Watch a virtual visit to Slide Ranch. 134 beautiful acres of farm and coastal land. Connecting children to nature, a teacher in residence will guide you through milking a goat, moving with the chickens and ducks, and running the animals into the pasture. A fun trip to the outdoors for all ages!
Read below for a full transcript of the conversation
First Republic - Good morning and good afternoon, everyone. It's the pleasure and privilege of First Republic Bank to welcome you here today. We are delighted to partner with Slide Ranch on today's program. Slide Ranch sits on 134 acres of farm and coastal land. They are a wonderful organization dedicated to connecting children to nature through environmental education. Our friends at Slide Ranch have put together an exciting virtual visit for us. Before I turn the conversation over, please know you can submit questions using the Q and A function throughout the event. And with that, I'll turn it over to Maika.
Maika Llorens Gulati - Hello everybody, how are you today? My name is Maika Llorens Gulati, and I'm the super lucky Executive Director at the Slide Ranch, which is a non-profit, educational farm in Northern California. So we are about 20 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge, and you can see that we have a little bit of a foggy day, which is beautiful. So we were established in 1970, so this is our 50 year anniversary, and we are part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, so this is actually public land. And I think what is really interesting about this live ranch is that it combines a farm with a garden in wild lands, and also with the coastal lands. So you can see some of the tide pools that have in the coast. So it is very interesting where we combine having farm animals with also some of the predators as well. So I think, yeah, with that I'm going to introduce you to the team that we have today. So we have Damien De Clerck, our Director of Operations and Sergio, he's going to be with our goats and the sheep. And then we have two of our teachers in residence, they're going to be with our chickens, with our ducks. So we have Adin right there, and then we have Alyssa who is holding the camera right now, hi Alyssa.
Alyssa - Hello.
Maika - And yeah, so again, feel free to ask any questions, we will be talking about this live ranch as we go along the tour. And we are super happy to have you all, so welcome. Damien, all yours.
Damien De Clerck - Hi, welcome everybody. Thanks for joining us today out at Slide Ranch via zoom, we're very, very happy to have you out here. As Maika mentioned, we're a working farm and ranch that specializes in educational programs, but we do have a very large garden where we grow a lot of our vegetables and food for the community and for the kids that come out to the ranch to cook with, as well as goats and sheep and chickens and ducks. As you can see behind me, I'm up in our barnyard hanging out with our goats and our sheep, our little flock. And what we're gonna do today, I'm gonna introduce you a little bit to some of our goats and show you a little bit of our barn and our pasture area, as well as do a milking, milk one of our goats with you and with our Facilities Manager, Sergio. So I'm gonna turn the camera around so you can all get a little better idea of where we're at and what our barn and pasture looks like. So this is our barn here and it's a little foggy today, but behind the barn, we have our pasture area, typically in the months from mid spring through late summer, the goats and the sheep are going out into pasture to to eat the grass on the pasture, and we rotate them around the pasture and different plots throughout those months. Right now, as of a few weeks ago, you know, the grass has dried up, so the goats are no longer going out into pasture and we'll keep them in the barnyard throughout the winter, into the spring until the grass grows back and they're ready to go out and eat again. And the reason we do a rotation, and what the goats and the sheep do is really help keep our pasture healthy. So we don't use any fertilizers out here, we don't manage the pasture directly, we just use the goats and the sheep. So they'll rotate around, they'll eat the grasses and they'll poop all over the place and then their poop then becomes the fertilizer that promotes healthy growth of new grasses in the spring. Walk around and show you a few of our goats here, say hello to everyone. This long-eared one right here is Dream. And they're all following me 'cause they're excited to chew on my sweater. And this is Sweetpea right here, Sweetpea's the goat that we're gonna be milking today, so we're gonna head out to her milking stanchion in just a minute. Goat milking is certainly one of the most popular activities that we have out here at the ranch. So the kids that come out here all get to come and milk goats and taste the milk. And then we also use the milk here as a residential community to drink, to make cheese, to make butter with, yeah. Let me say hello to a few of them before we head up to milk. So you see they're hanging out in their barnyard, they're just finishing their breakfast right now, this morning. Athena over here is finishing up a bit of her breakfast, and there's our sweet Dotty, hanging out. Sergio's got the milking stanchion all set up. So this is Sweetpea right here, Sweetpea's gonna show you how we milk our goats here. And then we also have our Facilities Manager, Sergio to just say hello, Sergio.
Sergio - Hello, how is everyone doing today?
Damien - Fantastic. And please let us know if you have any questions along the way. We're gonna head out to one of our milking stanchions today, it's a little bit easier. Typically we milk our goats in the barn, we have a little milking parlor right there indoors. However, each goat also has their own individual milking stanchion that you can kind of see up along the hill here. So when the kids come out and we're running our educational programs, they can each, we can break them up into groups and each of the teachers can take their goats out with their group of kids. To their specific stanchion to be milked, ready?
Alright, we're gonna head out with Sergio and Sweetpea here, come on, Sweetpea. And Sweetpea already knows where she's going. No, you're not coming, Dream. Dream thinks she's gonna get milked too, we'll go on and lock the gate here. As you can see Sweetpea, very familiar with where her stanchion is. We don't have to lead her, she'll go right up there all by on her own. As we're walking up, I'll give you a little view of the pasture from up top too, so there's our barn yard. The pasture does extend all the way up into the fog up there, you can only see about a third of it right now. This is our wellhead here in the middle of the pasture, where we source all of our water from. And then we got here, Sweetpea, all ready to go, on her stanchion. So during milking, the goats get fed their oats here so that they're not, so that they're little distracted, they get their little treat. And what we feed them here also promotes milk, the production of milk. What we see Sergio doing right now is cleaning off the teats with a little bit of diluted iodine solution. So we make sure to clean the teats very well, as you can see, Sweetpea's teats are very, very full. We milk our goats twice a day here at Slide Ranch, once in the morning and once again in the evening. The reason we wanna make sure it's nice and clean, we wash our hands very well before milking our goats, we wanna prevent any infections or any cross contamination from milking the other goats or from our hands. How you doing Sweetpea, you good? Sweetpea's very happily munching away. We're gonna do a little test squeeze, so he does a little test squeeze at the beginning to make sure that the milk is flowing properly, that there's no blockage in her teats. So he grabs the milk pale, and the milking commences.
You see Sergio is quite the professional, two-handed milking method, quite effective and efficient with his milking. So typically we have, you know, the groups of kids are coming out here. The teachers are showing them about the milking, talking to the kids about the goat milk, about the goats, about what we do with their milk here at the ranch. And then they also get to have some hands on experiences, milking goats, and also drinking the milk. So, as I mentioned, this is certainly one of the most popular activities that the school kids participate in here at the ranch. It's typically one of the first things they do 'cause we milk at 10 in the morning, and that's usually right when they're arriving.
Maika - And Damien, um, just stepping in here for a second. One of the viewers was wondering if you can hold the camera a little bit more steady. I know it's hard, you know, with the hill that we're having there. But also I wanted to mention that, you know, the mission of this live ranch is to connect kids to nature. So, we see a lot of kids that they come from low income communities, and sometimes they have no idea where the milk is coming from, where the eggs are coming from, where the vegetables are coming from. So this is the first time that they see actually milk coming out from an animal that, you know, is not coming out of a fridge, from a box. So we want to make sure that all the children, that we see, we see about 10,000 people a year, that they understand the connection between, you know, the animals, the vegetables and the environment as well.
Damien - Thanks, Maika.
First Republic - We got a question here, Damien. What do you guys do with the milk at the farm?
Damien - Hey yeah, so we do have a residential community here at Slide Ranch. I'm gonna try to hold the camera as stable as possible. You know, there's about 20 of us living here, including most of the staff and some of our family members. So we do rely on the animals and the garden as our source of food. So the milk that we get from the goats, we will, the residents will drink it and we also make cheese from it, we'll make some butter from it, and we also make goat milk ice cream with it during the summers, which is lovely. We do tend to get quite a bit of milk, each goat, we measure it in pounds, and each goat gives us around two to three, sometimes up to four pounds of milk once a day, so multiply that by two. So sometimes that's a lot more milk than we can use, and any surplus milk we'll put in buckets in our creamery and let it curdle for a couple of days, and then we'll feed that to our chickens. That's an excellent source of calcium for the chickens, which helps them with their egg production and helps them promote strong eggshells. And Alyssa and Adin could probably show you the curdled milk bucket that's down in the chicken area. That's about how much milk we get here.
Sergio - Almost anywhere from a quarter to a half gallon.
Damien - Yeah, so we milk... Well, we're winning one right now, but we're usually milking about four to five goats, twice a day. So as I mentioned, you know, we're getting two, three, four pounds of milk from them once in the morning, once in the evening, so quite a bit of milk production going on. And in order to be kept in milk, goats have to be bred every two years, meaning they have to have a baby every two years in order to keep producing milk. So we do breed our goats accordingly, to keep them in milk production. When the babies are born, we start bottle feeding them, so we'll milk the goats and then put it into bottles and bottle feed the babies. What that allows us to do is to continue having the goats available to milk for educational programs.
Maika - Thank you, Damien. And somebody was asking where we were located. So in case you missed it, we are in Northern California, which is between Muir Beach and Stinson Beach. So yeah, we are, you can see in the background, in my picture right there, this is actually the coast that we have on down to the tide pools. So where Damien is focusing right now is all foggy and you cannot see it, but that is where the Pacific Ocean is right there. And we get very--
Damien - Yeah, so we are--
Maika - Yeah.
Damien - Yeah, we are very lucky, very fortunate to be able to work and live here, it's a beautiful location. As Maika mentioned, it's very foggy today, which is pretty typical for Northern California, especially this time of year. We get a lotta heavy fog in the mornings and it tends to stick around, sometimes burns off by the afternoon, sometimes not. But yeah, just down below there, usually when it's clear, you would see the Pacific Ocean. To the south over here, right around the bend is the Golden Gate Bridge. And then I'll swing around again, and you can't see it in the fog, but Shoreline Highway, which is more commonly known as the Pacific Coast Highway or "PCH The One", runs right up along the hill right there. So we are sandwiched between "PCH The One" and the Pacific Ocean. And you'll see from our geography again, it's hard to tell, but the pasture is a big hill like this, and then the hill continues up. So we're especially prone to being fogged in as the fog blows in from the ocean, and then it just kind of smacks up against the hill here and will just stick there. So we often get some very, very dense fog.
Maika - Yeah, and right there we have the Owl Trail.
Damien - Right, so there's a trail right here that starts in our pasture, and it goes up to a beautiful lookout called the Muir Beach Overlook, which is in the community of Muir Beach, just a mile up the trail there. And it's called the Owl Trail, as you see these beautiful large trees here, these are large coastal cypresses, and we have quite a bit of owls living in there. We have a large community of owls, they enjoy living up in the cypresses, particularly next to our pasture because the pasture provides a really good hunting ground for them. As the goats and the sheep keep the grasses pretty short, you know, the owls have a great point of perspective and can see any mice or moles or other little rodents that are in the pasture. So they have very, very easy hunting from their nests up here in the cypresses, across the entire pasture here. And will come up in the evenings, sometimes when we come up to milk, we'll see some owls perched up on our fence posts, just kind of taking a look at the pasture and keeping an eye out for any rodents that they can catch and eat. I think Sweetpea's all done here. She did us a favor and spilled her bowl over so she can finish eating on the ground. So Sergio finished milking Sweetpea, I'll show you how much milk we got over here. Quite a bit, we got about half this pale full, what we'll do now, Sergio will take the milk into the milking parlor and measure it out, and we keep a log of how much milk each goat is producing. So Elena, who's our Animal Care Manager, can kind of keep a track of their milk production, you know, increase any of the oats that they might need or any other nutrients that they might need to help promote their milk production. You alright, Sweetpea?
First Republic - Damien we have a question about the baby goats, the ones that you breed every few years to make sure that everybody is on the necessary milking schedule. What happens to them, do some of them stay with the ranch or do they find other homes?
Damien - Yeah. So for the most part is we have a pretty limited area here, the barn is not huge, so we can only accommodate a certain amount of goats. So typically the babies, we will re-home them, find there's, being in Coastal West Marin here, there's a lot of ranches all up and down the coast. So we will often partner with the local ranches to find new homes for them. We will also check them sometimes to replace any aging goats as well.
First Republic - And then we have a few questions here about visitors to the ranch. Is it just school groups? Can people from the public just show up, how does that process work?
Damien - That's a great question. So we are part of the National Park System, we are located in the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, or commonly known as the GGNRA, which is a large recreational area that comprises of portions of Northern San Francisco, the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge itself, what's known as the Marin Headlands. So the area just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. And then that stretches all the way up to where we are and a little bit further up the coast to Stinson beach. So as we are a part of the NPS, we're what's called a Parks Partner. We are not NPS employees, but we lease the land from the National Parks. And given that we are a Parks Partner, we are open to the public sunrise to sunset every day of the year. So the ranch is open for visitors, guests to come on down, they can say hello to our goats, to our animals. We have beautiful trails that go down to the tide pools, go down to the beaches and visitors are always welcome. So outside of our educational programs, we are certainly open to the public. We also tend to do family programs on weekends, so those are geared towards, you know, families to come out on Saturdays with special activities geared towards younger kids. We have toddler days, which are geared specifically towards even younger kids, little toddlers, two, three, four, five year olds. And we also do site rentals out here at the ranch, so we will do weddings from time to time and other events as well, and then Farm to Table dinners in our Farm to Table Teaching Center, which is located down in the middle of our garden.
First Republic - Great, we have a question about the goats. How long do they live for, and have you always had these goats or where did they come from?
Damien - So the lifespan of a goat is usually around 13, 14, maybe 15 years, similar to a dog or to some dogs. All the goats, all of our adult goats that are here, were here when I started four years ago. Most of them were probably bred here on the ranch, you know, anywhere from, I think our oldest goat right now is around eight, nine years old. So about 10 years ago they were probably bred here on the ranch and they were the goats that we kept for breeding. I will note that all of our goats and sheep here are females, so we don't keep rams or bucks here at the ranch. Having a male goat or a male sheep in the population is sometimes challenging. They're challenging to work with, they're a little bit more aggressive, so around kids they're not always great. So we only keep females here at the ranch, and what we do for breeding is we will bring in a buck or a ram from another assist or another partner ranch. Hidden Villa is one that we work with, they're located down in the South Bay. So we will sometimes either bring our sheep down to them and leave them there for a few weeks to be bred with their ram. Or we will get a buck from another ranch and bring the buck over to our ranch and keep him for a few weeks in this back pen area right over here, so that they can breed with our females. And Elena, our Animal Care Manager is in charge of managing the breeding. So she knows the rotation, which goats need to be bred, which sheep need to be bred in order to keep them in production.
First Republic - Great, and are there different breeds of goats or is it all just kind of the same breed? And if there are different breeds, is there a certain breed that's best known for their cheese or their milk?
Damien - There certainly are different breeds. And I'm sorry for the shaky camera, I'm just moving out here, 'cause we actually have a beautiful sign out here on our fence, which shows all the different breeds. So as an educational farm and ranch, we always try to include any educational signage that we can have, so that visitors and guests that are coming, that maybe not be participating in an actual educational program, can also learn about the animals. So as you can see from the sign here, we have our little Lamanchas and they have little pictures to show the different characteristics of them. So you can see the Lamanchas here have very short cropped ears and we do... Where's our little Dotty, we'll try to see if Dotty's around I could show you her, we'll maybe step back in afterwards. We have Nubians, who have the long floppy ears. The Alpine goats, which are kind of common in the mountain areas such as Switzerland, and they have the ears that kind of stick straight up. And then Saanens, right. And this sign's really cool cause you can, kids can come up here, just flip open the sign, and then it has a little bit of information about them.
So Lamanchas here, originating from Spain, they're easy going, they have good temperaments, they're recognized for their short ears. And then to answer your question, you know, Lamanchas are known for very high milk production and high butterfat content in milk. So great milking goats, great for cheese production, butter production, since they have that high butterfat content. Nubians, our long floppy eared friends, originate in Britain and Africa and the Middle East. So a lot of times that's the kind of goats you will come across in Africa and the Middle East. They're very social, they're vocal, meaning they're loud, they make a lotta noise. They're easily recognized by those long floppy ears, and they also have a high butterfat content in their milk. So again, good for milk production, good for cheese and for butter making. Alpines, as I mentioned, are you know, commonly found in the Alps, the French Alps or the Swiss Alps. They're friendly, they're curious, they have the erect ears here. They have no set coloring or markings, they're also known for high milk production and a high protein, but a low butterfat content in their milk. And then Saanens, originating from Switzerland, very docile and affectionate. They're typically all white, so we have two Saanens here. They have all white coats, erect ears, high milk production, and low butterfat. So great for milk, not so great maybe for making butter or cheese due to that low butterfat.
First Republic - Great, and then we have a question here. Who gets to name the goats?
Damien - That's a very good question, it's also often a point of contention here at the ranch. So we have what's called a Teacher-In-Residency Program, where we have seven young adults that come and join us to work out at the ranch. And they're the ones that are running all of our educational programs. And Alyssa and Adin, who are down with our chickens, who you'll meet, are two of our current teachers in residence. Elena is our Animal Care Manager, so typically naming will work, it's usually who's there when the goat is born. So it's often gonna be Elena and there's often one of the TIRs, one of the teachers in residence that are here with the moms as they're giving birth. And whoever has the honor to be present when the goats are being born, often gets the honor of naming them. Sometimes we also do put it to a committee, we'll suggest a few names and then we'll vote. And then we also do have a program where people can donate and sponsor a goat, in which case any goats that are sponsored also get to be named by the public, by whoever is sponsoring them.
First Republic - Great, and we have a question about the sheep here. Do you guys use the wool that they produce, the same way you use the milk for cheese and other products from the goats?
Damien - We do, absolutely. So we have an event called Sheep to Shawl. I'm gonna head over to two of our sheep here. We do a Sheep to Shawl event in the spring where we shear our sheep and it happens right out here in our pasture, in our barn yard. And it's an open event, people can come out and they'll typically stand, you know, outside the pasture right here and watch. And we will shear our sheep, and what we do with the wool is send it in to a local partner who then cleans it and spins it into yarn for us. And then the yarn is something that we either use here directly on the ranch, or we also sell it at events, a little bit of a fundraiser. So we are not a commercial farm and ranch, we do not sell any of the products that we're producing here, as far as our milk, our eggs. The yarn however, the yarn is one thing that we do sell, but as a fundraiser, as a non-profit.
Maika - Yeah, thank you, Damien. And I just wanted to add as well that we do have that festival called Spring Fling. Unfortunately, we had to cancel it this year because of COVID. But again, our mission is really to connect the kids to the outdoors and nature. So it's really important that they see the clothing that we are wearing, you know, the wool, where it’s coming from. So when they come, you know, we are shearing the sheep and then we have demos like spinning and doing different crafts as well. And something very popular that we love to do is natural, um, tint, you know, just to tie dye, you know, the wool or any other materials as well. And I just wanted to point as well behind me now, I have another picture of the dome, and this is our camping area because we bring kids and they do overnights, and you can see in the back right there on top, that's actually South San Francisco. So it can give you also an orientation of where we are located. So, yeah.
Damien - Oh, while I'm here, I can point out, we viewed the different types of goats and actually we have two perfect examples right here. So on the left here is Dotty. As you can see from her little cropped ears, Dotty is a Lamancha. And on the right here, we have our sweet Amber, and Amber, if anyone remembers from the signpost, she's all white, and there's Rain, our other all white goat. And if anyone remembers from the signpost that that's an indication of a Saanen, and they have those ears that are pointing straight up here. And we also, when you crossbreed two different kinda goats, you kinda get a very nice mix. And Dennis over here is our last remaining goat kid that was born this year. And his mother was a Nubian with those long floppy ears but his father was a different breed, I can't remember what, as you can see, he kind of got a mix. So his ears are half floppy and they kind of pointing out, stick out, straight out like little airplanes. Cause he's got a mix between Nubian with floppy ears and his father who was probably either a Lamancha or an Alpine, who had more pointy ears or short cropped ears. Hey, Dennis.
First Republic - Damien, I know you mentioned you guys are a part of the National Park System, but just wanted, we had a few questions coming, with the current COVID regulations and just safety concerns. Are reservations required to come out and visit now? And if so, how do you make them? We have some very interested visitors who would like to visit.
Damien - Yes, yeah, certainly parts of the GGNRA, the Golden Gate National Recreational where we're located. Some of the more popular locations like Muir Woods, which is just up the road from us. They do require reservations, so they're limiting the number of people that are coming through. We are not reservation based, we are just open to the public, we're on quite a large piece of land as you mentioned in the beginning, we're on 134 acres. So the ranch provides plenty of space. We don't get a ton of visitors, we get a good a good amount on the weekends. A lot of fishermen love to come on down here and fish the coast. And then we'll get, you know, a handful of families coming through here. So, you know, we don't get super crowded and we've never, for that reason, we haven't had the need to institute a reservation system, we're just opening the public. We have signage around the ranch, asking people to stay socially distant from other groups out there that they don't know. To have masks on if they're coming into, or interacting with any of the staff or the residents that live here. Or if they're getting close to any other groups that, other people that aren't part of their groups. But otherwise we're pretty fortunate with being completely outdoors. All of our educational programs are outside, we don't do anything inside. And given the amount of land that we have available for people to visit, the trails and et cetera, we are able to stay open to the public and not have to enforce any reservation systems.
First Republic - Great.
Maika - Yeah, and—
First Republic - We also have people here asking, are there other ways to get involved with Slide Ranch besides just visiting, volunteering, the programs you were talking about?
Damien - Certainly. So if you check out our website, which is, you know, www.slideranch.org, you know, we have all of our educational programs at the moment we're running, you know, in the context of COVID with schools being online, we are running what's called a Coastal Scrub School in the afternoons, which kind of gets kids that are stuck online in the classes in the mornings, the opportunity to come out to the ranch, do some outdoor education activities, do some hands on activities and just be outside a little bit, away from the computers. We also do have a pretty robust volunteer system, you know, Maika mentioned one of our large events, we have two large events each year, in the fall we do a Harvest Fest in October and in the spring in April, we do Spring Fling. And we also often have huge groups of, you know, 40 to 50 volunteers, which are a lot of times alumni, teachers that worked at the ranch in previous years or local community members who love the ranch and love to be out here, and they come out and help out. We also, we're not running them at the moment, but we also usually have a Saturday Open Volunteer Day where members of the community can come out and volunteer in the garden with Teresa, who's our Garden Manager. So they can work on Saturday mornings with Teresa in the garden. However, unfortunately due to COVID, we're not running that program at the moment. And we also partner with other small non-profits, one of our board members brings out at-risk youth here on Saturdays and they volunteer around the ranch. And then just in general, we get a lot of inquiries of people that are interested in coming out and working with us and volunteering, which we're typically happy to have. Again unfortunately, due to COVID at the moment, those are pretty limited due to the circumstances.
Maika - Yeah, Thank you, Damien. And also I wanted to add that we, you know, because we are a non-profit and we rely on donations from our friends, yeah. Something that we do as well is a Corporate Volunteer Day. So we partner with different corporations, for example, with First Republic and they can actually come and help out, volunteering at the ranch during COVID-19, because we cannot have on-site people volunteering. We do virtual visits like this one, for example, and we also do virtual visits for classrooms, for schools and sometimes for birthday parties. We had this person that it was her birthday in England, and she had two friends in the U.S. throwing a little birthday party for her. So yes, another thing that we do to, in order to, you know, to connect with the community, but also to generate some funds for this live ranch, is that we rent the space. Sometimes we organize weddings, sometimes birthday parties, sometimes it's corporate retreats. So you can find all that information on our website.
Damien - I don't know if Maika's still talking, but I'll jump on here. I just wanna introduce Chocolate. There was a previous question about what we do with the goat kids that are born here. So as I mentioned, most of them, you know, get sold or go to new homes at other ranches or with other families. Chocolate here is actually one of our goat kids from two years ago that we kept, and she actually became a mama this year. So she had two of the goat kids, two of the four goat kids we had born this year were Chocolate's babies. Hey, Chocolate.
First Republic - Damien, we have a question here about how the ranch was established. I know Maika mentioned that you've been around for a few years, but kind of the beginning of where Slide Ranch came from?
Damien - Yeah, great question and it's a great story. So it started back in 1970 as Maika mentioned, so it's our 50th anniversary this year. 50 years ago, the National Parks or the GGNRA was not yet in this area. So this area was Coastal West Marin where we're located was primarily privately owned, dairy farms, a lot of dairy farms and ranches. And in 1970, there were plans, some developers had some big plans to buy up a lot of the land and develop it. And it was not protected yet, it was not part of the National Park System. So there were plans to develop, build resorts and hotels and residential communities all up and down the coast. So a gentleman by the name of Doug Ferguson who was an entertainment lawyer, lived in Mill Valley over the hill from us. Really wanted to do whatever he could to protect as much land as possible. He didn't wanna see Coastal West Marin get developed, it's a beautiful area of the coast. So he decided to get together with some of his friends and some of his clients. Just basically raise as much money as he could and buy up as much land as he could. And Doug was fortunate in that one of his primary clients was Jerry Garcia of the "Grateful Dead". So Jerry actually wrote the first check for Slide Ranch. It was around $500, which back in 1970 was worth a lot more than it is today. And then obviously when Jerry got on board that kind of brought in a lot more money, a lot more donors. And Doug was able to raise the amount of money, which I believe was around 130,000, pretty ridiculous low sum considering the land he purchased, and purchase the property, Slide Ranch. So all 134 acres of it.
At the beginning, you know, he just privately owned it, didn't really know what to do with it. Eddie Washington, who was one of Jerry Garcia's friends, I believe he was his Band Manager, was getting ready to retire, and had a family. And a lot of the early days of the ranch was Jerry Garcia, of the "Grateful Dead", their roadies, and friends, basically just coming out here and hanging out just to get out of the city. They wanted to bring their kids out into nature, teach their kids about gardening, about farming, about animal husbandry. So that's what they were doing, just kind of very grassroots, wasn't organized or anything, they were just doing it on their own. And then Eddie Washington, you know, when the question came up, you know, what do we wanna do with this land? Eddie Washington stepped up and said, you know, "Why don't we start an educational non-profit? We're out here, we're teaching kids about farming, about animal husbandry, about you know, conserving nature and the value of natural resources. So why don't we just organize that into a non-profit?" Which is what they did. In the late seventies it became incorporated as a 501 non-profit, under the name of The Urban Nature Institute for the Arts, I believe. And then in the early eighties is when the National Park System started to basically take over a lot of the land in the Marin Headlands. And Coastal Marin grew to take over Muir Beach and Muir Woods, which I said are just south of us here, as well as eventually the property that Slide Ranch is on. So Slide Ranch was basically donated to the National Park System in the early eighties. And we work under what's called a cooperative agreement with them, where we technically lease the land from them for a nominal fee and run our educational programs, and they kind of have a little bit of oversight over us and what we're doing here, and they help support us through that cooperative agreement.
And if you wanna go even further back, the history of the area, people are aware, a lot of Coastal West Marin was originally settled by Portuguese sailors, who the British would pick up on their way over, and a lot of those Portuguese sailors basically ended up settling here. And a lot of them were dairy farmers back in Portugal. And the land here, the climate here is very similar to how it is in Portugal, so a lot of them liked it and decided to settle down and started dairy farms. So a lot of the ranches up and down the coast here in West Marin were either owned, and a lot of them still are owned by these Portuguese families that settled here back in the, you know, the late 19th century. Slide Ranch was one of those. So it was originally a dairy farm owned by a Portuguese family, you know, starting back in the late 19th, early 20th century. And then they ended up selling it, I believe in the 1930s, and it was just privately owned from then until 1970 until Doug Ferguson came in and purchased the land.
First Republic - Thanks for the wonderful background there, Damien, such a great fun story. We have a few more questions that have come in. First being, how old do goats have to be, to breed them? And then the second is more about the experience when you're there, that you're able to pet and touch the goats, and it's fully interactive, correct?
Damien - Good question, so the first question as far as how old do they need to be to breed. Very young, I believe it's just between one and two years old. So Chocolate as I mentioned, where'd she go? She's playing around down there. Chocolate was born here at the ranch just two years ago, and then she had her babies this season. So back in March, so she was just about a year old herself when she had her babies, so--
Maika - I think we are, we are losing them here a little bit, right now. I'm sure that she'll be able to connect soon.
Damien - Can you guys hear me here?
First Republic - Yes we can.
Damien - Okay, so as I mentioned, if you missed it, Chocolate was born here at the ranch two years ago and she became a mother just this past season. So she was just about a year old when she had her first babies, so very young. The second part of the question, as far as being able to interact with the animals. Typically yes, we are very hands on. The kids that come out here, as I mentioned, usually get to milk the goats, get to pet them, they get to come into the barn area here and feed them, and be very, very hands on. However, of course, due to the COVID pandemic, at the moment we are not allowing any direct interaction with our animals. Both to protect them and to prevent them from being vectors for transmitting COVID to other people. So that includes all our chickens, our ducks, our goats and our sheep. So you actually see that little orange barrier that goes around the edge of our barnyard here, is an additional barrier that we set up in order to prevent members from the public from coming down and petting the goats. Which is very unfortunate, as I mentioned, interacting with the animals is certainly one of the most popular activities here at the ranch. So we look forward to the day when we're able to do that again.
Alyssa - So Adin and I can hop in here. As has been mentioned, Adin and I are both teachers in residence, here at Slide. Which means we live on site and we participate in the programs here. Right now, we are in the chicken yard, our chicken coop. It's this big building behind the tree that you can see on the screen. And we're sitting here with all of our chickens, Adin's got about half a quart of cracked corn or chicken scratch, but before he starts giving that to the chickens, they'll come running. We can take a quick look at some of the chickens that are in the tree over here. It's a good time to observe some of the natural behavior of our chickens. So chickens, as some of you might know who keep chickens, are wonderful, natural climbers, you can see them huddled up in the tree.
The tree here is a place where they go to feel safe. So sometimes if we hear like an alarm call from them during the day and we come to check on them, they'll all just be clustered up in the tree 'cause it's a place where they can feel safe. And over here you can see through the fence, we have one of the newest members of our chicken yard. This is our Silkie chicken, I'm not sure if she's been named yet. A lot of times our students come up with their own names for all of our chickens, and I think my group for the last camp session of the summer, called her Indigo, but I'm not sure she's been officially named. And over here we have their feeding trough. We feed our chickens both some food scraps and some gleaned produce from our garden, as well as a pellet. Just to make sure they're getting all the nutrition that they need to be producing eggs for our programs and for our resident community. And over here in the corner, you can see the chickens digging these nice little holes to take some dirt baths in. So we humans, when we wanna get clean we jump in a bath filled with water. But chickens like to get dirt all in between their feathers, and it helps keep insects and mites from getting in their feathers, it just helps keep them clean. So they really like to dig these holes, and you can see them shaking out their feathers and getting all of the dirt in between. So Adin might start scattering some chicken scratch. So we can see the chickens come running.
Adin - Oh yeah.
Alyssa - They're very used to this from our programs.
Adin - Get ready for some excitement, ready?
Alyssa - So you might notice right now that some of our hens are looking a little scraggly, maybe some bare spots on their bodies or some feathers that look kind of weird and curly. In the fall chickens molt, which means they lose some of their feathers, and then they regrow new ones. And so that's just what's happening right now, that's why they look a little, a little raggedy. And actually when chickens molt, they produce fewer eggs. Oh all of their attention is on you Adin.
Adin - Do you think, should I do some hand feeding?
Alyssa - Yeah. So sometimes with programs, we'll have the kids hold some scratch in their hands and make sure their palm and their fingers are nice and flat so the chickens don't grab their skin, and they can feed the chickens directly. So you can see that we've got a few different breeds of chicken. This one right here right in front of Adin is one of my favorites, this is a Naked Neck chicken. So she doesn't have feathers on her neck and that's totally normal. And it's a really cool way to teach the kids about some of the chicken anatomy, because you can see different parts of her body that you wouldn't be able to see otherwise.
First Republic - Alyssa, how many eggs do you guys produce daily or have on the farm daily?
Alyssa - So it depends a little bit on the season. Chickens produce generally speaking, one egg every 26 hours, but it depends on how much daylight there is. So in the summer we'll be collecting maybe 30, 40 eggs a day, but right now I think we're collecting about 20 and it'll continue to go down as winter comes on. And also when chickens are molting, all of their energy is going towards regrowing their feathers, and so they don't lay eggs when they're molting.
First Republic - Great, and then do you... We have some people concerned about the chickens. Are there any predators in the area that you guys have to be aware of and to keep them safe?
Alyssa - Yeah, we do have a bit of a raccoon problem, and we manage it by making sure that we put the chickens into the coop before the sun goes down every evening. And just by making sure that we're staying vigilant and making sure the fences are all in place. You can see we've got hardware cloth at the bottom of the fence and it actually goes underground 'cause raccoons are great diggers. And then we do have a bit of an electric fence around the very top of the fence as well.
Adin - You may be surprised on how tough and defensive these chickens can be. 'Cause I've seen crows and ravens that, you know, are larger than the chickens themselves, try to bully them out of their food. The chickens will fight right back and especially their rooster too. So there definitely are animals out here that will snag one, but the chickens are really good at banding together and making sure that they're taking care of themselves.
Alyssa - We do also have some ducks and some ducklings right now, across the way. So this is our chicken yard, and again, the coop is here behind the tree and we have the fennel forest behind the coop. Then this big tree is the Tree of Secrets, and this is a place that we spend a lot of time with campers and other student groups to observe the chickens. But across the way, you can kind of see the duck yard. Looks like the ducks are back in their bathtubs right now. We've got a couple big bath tubs that we keep clean and filled with water that they like to swim in. I think you can see one swimming. Let's see, where my finger is. Right there. And then over here, we are raising some ducklings right now, I'm not sure if they're inside or outside. Pardon the shaky camera footage while I climb over. We've got, how many ducklings do we have? Seven I think, and two of them have these funny little pom-poms on the top of their head. Let's see if they're out. Looks-- Ooh, there they are. We're trying to socialize them, so they're not too happy with people just yet. But these are our little ducklings. That blue tub, we keep filled with water and we're trying to teach them to swim and be comfortable being in the water, since we don't have any bathtubs for them in here. And they've gotten pretty big, you can see the two that have the little puff on their heads. There's a couple of different breeds of ducks that we're raising right now. If there's anything that anybody would like to see, just let us know. I did pull out a couple of eggs from our nesting boxes, to show you guys. We really like our eggs here at Slide. 'Cause not only do we know that the chickens have been treated really well, the eggs are also beautiful, beautiful eggs. So these were three that were in one of our nesting boxes, they're all brown eggs. We keep track of them by the color of the shell 'cause it lets us know which chickens are producing which eggs, different breeds produce different colors. And they're all different sizes and shapes which is just a really fun thing to be able to cook with.
First Republic - Great, we have a few questions coming in, Alyssa. So you said that the egg color is determined by the breed, correct?
Alyssa - Yes, to the best of my knowledge. So we do have a couple white eggs as well as some blue eggs, but we do produce mostly brown eggs here.
First Republic - Great, and then someone was wondering the pom-poms that you referred to on the heads of the ducklings. Is that caused by certain thing or is that just how their feathers are, their breed?
Alyssa - I believe it's a characteristic of their breed. Damien might know better than I do which breeds we're actually raising right now. But I do believe that's a characteristic of their breed. Just the way that some of the hens have a little, a bigger red comb on the top of their head and then some of the hens don't. I think it's just one of those characteristics.
First Republic - Is there a time of day that chickens mostly lay their eggs? Or you said it's mostly dependent on the amount of daylight that's around, but is there a time of day that you usually check in, knowing there will be eggs there for you to collect?
Alyssa - That's a great question. We collect our eggs in the afternoon, around 4:35 PM. Once a day, and that's when we do our count. And I'm actually on the morning coop chore, right now. And there's maybe an egg or two in the boxes in the morning, but not always and definitely not usually. So I would say that the eggs are laid mostly during the day.
First Republic - Great, then we have a question about ducks. Do ducks lay eggs as well? And if they do, what do you use them for? Is it mostly just to have the ducklings on site?
Alyssa - Ducks do lay eggs and we collect them every day as well. We get anywhere between, I'd say, one and four eggs a day, probably. They don't lay as often as the chickens and we also just don't have as many ducks. Duck eggs can be used just like chicken eggs. They have a slightly different nutrition, so they can act differently when you put them into baked goods, your baked goods might turn out fluffier, But you could also just scramble them or fry them, just like a chicken egg.
First Republic - Great, and then you guys use the eggs mostly just for those who live on Slide Ranch and around Slide Ranch, or do you sell them too?
Alyssa - We use them. I think sometimes at the beginning of summer, Elena said that we'll sell some eggs when we have an abundance. But generally speaking it's, in the winter and the fall especially when the egg production is so low, it's for residents and then for programs as well. So we do a lot of cooking with our programs, and it's really fun to be able to use some of our farm fresh eggs with the kids.
First Republic - And you've mentioned that some of the chickens have names. Do they respond like other kind of pets do, or do you guys just kind of name them for your own fun?
Alyssa - They don't respond to the names as far as I'm aware, they respond to food mostly. The names help us keep the roosters apart, the kids really enjoy naming the chickens. And they're actually very good at remembering which chicken has which name, which I am not as good at remembering when they name the chickens. But I think one of our Naked Necks, generally since we only have a couple, are named. So I think this over here is Goldie. But on the breeds where we have more hens, we don't keep as good of track of what their names are. And it's a fun exercise with our students.
First Republic - And then you guys have roosters and hens, it's not like the goats where you have mostly females on the farm, you have a good mix?
Alyssa - Yes, so I'm gonna go find one of our roosters real quick. We have two roosters right now, one is named Pinky, and do you remember the name of the other one?
Adin - Bronco.
Alyssa - Bronco. Pinky is right here. So roosters look a little different in a couple of different ways. You can't see it too well right now and I think he actually just lost a lot of his tail feathers, he's molting as well. But they generally have a bigger plume of tail feathers, and then on their like lower legs, right there, there's a spur on the back of their leg that hens don't have. And so the roosters act mostly as a protector or guardian figure for the flock, and if you have a flock of chickens that doesn't have a rooster, often a hen will stop laying eggs and take on some of the traits and roles of the rooster, and kind of fill that protector role for the flock.
First Republic - Thanks, Alyssa. We're gonna probably take about one or two more questions before we wrap up for today. You guys have been absolutely great showing us all that Slide Ranch has to offer. So if you have any last minute questions, feel free to send them down into the Q and A section, otherwise we'll get ready to end our virtual field trip to Slide Ranch. Maika, is there anything you wanna say before we sign off for the day? Or Damien, anybody wanna turn back in?
Maika - Sure, yeah. Well, we really want to thank you all for participating today. And if you are local, come over and visit us, we would love to see you. We also want to recognize First Republic, we have a virtual event at the beginning of December, and First Republic has been an amazing partner. So we really wanna thank you for the opportunity today to showcase our farm and also for being one of our sponsors for the event in December. And yeah, feel free, we are in social media and also visit our website, and we can't wait to see you all here. So as the mere mention is www.slideranch.org and you can find us as well in social media. So thank you so much, Damien, I don't know if you want to add anything else?
Damien - No, I just wanna thank you all for joining us out here at the ranch today. It's been a lot of fun showing you our animals and talking a little bit about what we're doing out here and the history of the ranch. Yeah, just thank you, thanks very much.
First Republic - Thank you all, we'll hopefully get to see you sometime soon. Have a great day, everyone.
Maika - Thank you.