I had a pretty good time visiting and volunteering at this livestock operation run by Serina Harvey, her sister Taschelle and Taschelle’s husband, Thomas. They’ve got heirloom breeds of dorking chickens, peacocks, Nigerian dwarf goats, Guinea Hogs and Cottonpatch Geese. Also at their farm: a couple of horses, turkeys, cows, ducks, sheep, cats, dogs… and most of them are bred on site and for sale to the public. Serina has done a great job with her site; it has tons of information not only on their operation, but on the history of the unique animals they breed and farm. Besides meat, the ranch also produces goat milk, cheese and delicious fruit jams.
Much of the plant side on the ranch is a work in progress but understandable given the hostile climate conditions out in Lucerne Valley and their labor situation. I believe that Flip Flop Ranch was wise to focus on getting the animal agriculture side of their business up and running first. The guests who come for a little bit of agro-tourism primarily want to see/touch/hold farm animals and I would guess that the animal products and meats reap higher margins than fruits or vegetables.
Still, they are making good on developing their gardens. While I was there, I helped to dig up some trenches and plant tomatoes. Flip Flop Ranch uses a lot of sunken beds to grow squash, peppers, corn and other vegetables. During my initial tour, Serina Harvey told me that she had learned the sunken bed gardening technique from the Navajo. The depression of the sunken bed offers many advantages in this arid desert climate: the depression allows cooler air to settle in around the plant, the catchment basin keeps water from escaping and also catches run-off from irrigation elsewhere. Laying chicken wire across the top of the sunken bed also bars rabbits and other rodents from eating the plants.
I enjoyed my time there and my talks with Serina, Thomas and Taschelle about farming and permaculture and look forward to future visits. I’d encourage anyone interested in discovering a great small animal operation and nice oasis in the desert to relax and unwind to give Flip Flop Ranch a visit!