You Won’t Find Purer Honey!
It was a lovely summer day when we drove up the canyon above Santa Maria to visit Alisha of Rock Front Ranch. We were there to see her beekeeping operation, as well as her Jujube orchards. The Cuyama Valley is famous for its rich soil and agricultural productivity.
Alisha and Barney and their daughter live on a beautiful patch of land, 320 acres completely surrounded by Forest Service Land. There is no conventional agricultural crops in the surrounding 30+ miles, so their trees and bees are never exposed to commercial pesticides and fertilizers. The bees from their 440 hives roam the area, gathering nectar and pollen from several varieties of sage and many wildflowers. But one thing that they will never gather is Glyphosate, a known carcinogenic herbicide (also know as Round Up). Alisha is in the middle of the Organic Certification process for her honey.
When I asked Alisha what got her into beekeeping and cultivating Jujubes, she answered with a laugh, “Having a child!” She had spent 14 years in the cattle business, as well as some time training horses. But she and Barney wanted something that would take them into middle age as they raised their daughter. Alisha spent some time consulting with others, and someone suggested raising blueberries. Somehow that just didn’t seem right, so Alisha ignored that advice. She realized that she needed to grow something that was hardy and tough enough to handle the heat of summer and the cold of winter. The Cuyama Valley climate is ideal for growing delicious Jujubes, with the high daytime heat and cooler, ocean-sourced nighttime breezes. The Jujubes also require little additional irrigation, so Alisha’s production is sustainable and eco-friendly.
Since Alisha is half Chinese, she thought of Jujubes, a staple in Traditional Chinese cuisine and medicine. She grew up eating the “Chinese Dates” like candy. Jujubes are a functional food, with lots of iron, vitamin C, a micro mineral profile, and 22 amino acids. They also have some medicinal and anti microbial features as well! They can be eaten fresh and dried, and Lassen’s is excited to carry the Jujubes as well as their honey!
Check out the articles about Jujubes on Alisha’s website here. Four years ago she planted 3 acres of Jujube trees, and then last year was able to lease another 12 acres of 12-year-old trees. Those leased trees were in pretty bad shape when she got them, but with a little attention, now they are full and producing. She also continues to plant more trees on her property at the Ranch.
Alisha is doing everything to make sure her bees and trees have the healthiest possible growing conditions. She is employing the BEAM approach to agriculture, which is Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management. BEAM uses a method of composting which greatly enhances the fertility of the soil and reduces the resources needed — particularly water — to improve productivity. (If you’re into such things, Google David C. Johnson or the Johnson-Su Composting Bioreactor. There are some interesting videos!)
Alisha plans to spend more time educating the public about her Jujubes and of course her Glyphosate-free honey. She is also involved in the Ecological Farming Association, which “nurtures just and ecologically sustainable farms and food systems through education, alliance building, celebration and advocacy.”
All in all, it was an amazing morning with Alisha. Look for Rock Front Ranch Glyphosate-Free honey at Lassen’s! We hope to get the jujubes in this season, so watch for them!