Belcampo Partner Farm: Big Bluff Ranch
Belcampo Partner Farm: Big Bluff Ranch
The Dawley Family have been ranching in the foothills west of Red Bluff in Northern California for four generations. They’ve always believed that what’s good for the health of their animals is good for the health of the land, and the people they’re feeding.
Big Bluff Ranch became a Belcampo Partner Farm in 2020. Although they’d been using regenerative practices with their cattle since the beginning (way before it was trendy!) and using Organic practices since the 1980s, the Dawley Family had no reason to seek certification without a support system with shared values. In 2021, Big Bluff Ranch obtained its Organic Certification having found a genuine partner in Belcampo.
Today, Big Bluff provides the Organic, pasture-raised poultry that Belcampo customers love – and the family can concentrate on what they do best, grow healthy meats to feed more people.
How it started
Big Bluff Ranch has been ranching in the foothills west of Red Bluff since 1960. For most of that time, the Dawley family has been focusing their management on the health of their land, animals, and ultimately, people. In the beginning, it wasn't about organic production to help people. It was focused on growing as much beef as possible. The wonderful thing about nature is that when you align yourself with its natural rhythms, you find a myriad of unexpected benefits.
The desire to increase beef production led to a deeper appreciation of a simple fact: grass grows beef and grass grows best in healthy rangeland with big herds of grazers moving often. So, the Dawleys installed miles of fences and dozens of water points to allow for holistic and intentional herd management – and it worked. Their riparian zone along their major creek came roaring back and the nearly vanished native perennial grasses popped up seemingly out of nowhere.
Take it to the people
After learning how to manage the land, the natural next step was to take their grass-fed beef straight to consumers. The Dawley family realized their desire to grow beef had deeper implications for society. What they saw as practical steps to raise beef cultivated a regenerative, organic operation benefitting their land and family. To their pleasant surprise, these very benefits quickly began to spread, helping local families and down-stream watersheds prosper as well.
As they say, "long story sort of short," beef at farmers markets lead to goat and lamb, pork and eventually poultry production for the Dawley family. Somehow, the poultry operation stuck and now the Dawleys are the primary poultry partner for Belcampo Farms.
A Changing Landscape & Organic Certifications
Having been working in regenerative agriculture space since before it had a formal name, the Dawley Family has seen decades of change in the industry. At first, the family devoted much of their time to educating the public about grass-fed animal proteins and the benefits of buying meat at farmer’s markets. Over the years, the Dawleys have looked on as consumers have learned more about holistic, grass-fed operations and participated in local markets.
Since the early 1980's, the Dawleys have been organic in every aspect but name. Until recently, it wasn't possible for Big Bluff Ranch to become certified –not because of their practices, but because their style of production is so artisanal, it had been challenging to find retailers and market opportunities. As the industry has grown and industry partners like Belcampo have appeared, an economic ecosystem has evolved to support the value producers create.
It is wonderful to be a small family-run organic farm, but the ranch’s biggest challenge had always been their scale. By partnering with Belcampo, they can concentrate on what they do best, grow healthy meats to feed more people.