an off-road adventure. The various ranches in the area share that space.
What I found more interesting was the ranch itself with its B&B (Bed & Breakfast). Much of the food comes from the ranch, and it offers insight into how much land is needed to feed a sizable group of people. At first glance, the answer seems to be "quite a bit."
The ranchers have had to adapt in many ways. This was once a dairy-producing area, but that market is gone. The grass-fed beef is marketable, but there isn't a lot of demand from individuals for quarters of beef. Many people want only the prime cuts, and when you buy a quarter you get it all. Most of the beef produced, therefore, ends up as grass-fed ground beef.
Much of the land now is vineyards, a prime cash crop in this part of California. They have their own wine label, as well as still producing (I believe) for Kenwood, which is just up the road. The ranch also grows olives, and the B&B helps the bottom line. Visitors come from all over, although most that we met were from somewhere in California.
We are on another trip as I write this the following weekend, this time through the California central valley region. For as long as I can remember, this region was farms and orchards. I grew up seeing that as just the way it was, when we would drive through. Now, though, I imagine the land as it was a few centuries ago, and I see the devastation that agriculture has brought. In contrast to the ranch, which still raised some livestock, this is mostly cash crops that we could easily do without from a nutritional perspective and that could not survive here on their own, grown using artificial fertilizer in an unsustainable way, drawing heavily on limited water resources. That is rather different from how I saw it as a child.
I think that, in a way, this may answer my question about the amount of land needed to sustain us naturally. There is a great deal of land that essentially goes to waste, producing sub-optimal food. Add to that the observation that carb eaters over-reproduce, and it is not too hard to see how it could work under different circumstances. The book The Vegetarian Myth
describes this very well, but sometimes it helps to go out and see for yourself, and that is what I have been doing.
The ranch is quite old, and I saw many reminders of my early life (I'm reasonably old too, although not nearly as old as this ranch). It brought back memories of a simpler, more rural life.