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Black Mountain Ranch

Black Mountain Ranch, Pt. Reyes Station


Save more farms. Donate nowBlack Mountain, known by locals as Elephant Mountain, quietly oversees much of Marin’s protected open space, rising to 1,280 feet near the geographical center of the County. It is named for pioneer cattle rancher James Black who purchased it, along with surrounding land, for a mere $2,000 in 1851. His descendants sold a portion of the ranch, including the western side of the mountain, to Margaret Nobmann in 1974. She continued to use the land for cattle grazing and in 1993 permanently protected nearly 1,200 acres with MALT.

A new generation of farmers

Black Mountain Ranch landowner Dave OsbornToday, Black Mountain looks much the same as it did 160 years ago, and Margaret’s son, Dave Osborn, and his family are improving upon the traditional idea of the cattle ranch. They lease some of their land to Stemple Creek Ranch for rotational grazing and have begun to diversify the land’s use by giving young farmers access to land.

"We are stewards of the land; we don't really own it," says Dave. "Our partnership with MALT fits into our family's plan for what we want for the ranch and the planet."

Recently, MALT’s stewardship team assisted the ranch with improving the mountain’s road grades and drainage, reducing sediment runoff into its seasonal streams. Conditions for fish populations downstream have been improved and the creeks haven’t flooded since.

“There’s more wildlife coming back, the grasses are doing better, the energy is better at the ranch,” Dave says. “It’s more positive, everybody’s kicking in.”

Watch this video of Little Wing FarmCertified organic in 2015, the flatlands surrounding the mountain are now home to acres of row crops sold at farm stands, markets and restaurants, as well as a heritage poultry co-op, natural dye crops and an heirloom seed company. All of these ventures share space, ideas and resources with an eye on closed-loop sustainability.

“It’s a real honor that our family is in a position to offer space for people to pursue these important projects, and that people are coming and wanting to participate in the land,” says Athena Osborn, Dave’s daughter, who also runs the poultry co-op.

“One thing I’ve learned in my life is that you can’t do everything yourself, and you need help every step of the way,” says Dave. “Part of getting things done is delegating and having other people do things that you can’t do. And when you put it all together you have something pretty good.”

Black Mountain-grown

Black Mountain Ranch - Wild West Ferments - Table Top FarmsArron Wilder of Table Top Farm grows organic heirloom and cherry tomatoes, winter squash, peppers, eggplant, basil, heirloom apples and more, all of which can be found at Table Top’s farm stands in Point Reyes Station, inside their CSA boxes, on the menu at local restaurants, and in products like Wild West Ferments kimchee and sauerkraut.

Molly Myerson of Little Wing Farm grows organic flowers, strawberries, greens, tomatoes, carrots, onions, basil, cucumbers, zucchini, green and purple string beans, peppers and more. Thursday through Sunday, she stocks her farm stand at the foot of Black Mountain at the former Rich's Readymix site.

Also sharing these plots is Living Seed Company, an organic and heirloom seed research and distribution company based in Point Reyes Station dedicated to increasing the genetic diversity of our local food. In addition to growing for seed, Matt and Astrid Hoffman are trialing rare and unconventional varieties and species for our coastal climate.

Stemple Creek Ranch, in an effort to rotate herds and regenerate native grasses, is leasing land on Black Mountain Ranch for beef cattle, which are currently grazing on the lower slopes of the mountain. Stemple Creek Ranch beef can be found in many local restaurants, grocers and farmers markets.

View a slideshow of photos from a MALT member hike at Black Mountain Ranch »

Watch a video we made of Little Wing Farm on Black Mountain Ranch »