The rolling hills undulate over the Rohnert Park skyline. Live oaks funnel down the topography. Carving out an existence tied to the rhythms of nature. Barbed wire fences stitch across the slopes, quilting a pattern of farms and ranches where people live in much the same way. Farmers and ranchers are still intimately connected to the cycles of life, in this time and in this place. Jim Groverman and his daughter Kimberly are part of that connection.
Above the Crane Creek Regional Park lies the 350 ranch. The ranch is 43 acres and is owned by Jim Groverman. He runs Angus cattle on the land and also farms hay, corn and pumpkins on other properties nearby. Kimberly, now eleven, recalls how the ranch got its name. “When we moved here I was three and my dad was fifty, so he called it the 350 ranch.” Kimberly has lived on the ranch since she can remember. Collectively the Grovermans farm and ranch 650 acres and Kimberly is learning it all along the way. “We farm and ranch for a living, and Kimberly is a big part of it,” states Jim. The lifestyle has imparted a passion for the land and the endeavors that Kimberly embraces. “Spring and fall are very busy times. It’s a lot of work and a lot of fun,” Kimberly notes. She looks forward to going down to the barn after breakfast every morning to do the chores. Then in the afternoons Kimberly drives their John Deere tractor to drag the horse arena smooth where she rides and trains her quarter horse, Nacho.
Ranching has allowed Kimberly to become familiar with the cycle of life. Not only is she in tune with the planting and the reaping of their annual crops, but also with the animals on the ranch. Kimberly and her father have bonded over hunting turkeys as well, providing an intimacy with food that some people never get to experience. Kimberly hopes to get a Tom this year and make turkey cranberry sausage from her bird. Her experience and her “can do” attitude made her uniquely suited for the ranch’s latest acquisition of a wayfaring flock of chickens.
Approximately two and a half years ago Jim and Kimberly found a flock of four chickens at the bottom of their driveway that someone had apparently abandoned on the back roads above Rohnert Park. “We caught the four chickens and took them home to our barn. The next day, there were four more,” remembers Jim. Kimberly took to the new flock immediately. The chickens were kept in an old coop and Kimberly wasn’t sure what she was going to do with them. However, the old barn was falling apart and the flock provided a perfect excuse to breath new life into it. “I was so excited watching the barn progress. I would be on Zoom for class and could look out the window and watch the transformation,” states Kimberly. The old barn was renovated to be completely predator proof and offer nearly six times the recommended square footage per bird.
While the barn was being finished Kimberly continued to add to her flock. She purchased chicks and raised them until they could be safely integrated into the flock of adults. The flock is currently 21 strong and consists of 20 hens and one rooster. The addition of the rooster was unintentional, but he has been winning Kimberly over. When asked which variety was her favorite, Kimberly replied, “The Speckled Sussex is my favorite. The rooster is so friendly with me and to me is just so beautiful.” Kimberly’s love for her flock ignited an adventure in learning and responsibility which has been nothing but fun for her. “I really like doing it. You learn so much about each animal you have. I mean, I know more about chickens now than I ever thought I would. You really have to be careful with what you read on the Internet. There is a lot of misinformation out there. For example, one site recommended feeding the chickens their shells for calcium. Well, our chickens started eating their own eggs after that. We had to put ceramic eggs in the nesting box to stop that behavior. My dad also built a roll away nesting box so the chickens don’t have a chance to become broody,” Kimberly recalls. Kimberly feeds her flock only the best feed and also lots of treats. “We feed them squash seeds which are a natural de-wormer and meal worms which they love.” Before long the flock began producing more eggs than the Grovermans could consume.
Kimberly has begun sharing her excess eggs with a few neighbors and her piano teacher. She received printed egg cartons as birthday gifts that say Kim’s Coop, and she stamps each egg with one of three stamps; yum, coop to table, or enjoy. Her neighbors have been thrilled and have been trading their homemade orange marmalade and honey in return. “She came up to deliver her eggs on her horse. It was just adorable,” exclaims Kimberly’s neighbor Marilyn Ganz. The fruits of Kimberly and Jim’s labor have not only been in delighting their neighbors, but also in building stronger bonds while working together. It’s a life Kimberly enjoys, and one where responsibility comes home to roost.