Bennington Place tour showcases sustainable ranching

by Alicia Lundquist Guy, Director, PCC Farmland Trust

This article was originally published in May 2007

On the morning of March 31, I stood alone in the field of Bennington Place, with a mind to enjoy the silence and stunning view before the Thundering Hooves farm tour began. To the east the Blue Mountains were dusted with a layer of snow. To the south, in the Oregon hills, hundreds of wind turbines did their quiet dance to harvest energy from the movement of air.

Thundering Hooves and Joel Huesby

(Above) More than a hundred PCC Farmland Trust and Thundering Hooves supporters gather in the fields of Bennington Place in Walla Walla to hear Joel Huesby (left) talk about how his family raises pasture-finished cattle on certified organic land.

A dog barked, probably a mile away, and that was the only sound. The cows grazed calmly on the alfalfa in the rolling fields.

Out of view was the dusty development, right off the main highway, which Bennington Place was destined to become before the Farmland Trust purchased it in 2003. When the tour guests arrived, 115 people gathered in the field, listening intently as Joel Huesby told of the history here. His family has lived across the road for generations.

Joel had wanted to farm Bennington Place since he was 12 years old. He spoke of area ranchers who use toxic chemical inputs to do the same job that a herd of properly managed grazing cattle can do. He spoke of the need to work with the soil organically as an invited participant and let the land heal itself.

Joel has a plan to breed cattle for their suitability to the land and the seasons — not for their highest weight at market — and to return to the same type of cows that his grandfather raised here 50 years ago.

The crowd walked the fields of Bennington Place, talking to one another and forging relationships. Many of the guests were PCC Farmland Trust supporters, eager to see what we have been able to accomplish. Others were Thundering Hooves customers from Walla Walla and agricultural tourists.

Farmers from far and wide had come to see how things were done here. Even a professor from Japan had come to research sustainable agriculture.

Later, 75 people from the group attended a sold-out dinner prepared by the Huesby family at the Valley Chapel Schoolhouse, where Joel’s mother attended school as a girl. The meal was wonderful and plentiful. There was a great sense of synergy in the midst of this fine feast.

People were in animated conversation with newfound friends about local, organic agriculture and the great need to come together as a community to preserve our resources — land, farmers and the power to enact change. We are grateful for each and every person who was part of this wonderful day.

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