Laurie Jervis: Dare 2 Dream Farms Rooted in Success of Organic Crops and Chickens – Noozhawk

Posted: January 30, 2020 at 9:46 pm


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What started as a dozen backyard chickens kept to occupy Jeremy Raffs elderly grandfather has evolved into a statewide chicken, egg and farm enterprise with deep roots in the Lompoc Valley.

Raff and his wife, Megan, own and run Dare 2 Dream Farms off La Salle Canyon Road, west of Lompoc.

The multifaceted, organic operation has many moving partsa majority of them with two or four legs. Among the residents are goats, ducks, wild turkeys and dairy cows. And chickens. Many, many chickens.

Both husband and wife lead by-appointment tours of the farm for area students and the public in general. Theres an on-site farm stand with produce, eggs, honey and baked goods, a Dare 2 Dream weekly CSA, and a booth at the Route One Farmers Market on Sundays in Vandenberg Village.

With the assistance of local chefs and winemakers, the Raffs host true farm-to-table dinners that feature wines paired with outdoor meals that celebrate just-picked produce and a protein source, usually poultry or seafood.

On Oct. 12 of last year, I attended one such event. Kyle and Savanna Knapp poured their Press Gang Cellars wines, and chef Augusto Caudillo of Lompocs former Scratch Kitchen whipped up a feast of farm-fresh kale, roasted butternut squash, tomatoes and bell peppers alongside potato and acorn squash gnocchi; wild turkey (slaughtered that morning); and a dessert of chocolate brittle, farm preserves and honey.

Before we ate, Jeremy Raff led guests on a tour of the farm, past leafy green crops, a cow being milked, and pens with fowl of all shapes and sizes. Against one hillside are homes available for farm stays: So kids can see stars at night and learn about nature, he said.

Four such dinners will take place this year, Megan Raff said. The dates are May 23, Aug. 1, Sept. 12 and Oct. 24.

But lets go back to the chickens, because chickens are the soul of Dare 2 Dream Farms.

Jeremy Raff grew up with his late grandfather, Mike Raff, on the property at 890 La Salle Canyon Road. While the parcel is 42 acres, according to Jeremy Raff, only six are suitable for farming or flocks; the rest are steep old-growth hillsides covered with chaparral.

He met Los Angeles-native Megan while both were students in San Luis Obispo (he at Cuesta College and she at Cal Poly). At that time, the family ranch was overgrown, and Mike Raffs health was failing. On weekends at the ranch, Megan and Jeremy began to overhaul the property, and started a flock of chickens to accompany the elder Raff and keep his attention focused on the farm.

In 2008, two things happened: Jeremy returned to live on the ranch and care for his grandfather, and a big movement toward raising backyard chickens for pets and eggs took hold in California, according to Megan. In 2009, the two founded Dare 2 Dream Farms. Their CSA is six years old, and the farm stand opened four years back.

We experienced organic growth of our site via word of mouth and great customers, she said.

In 2012, the two married. They now have three children: Wyatt, 5, Zoe, 3, and Wade, 9 months.

The farms hands-on growth got a boost when Dare 2 Dream Farms welcomed volunteers who were members of World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or WWOOF. Some stayed for a few days, and others camped and stayed for months, planting, tending fowl or lending a hand wherever a need arose.

The people come from all walks of life, from students taking a gap year to the simply curious, to Italian doctors to couples traveling, Megan Raff said. And they all leave knowing more about farming and with an appreciation for how food is grown.

While the Raffs might chuckle at that riddle about what came first the chicken or the egg in their case, chickens funded the couples dream to live sustainably on land owned by generations of the Raff family.

Having hundreds of chickens meant pounds and pounds of manure, which helped create healthy compost. In turn, that compost helped grow healthy vegetables, which then nourished another generation of chickens, Megan Raff said.

Word about healthy farm-raised chickens for sale spread north and south from the Lompoc Valley. A Meetup group, Los Angeles Urban Chicken Enthusiasts, contacted Dare 2 Dream, and soon the farm was supplying the entire California coast with backyard chickens, Megan Raff said.

While an employee now is the dedicated Dare 2 Dream chicken delivery person, the Raffs were the initial contacts for backyard enthusiasts. Conversations would segue toward how best to house chickens, and from the couple's advice hatched a steady side business for Jeremy Raff. He builds custom-crafted chicken coops that are delivered to backyards and farms.

The Dare 2 Dream Farms website specifies various categories of chickens for sale, from baby chicks to point of lay hens, ready to produce, as well as roosters. Popular breeds are barred rocks, Easter eggers and Rhode Island reds, and the couple buy chicks from certified hatcheries that guarantee healthy, disease-tested birds, according to Megan Raff.

The average size of a backyard flock is four to eight chickens, and if they are good layers, theyll provide between two and six dozen eggs per week," she said.

The six acres that comprise Dare 2 Dreams level land form a north-south facing canyon. Steep hillsides on three sides mean limited daylight; the crops that thrive there are the brassica vegetable family, she said among them broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts and cabbage. The existing trees are mostly those that produce stone fruits, but the couple will plant red and black raspberries and fig trees this year, she added.

Click here for more information. The farm stand,890 La Salle Canyon Road, is open from 10 a.m. to dusk Tuesday through Sunday. Route One Farmers Market,3745 Constellation Road, is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.

Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at http://www.centralcoastwinepress.com, tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via [emailprotected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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Laurie Jervis: Dare 2 Dream Farms Rooted in Success of Organic Crops and Chickens - Noozhawk

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January 30th, 2020 at 9:46 pm

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