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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Earth Day is Every Day at Redwood Hill Farm

John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist
Hobby Farms Contributors

Jennifer Bice with goats and solar panels and Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery
Courtesy Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery
Jennifer Bice lives out Earth Day every day at her farm, dairy and business in California.

For Jennifer Bice, owner of Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery, in Sebastopol, Calif., pursuing the right livelihood has always been about following your passions and caring for the land and the animals that roam on it. And for Jennifer, Earth Day (quickly approaching on April 22) is every day, when taking time to care for the environment, animals and employees is more important than reeling in profits for her business.

“My parents, Kenneth and Cynthia Bice, moved us from Southern California to Sebastopol with the idea of living a more rural lifestyle of raising animals, having a vegetable garden and orchard,” says Jennifer, whose parents started Redwood Hill Farm in 1968 and turned it into a grade-A goat dairy business.

“This was the 1960s and the ‘back to the land’ movement was underway,” she says. “They got some of everything, and the goats quickly became the favorite of us kids since they are more like dogs in their personality and were much more interactive. My brothers, sisters and I (all 10 of us) joined 4-H, and with each of us having our own goats as a project, it added up to a herd quickly.”

As Hobby Farms readers know, the “back to the land” movement is experiencing a similar resurgence today. It even inspired our book, Rural Renaissance, as  we recognized a hunger of knowledge among some people who wanted to regain greater self-reliance, derive a livelihood off the land and reconnect with nature. How the current movement differs a bit from earlier movements, however, is that people are making the conscious decision not disappear into the woods. Rather they want to contribute more to society, restore the land, eat healthier and power their farms and businesses with solar energy, not fossil fuels.

In 1978, Jennifer took over the business, and once again, Redwood Hill Farm is taking part in the “back to the land” movement. Situated on 20 acres, the farm is powered by 580 kW photovoltaic system, completed in 2010, which supplies 100-percent of the energy for the farm’s operations. Care for the animals and the pasture has always been paramount for Redwood Hill Farm. Jennifer and her employees care for more than 300 goats, and when their goats retire, they’re allowed to live out their natural life on pasture.

“Our goat dairy was the first to be Certified Humane in the United States,” Jennifer says. The Humane Farm Animal Care’s Certified Humane Raised and Handled label is considered the gold standard for third-party certification for the humane treatment of animals. “We do not believe in factory farming and industrial large-scale production of food.”

Redwood Hill Farm lets sustainability seep into nearly every facet of the family-owned operations as well.

“We try to operate for the good of the planet, people and animals, not just for profit,” Jennifer explains. “Going beyond the products we make, we believe in ‘fair trade’ at home by paying a living wage to our employees and give a generous benefit package which includes 100-percent of their health insurance for the employee and their family.”

Jennifer is exactly the kind of ecopreneur who is helping transform not only how we raise and process the foods we savor but also how to operate a business to benefit society.

“We use our waste water by processing it on site and using it for irrigation of hay fields,” Jennifer says. “We do extensive recycling at both the farm and the creamery. At the farm we compost the manure and use it for our organic gardens and also to fertilize our organic apple and olive orchards. In our offices we use only recycled paper. We have reduced our plastic in each yogurt cup and lid by about half since we started and now have foil lids rather than plastic. In addition, we have changed the type of plastic so that less can be used and make the lid smaller. All that adds up to less plastic per cup of yogurt.”

Redwood Hill Farm’s yogurt, kefir and sour cream products are available through natural-food stores, like Whole Foods Market, and its award-winning cheeses are available in specialty stores and restaurants on the West Coast or on their website. (Check our blog in a May for a delicious pancake recipe made with Redwood Hill Farm’s Plain Cultured Goad Milk Kefir, instead of buttermilk or milk called for in some traditional recipes.)

“We decided to diversify into Green Valley Organics (greenvalleylactosefree.com) because we had so many consumers contacting us about being lactose intolerant,” Jennifer says. “And, at the same time, we had space in our new creamery to make more products and some friends with a Certified Humane cow dairy that needed a home for their milk. It all came together by serendipity.”

In addition to operating their businesses with a  “triple bottom line” (planet, people, profits) approach to business, ecopreneurs like Jennifer are attuned to customers’ needs, forge partnerships with like-minded businesses or organizations, and leverage operational efficiencies.

“Once I started with goats—showing them, loving them—it was just something I wanted to continue with,” Jennifer says. In fact, she was named Premier Breeder by the American Dairy Goat Association at its 2010 National Show. “I love the rural lifestyle, having my own business, making cheese and having goats.”

Sound familiar to anyone?

So how does your enterprise celebrate Earth Day every day? Please share a bit of your story below.

Savoring the good life,

John and Lisa's Signatures

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Earth Day is Every Day at Redwood Hill Farm

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Reader Comments
Great article
Carl, Livermore, CA
Posted: 4/24/2012 10:15:47 AM
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