I recently spent a day in the breathtaking Siskiyou County in Northern California with the Heffernan family on their 1800 acre ranch, aptly named, Five Marys Farms (with Papa Brian, Mama Mary and their four little Marys in tow). I rose with the sun, roamed through their grassy prairies, ran through thick woods and admired the snow capped mountains surrounding the homestead that was first established in 1858.
The day was filled with caring for the animals as a family; Black Angus cattle, Navajo-Churro sheep, Glouchester Old Spot pigs, Red Bourbon turkeys and their 40+ varieties of laying hens as well as the heart filling laughter that poured through every wooden wall of that original grain barn-turned-tiny farmhouse.
This video. Well, the images too.
Can I humbly say that it is my favorite work I’ve done yet? I love it.
I hope you do too. And mamas, make the video full screen & call in the kiddos because I’m sure they would love to watch as well!
Mary, the mama of Five Marys Farms, so kindly wrote the story of how they recently came to be a farming family and it is pieced throughout the photographs below. This is surely a long, rich post so give yourself time so you can make it all the way to the bottom…
Mary: “Two and a half years ago we were living a busy life in the Bay Area, Brian was a lawyer and I owned a few family based small businesses, and together we owned and operated two restaurants. Brian was raised on a farm in California where his dad farmed trees and row crops and I am a sixth generation Californian with farming roots – so we both always were drawn to the idea of buying a farm to split time between the bustle of Silicon Valley and the wide open California spaces. It was a “someday” dream since we met.
We looked for rural property several times after we were married but nothing ever worked out at the time. The restaurants pushed us to look for really premium meat raised with idyllic small farm husbandry but we could never find the right volume, quality and consistency we needed year round – and so we decided to try and do it ourselves.
We found our ranch by chance – looking primarily for land and water to raise cattle, not really for a place to live (at least at this point in our lives). It all happened quickly and soon we were the owners of a beautiful ranch that needed lots of work, cows and infrastructure. We naively thought we could do both – live a busy life in the city and be weekend warrior ranchers.
We drove up and back to the ranch every weekend for 8 out of 9 weekends – a 6 hour trip each way with four carseated kids in tow. We had lots of “windshield time” together to consider and discuss what we really wanted for ourselves and for our kids. The 8th trip we decided we decided to pick up our life and plant our roots right here on our ranch for good.
We fell in love with this land, with our small town here, with the incredible community of people willing to help us new folks learn the ropes, the local schools, and with everything about working hard together as a family raising animals everyday – with the lifestyle of ranching. We knew this was where we wanted to raise our children and grow old together.
So we sold our businesses, sold our house and have never really looked back.Ranching is no joke – it’s work 24 hours a day 7 days a week with no time for vacations or days off. We are up with the sun and, since every animal gets fed before we do, usually eat dinner after dark.
There are livestock in my living room and kitchen half the time, my girls are always covered in dirt and my wardrobe consists of blue jeans and torn flannel shirts and boots every day.
The daily ranch to-do list is truly never-ending and there are obstacles and hardships at every turn – back breaking work, broken pipes, drought, flooding and animals that die no matter how hard you work to take care of them. It’s unpredictable and raw, with intense emotions in the highs and in the lows.
But when you ask either of us where we’d go if we had the chance for a vacation both of us would honestly answer there is no place we’d rather be than right here experiencing this life together as a family.
If we weren’t here everyday – we might miss the wonder of a new baby calf being born, or a newborn lamb learning to walk for the first time, or a squealing little litter of 9 piglets learning to nurse, climbing all over each other. We feel pretty lucky we get to call this life together our own and are very proud of the meat we get to put on other families’ tables.”
I was so impressed while visiting Five Marys Farms at how the children were never viewed as an imposition. It was the most beautiful thing to watch as parent and child just worked and played alongside one another joyfully.
I was so intrigued and asked Mary to share a bit about how they’ve instilled such a thoughtful nature and work ethic into their children and she wrote her heart out in the most beautiful post on her Five Marys Farms blog… mamas, I promise her words will encourage your weary hearts and inspire you to reach your children right where they are at rather than fitting into another family’s mold.
Find her most recent blogpost as well as info on how to order their farm raised products (to ship nationwide!) on their website here.