Jamie Edlin: Erin O’Bryan Grows Up in Her Farm Opportunity at Hidden Canyon Ranch | Homes and Lifestyle


I first met Erin O’Bryan at a craft market in Santa Ynez. She stood in front of her mobile farm stand filled with a delicious display of fresh produce as well as eggs, herbs, honey and handmade candles.

As I write about farmers, ranchers, fishermen and other producers and gatherers of the food we eat, I asked her if she had a good story.

“If starting a farm as a single mom at 50 is a good story, then yes,” replied O’Bryan.

And so goes the story.

O’Bryan was married and had a house full of children. She had moved away from her law firm to take care of her family. They had a home in Malibu and a vacation property in the Santa Rita Hills. Life was good.

A year later, O’Bryan divorced with joint custody of the children and full custody of the vacation property, a stunning 44-acre log home. And that’s when she got seriously interested in agriculture. After all, the property had to support itself.

But farming for a living is hard work and, at 50, a real challenge.

O’Bryan caught his breath and started a checklist:

»Hire experienced farm workers.

»Study and practice regenerative organic agriculture.

Hidden Canyon Ranch Farms
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Welcome to Hidden Canyon Ranch Farms near Lompoc. (Photo Derek Glass)

»Create a farm stand.

»Develop ranch products.

»Invest in livestock.

»Offer farm tours.

»Offer the property as a venue for weddings and other events.

Listen to the earth.

Digging deep in nature was not so new to O’Bryan. Her father was a zookeeper and outdoor enthusiast and her mother an experienced gardener. O’Bryan literally grew up in Los Angeles Zoo and often joined his father on hunting and fishing trips.

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Erin O’Bryan with her flock of chickens, the first of the animals to contribute to Hidden Canyon Ranch Farms. (Photo Derek Glass)

“I gardened with my mom when I was a kid, and – really – gardening is just small-scale farming,” O’Bryan said as we roamed the hills of Hidden Canyon Ranch Farms in his utility vehicle. “It never ceases to delight me that you can put a seed in the ground which then turns into a plant that you can actually eat.

“It really enlightens me.”

While cautiously entering his farm, O’Bryan returned to school for a year and obtained his certification as a holistic health coach. His studies in health and nutrition – then and now – applied not only to the human body, but also to his land because they are interconnected.

O’Bryan imagined a farm guided by the principles of sustainable, organic and regenerative agriculture. A good student, she read a lot of books on the subjects. She visited neighboring properties to see what and how they were growing. She listened to the earth.

And then O’Bryan planted a vegetable patch up the hill from the house. I have to admit that I suffered from a tomato craving while walking through the vertically grown vines heavily laden with tomato varieties.

Today the patch – which is much more than a patch – is rich in tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, kale, corn, melons, edible flowers and “other good things” that are happy to grow. organic way.

O’Bryan has listened to the earth over the years and she keeps telling him what to grow.

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The Log House at Hidden Canyon Ranch has become a popular vacation rental and a popular location for film and photo shoots. (Photo by Bruce McBroom)

As the farm evolved, it began to develop products that would extend the shelf life of its products beyond harvest. The corn, grown from ancient seeds that one of his farm workers obtains from Oaxaca, Mexico, is hand-ground into cornmeal, retaining all of the flavor and nutrients of the whole grain. And it sells.

O’Bryan also dries and packs his herbs and spices. She teamed up with Botanical Notes from the Santa Ynez Valley to create soy candles scented with lavender and farmhouse sage.

And Glory Bee parks her beehives on the farm during the winter months, resulting in gorgeous sage honey.

There is a farm stand on Hidden Canyon Ranch but, given its remote location at 5425 Campbell Road near Lompoc, O’Bryan turned an old horse trailer into a mobile market so she could bring her wares to people – for Flying Flags Resort and Campground in Buellton every Saturday morning, pop-up events at various locations, private parties where she sells what she produces while having fun with stories about farming and ranching.

O’Bryan’s farm stand didn’t exactly cover the costs of expanding his farm, but renting both the guest rooms above the garage and the outbuilding nearby certainly helped. And then she decided to rent the log home, now a popular vacation rental and a popular spot for photo ops and movies.

She then moved into a vintage 34-foot trailer that she parked not far from the house. She insists it brings her closer to nature.

O’Bryan’s next step was Sarriette Institute Holistic Planned Grazing Online Course, “a planning process for integrating animal production with crop production … while protecting land regeneration, animal health and profitability”.

Simply put, it ensures that the cattle are in the right place at the right time and doing the right thing. Good for animals. Good for the floor. Good for us.

O’Bryan was in full swing. She started with chickens and followed with ducks.

“We tried the goats for a little while, but the goats are tough,” she said. “There isn’t a lot of demand for goat meat, and I didn’t want to do the goat milk cheese thing.

“Sheep are easier. Ours are Dorper furry sheep. They are good mothers. They are easy to maintain. And they are appreciated for their meat.

And then there’s Trixie, a sweet-faced Jersey cow. Now, Trixie’s job is simply to create manure, pure gold for the compost heaps.

All of the animals living on Hidden Canyon Ranch Farms, including miniature horses and donkeys, contribute to a healthy soil while enjoying a high pasture life.

It’s permaculture at its best, a thriving environment. The animals contribute to the compost pile that feeds the vegetables. A nutrient-rich cover crop is planted between the rows of vegetables interspersed with flowers. The flowers attract beneficial insects, so there is no need for pesticides.

Sheep graze on weeds while naturally fertilizing the soil. Chickens follow the paths of cattle, feeding on parasites and leaving their own mark of fertilizer.

The scenario changes with each season but always with the objective of soil and plant health.

O’Bryan still travels to Malibu where his youngest child goes to school, but imagines himself living full time on the ranch one day.

“When I’m at the ranch, I buy and plant seeds, cultivate and harvest, fill my farm stand and take my little trailer on the road,” she said. “In my 11 years of owning this ranch, it has always led me on the right track.

“It was magic. And healing. I’m pretty proud of myself.

It should be – at any age.

– Jamie Edlin conducts Hollywood and wine, marketing communication agency dedicated to the wine and hotel business. She is also a brand manager / marketing director for Cord of Santa Barbara, a small wine producer in the Santa Ynez Valley. Contact her at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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