If you measure a farm’s output by influence, there’s perhaps no more fertile land in our fair state than a 65-acre patch near Nicasio named Devil’s Gulch Ranch. Most of the original ranch, which dates back to 1864, is now federal parkland, but in 1971, at the age of 19, Mark Pasternak snagged a 65-acre tract. Today he and his wife Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak produce rabbits, pigs, sheep, premium wine grapes and asparagus for retail customers as well as direct sales to high-quality restaurants. They also run educational programs in California and in Haiti.
Mark and Myriam pioneered many sustainable practices that are today practiced much more widely, and in April shared some of their thinking at an “Around the Table” event in our store. Mark first started raising pigs, using milk, bread and tortillas as primary feeds. In 1987, Myriam joined him at the ranch after training to become a veterinarian at UC Davis. Her own experience was profoundly shaped by a stint spent in the Peace Corps on assignment to the West African country of Niger during a major drought, highlighting the value of sustainable practices amid resource scarcity.
The farm was literally off the grid when Mark bought it, and in 1973 he installed a windmill that was the only source of electricity for years. Now, with a second windmill built in 2004, the farm supplies the surplus to the PG&E grid.
Mark also produces his own compost for the vineyards from the rabbits, pigs and sheep that he raises. He was one of the first in California to graze his sheep in the vineyard during the winter, a practice that is more common now. Rabbitry, as it’s termed, is a growing business as more Bay Area chefs introduce rabbit to their menus.
Driver’s is proud to feature Devil’s Gulch meats. You can also sample the farm’s produce at many of the Bay Area’s most famous restaurants, including The French Laundry, Chez Panisse and Zuni are among them. Among the wineries that purchase Pinot Noir from Devil’s Gulch are Sean Thackrey and Dutton-Goldfield – and their fine Marin County Pinot Noirs are another fine way to enjoy the exceptional productivity of this small patch of beautifully-situated and lovingly-tended land.