Ruthie King here, Director of Operations and Livestock Manager at the Grange Farm School, pleased resident on the Ridgewood Ranch in Mendocino County, Representative of the Mendocino Farmer’s Guild, Overseer of the Little Lake Grange, Founder of “Be on time Mendocino” campaign, the list goes on.
When I first read the job description posted for Site Coordinator of the Grange Farm School, I felt a strong pull and intense curiosity. Seeking applicant: passionate about livestock, education, sustainability, construction, and the Grange. All of the above I said. My mother brought me up with a healthy dose of paranoia. She would say “the most important thing in life is to find your passion.” I had no idea what my passion would be but I wanted one, desperately. Now when I find something that I love, I launch myself head first into the deep end, and I revel in the joys of passionate living. I have been cultivating interests and experiences that directly aligned with the description of the Grange Farm School. I felt the urgency behind the movement, sensed the creative potential, and launched.
I grew up in Los Angeles county, staying indoors for “smog days” during recess and only occasionally experiencing agriculture when the winds shifted to waft industrial dairy operations our way. My father collects what most people see as trash. Envelope liners, food labels, “place stamp here” squares from return envelopes, PLU stickers…etc. Very suburban, in depth model of the harmful societal outcomes that failed the public school system and created pollution at a remarkable rate.
After getting a degree in Architecture and Sustainable Development, I moved far away from New York City to a remote town in Southwestern Washington. I wanted to get more hands on experience with construction of alternative, natural buildings- “hands on” and “natural” were not a part of my college education. I landed on a farm where we built a solar bathhouse, reciprocal frame living roof structure, cob retaining walls, and converted shipping container homes. Next I moved down the river to a vegetable farm with a 100 year old barn that had blown over in a wind storm. We set out to reconstruct the barn with ancient timbers and I spent my evenings reconstructing the farmer’s record keeping system for his salad green succession planting system.
My final seminal stop on the river in tiny little Naselle, a town made up almost entirely of Finnish immigrants, was at the Strange Family Farm where I was hired to renovate their historic dairy barn and get it licensed to sell raw milk. The process of certifying a raw milk processing facility is complicated and at the end of the fiasco with papers in hand, I was hired to be their dairy operations manager. I was working at the Veterinary clinic and substitute teaching at the local K-12, and I madly researched dairy operations for months before feeling ready to give it a shot. Our first cows, Jackie and Maggie, changed my life. Here was a passion that could satisfy my creative energy, active mind, emotional landscape, and fierce determination.
Starting up the Strange Family Farm Raw Milk Dairy gave me the confidence and motivation to actively seek out the fringe world of sustainable agriculture- delving into Holistic Management, pasture rotation, cheese production, and low-stress animal husbandry a la Temple Grandin. I moved to Colorado to work on a much larger raw milk dairy, and at the completion of one season there I found the description for the Grange Farm School position.
The Grange entered my life in Washington where I sought out a community of like minded, radical individuals and found a Grange Master who preached about populism, cooperative movements, and tradition. The combination illuminated a path towards the power of ritual and history combined with political lobbying focused on the yeoman farmer. I was hooked. I now am an elected officer at all three levels of the California State Grange, an organization that includes over 10,000 members. At the local level, I sit as Overseer of the Little Lake Grange, upholding the rituals and order in the position of Vice President. At the county level, I act as the Secretary of our Pomona Grange, and at the State level I have been elected Ceres, Goddess of Grain. My energy spent in service to the Grange connects me to a radical and inspiring history and the Grange motto rings true for me in all areas of life- In Essentials: Unity. In Non-Essentials: Liberty. And in all things: Charity.
Throughout All: Passionately.