In time, Ward and Rosie's goals changed. They began focusing on creating a symbiotic relationship between the land and the animals. In 1999, Ward, Rosie and Christina started Full Circle Dairy. This new dairy would be maintained as a grass pasture based farm: grass would be their main crop, harvested by the cows themselves. The cows would obtain nourishment and fertilize the land at the same time. In 2002, Christina's new husband Brian joined the family business.
I can see that Ward and Rosie are two people who have looked beyond the obvious for ways to farm in harmony with nature. They must have sensed this visionary quality in each other when they met. They've moved inexorably toward what they felt was right for the land, their family, and themselves.
Zeb joined the family venture. He came home from Cal Poly in 2004 with his bride-to-be, Meridith (otherwise known to the family as "Sweetie"). Their meeting was another instance of the spiral of tradition that seems to infuse the Burroughs' lives: like Rosie and Ward, Meridith and Zeb share a passion for horses, and they were drawn to each other by their similar saddles! They also were united in their desire to work the land and their mutual love of animals.
Rosie and Ward wanted to move forward with an organic grass-based dairy on a different part of their farm, and asked Zeb and Meridith to give it a try. They transitioned the land, and then built a beautiful new parlor overlooking their green, irrigated pastures. In 2005 Zeb and Meridith became members of Organic Valley Family of Farms, the largest organic farmer cooperative in the U.S., and California Cloverleaf Farms shipped its first load of organic milk.
Though there were huge learning curves during the first year, things have gone better than expected. "Getting expert advice on managing our herd health from Doc Dettloff and support from other like-minded farmers in the coop has helped us to achieve the kind of farm we had dreamed of," says Zeb and Meridith.
Today, the Burroughs family is proud to report that Christina and Brian's Full Circle Dairy, a 750-acre farm nurturing 550 milking cows, has transitioned to organic and joined the Organic Valley co-op in 2007. Meanwhile, Zeb and Meridith's California Cloverleaf Farms stewards 720 organic acres, and has grown to 570 organic milking cows. On top of this, Ward says, "We are assisting our daughter, Benina, to transition part of the almond farm she oversees. This year we started with 70 acres and we plan to pursue more organic farming.
"Even my brother, who was opposed to our ideas in the beginning, has come around this year to say that he thinks we are doing it right," Ward says. "Each year we see better herd health, cleaner water, and improved soil tilth. I was thinking the other day that this is the way my grandfather farmed in 1906, and we have come full circle, exactly 100 years later, back to the simple ways of nature."