On a recent sunny afternoon, Ken and Susan Muller are eating homemade ricotta pie outside their Talent farmhouse and making plans to lead a herd of cows to a new plot of pasture on their Rogue Valley Brambles farm. The bovines are in for a real treat: the first taste of winter-sweetened wild grass. "They can have a grass buffet," says Susan Muller.
Rotational grazing is just one of the couple's sustainable farming methods. The pasture-based farm is not certified organic, but the Mullers use organic practices. Animals are fed primarily outdoors on grass, rather than indoors on grain. The Mullers also provide their animals organic feed.
In addition to beef, the Mullers raise pigs, chickens, turkeys and rabbits, which they sell to those who visit the farm or who place orders at the Growers and Crafters Market.
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They also produce organic milk, eggs, garlic, apples and balsamic vinegars using the pomegranates and raspberries they grow. Olive oil is made from olives grown in the Mullers' family Copper Hill farm in Northern California and sells for $11 per 500 milliliters bottle for Arbequina and Koroneiki varieties and $8.50 per 500 milliliters for the blended oil. Susan's mother, Margaret Krout, makes homemade olive-oil soap with lemon, lavender or rosemary (sold in bulk or pre-packed in 8-ounce bottles for $6).
The Mullers, who founded Rogue Valley Brambles five years ago, invite customers to their farm and host events there because they believe that their face-to-face interactions and openness concerning farming practices help create relationships.
"We really want people to see what we're doing and feel good about it," says Susan Muller, who hosted a Farm to Fork Events dinner with her husband in 2010 on their farm and will contribute poultry to a farm dinner Oct. 6 at Barking Moon Farm. "I hope that our being transparent makes them comfortable."
Their passion to spread this awareness has led them to partner up with Rogue Valley Farm to School for Harvest Meals, where schoolchildren receive hands-on farm experiences. The students harvest ingredients and then cook their lunch. "That was part of my vision "… having kids on the farm and having them learn about where their food comes from," says Muller, while holding her 11-month-old son, Oren.
This summer, the couple will lead four farm camps, open to 7- to 11-year-olds. "It's really great to share with kids that milk doesn't just show up in a box at the supermarket," she says.
Find it: Rogue Valley Brambles products are on the menu at Ashland restaurants, including Amuse, Callahan's Lodge, Larks, Pasta Piatti, Standing Stone and The Peerless. Products are also sold at the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market in Ashland on Tuesdays and in Medford's growers market on Thursdays, and can be purchased directly from the Mullers by calling 541-210-2278 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The website www.roguevalleybrambles.com offers more information and the opportunity to sign up for the newsletter to receive updates.