Black Mountain Ranch: Home to a Thriving Community of Farmers and Ranchers

May 12, 2021

Black Mountain, also known as Elephant Mountain, is one of the most recognizable landmarks in West Marin, with rolling slopes rising above the town of Point Reyes Station. With just over 1,190 acres on the western side of this beautiful mountain, Black Mountain Ranch has been MALT-protected since 1993, thanks to the generosity of MALT’s supporters.

With abundant rangeland and water, as well as floodplains along Lagunitas Creek, this ranch is home to an incredible collection of agriculturalists, all of whom are dedicated stewards of the land.

Stemple Creek Ranch leases pastureland here, and its beef cattle can be seen grazing the dense grasses that cover the mountain’s hillsides. Devotees of sustainable practices, Loren and Lisa Poncia, owners of the Stemple Creek Ranch business, are known across the state and country for their carbon farming practices as well as the high-quality beef they sell to restaurants, grocers and direct to consumers.

Also located on Black Mountain Ranch is Fibershed — a local organization committed to developing regional fiber systems that build soil and protect the health of our biosphere. Fibershed promotes strategic grazing, conservation tillage and a host of scientifically vetted soil carbon-enhancing practices among communities of fiber producers. And its goal? To create climate-beneficial clothing that will become the new standard in a world looking to rapidly mitigate the effects of climate change.

Black Mountain Ranch is also the happy home to two local row crop producers — Molly Myerson of Little Wing Farm and Aaron Wilder of Table Top Farm.

Molly Myerson at Little Wing Farm.

Molly’s farm on Black Mountain Ranch, run by an all-female team, produces vibrantly colorful produce and more; squash, greens, tomatoes, alliums, fresh flowers and quail eggs dazzle at her roadside farm stand on the Petaluma – Point Reyes Road just before Platform Bridge. Her quail eggs are also on the menu at Brickmaiden Breads in Point Reyes Station. Molly, too, is a land steward at heart, partnering with MALT to improve her water sources and tending to the soil in her gardens with meticulous care. Molly and Little Wing Farm were featured in a recent MALT film and on our blog.

Last but not least, Aaron Wilder of Table Top Farm feeds his community with a local CSA and two farm stands, which brim with freshly harvested vegetables. At Black Mountain Ranch, Arron makes savvy use of the floodplain along Lagunitas Creek, just below the Petaluma – Point Reyes Road, to grow potatoes, basil, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and barley. Thanks to the rich, moist soil, he can dry-farm here without any need for irrigation. Arron’s farm stands can be found just above the town of Point Reyes Station; one is where the Petaluma – Point Reyes Road meets Highway 1, and the second is on the mesa in the residential part of Point Reyes Station, on Cypress Road.

Table Top Farm’s neighborhood stand at the intersection of the Petaluma – Point Reyes Road and Highway 1.

The diversification on Black Mountain Ranch are hard to capture in words, but the benefits are easy to see: healthy grazed pastures, the creation of numerous local jobs, and not one but two successful produce operations. All the farmers and ranchers who lease land here are dedicated to protecting the resources that allow their operations to thrive: water, soil, grassland and more.

With the support of our donors, MALT is proud to have protected this ranch nearly 30 years ago and to have provided support through our Stewardship Assistance Program in the years since.

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