Mark grew up in Southern California but always dreamed of escaping the city and becoming a farmer. In 1971, at the age of 19, he bought the 65-acre heart of the 873-acre ranch known then as Devils Gulch Ranch. Subsequently, Congress included the ranch within the boundaries set for the expanded Golden Gate Recreation Area in 1980 and bought all but Mark’s 65 acres. From 1866 until sometime in the 1940’s, the ranch was used as a grade B dairy (producing cream that was sold and skim milk that was fed to hogs). From then on until Mark’s acquisition of the property in 1971, it was vacant, used only for grazing cattle.
The barn on the property was originally built in 1866 and has been remodeled by Mark twice. Because the ranch was off the grid, Mark installed a windmill in 1973 which was his sole source of electricity until 1980, when he planted the vineyard and connected to Pacific Gas & Electric to pump water for irrigating. In 2004, he replaced the old windmill with a much larger one that feeds into Pacific Gas & Electric using net-metering just as solar panels do. There is also a 24Kw solar system on the roof of the old barn making Devils Gulch Ranch almost entirely self-sufficient for electricity.
Mark has raised pigs since his arrival at Devils Gulch Ranch, using milk, brewer’s grains, bread and tortillas as primary finishing feeds. The rabbits began as 3 breeding does for 4-H projects 12 years ago, and have increased to well over 2000 in order to meet the demand of the restaurant customers (French Laundry, Chez Panisse, Perbacco, State Bird Provisions, Jardiniere, Zuni, Kuleto’s, Flour and Water, Kin Khao, A-16, Bar Agricole, La Folie, etc).
Dutton-Goldfield and Sean Thackrey both produce Devils Gulch Ranch Marin County Pinot Noirs from the vineyards, which pair extremely well with the meats they produce. Mark produces his own compost for the vineyards from the rabbits, pigs and sheep that he raises. He was one of the first in California to graze his sheep in the vineyard during the winter, a trend that is more commonplace now. Mark sits on the Sonoma County (really district 3) Winegrape Commission, the Petaluma Gap Grape and Wine Alliance, the Marin County Winegrowers Association, and was past vice president of the North Coast Grape Growers Association.
Many restaurants have offered Devils Gulch nights featuring their meats and wines from their grapes. Several times a year there are events at the ranch in order for people to have the opportunity to meet Mark and Myriam, visit, taste, and purchase the products from Devils Gulch Ranch. Currently, Devils Gulch Ranch has booths at the Saturday SF Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and the Sunday Marin County Farmers Market. I attended a whisky dinner recently where 8 top chefs prepped 8 courses of knockout cuisine. Chefs love cooking Devil’s Gulch offerings as much as Mark and Myriam (and myself) enjoy the reward – eating.
(credit: Foodie Chap/Liam Mayclem)
Mark welcomes questions, dialogue, and networking with anyone interested in food, farming and animal husbandry. I ventured north recently to spend a delightful evening in the company of Mark and his lovely wife Myriam. We walked the property for much of our Foodie Chap chat, encountering pigs, rabbits, horses and farm dogs along the way…a real working ranch that has evolved with the times but stayed true to its commitment to sustainable practices. We enjoyed BBQ quail for dinner washed down with some DGR Pinot. A right royal treat if ever there was.
Enjoy the conversation and the quail recipe.
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