Thirty-one year-old Jarrid Bordessa always knew deep down he wanted to dairy. It was what he’d grown up doing with his father, Gary, and his brother Gino. “But I didn’t know if it was even going to be an option by the time I came on,” Jarrid says.
He knew for sure dairying had to be his life’s work when he was on a summer internship from Cal Poly (California Polytechnic Institute-San Luis Obispo).
“The weather was beautiful and I was sitting in an office staring at a computer screen. I felt like I was trapped in a prison cell. I grew up outside, I love being outside, and all my hobbies are outdoor hobbies. Growing up on the farm was an incredible experience. I knew that when I got married and had kids, I wanted them to have that kind of life. Sitting in that office, I knew I needed the farm for me, too, for my sanity. I love the work and the animals. I do something different every day, and I like that diversity. You have to know a little bit about everything—mechanic, vet, nutritionist, geneticist, soil biologist, engineer, plumber, electrician—but that’s fun for me. It’s challenging.”
Still, Jarrid tried to keep an open mind while he was in college. Their dad always encouraged Jarrid and Gino to do other things, work for other people, and they did. It was a good thing, too. “When I talk about how you have to be able to do a little bit of everything, I think of my brother. He’s incredible that way. He can do anything.”
Gino works the home dairy with their dad just a mile down the road from Jarrid’s place, a 318 acre farm he bought in 2003 when he came home from college. “We bought it from a family who’d had it for a hundred years. It’s not like land comes up for sale every couple of years here and that you’re in a position to buy it. It was a big chunk for us to bite off, but we took the risk, and it has paid off.” They all work together on big projects that come up at either place.
The Bordessas started talking about shifting to organic when Jarrid was still in high school.
“It was my dad’s idea to begin with, but we’re all on board with it now. There’s no denying it’s been good for us, and that’s not just a matter of opinion. The results are right there in black and white. When you talk to most farmers who transition to organic they’ll say they did it for financial reasons, then realized it’s just a better way to farm. We’ve learned a lot. We were frustrated with conventional practices. A lot of the products that get pushed on you when you’re conventional—the antibiotics and hormones—cost a lot of money, don’t help much and probably hurt in many instances. We’ve learned how to dairy without them. That old saying ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ is really true. Preventing a cow from getting sick to begin with is a smart way to do business.”
And the Bordessas’ two dairies certainly do business. The pastures are speckled with the black and white Holsteins they have always favored. Jarrid milks about 275 cows on his dairy, and that’s the right amount of animals as far as he’s concerned.
“I don’t need to get bigger. I need to be more efficient. I need to find the right number of cows for the acreage I have. I don’t like having to harvest feed. I prefer to let the cows do all that.”
Grazing suits their Mediterranean climate well.
“We have rolling hills and rocky ground that isn’t suited to row crops but that grows good pasture naturally. When we went organic, we took steps to improve our pastures by rotational grazing and seeding-in different grasses and clovers. We experiment all the time. Some members of our pasture club are working with a Mediterranean variety of perennial fescue and forage brassicas, and I hear they’re working well. A lot of the seeds they’re developing in Australia will probably work well for us because of similar climate challenges.”
Both Jarrid and Gino are married with children. Jarrid and Jacquelyn met in college. “Jackie’s been incredibly supportive through all this,” Jarrid says. “She had an organic mind set to begin with.” Jacquelyn has her own career in sales/marketing for Proctor & Gamble’s dental division. “She’s not a sit-around kind of woman,” Jarrid says.
And it looks as if Jarrid and Jacquelyn’s children will have that life he envisioned for them so long ago, as well as the freedom to envision it for their children.