Helping Cows Meet Grass at Larga Vista Ranch

Doug with his bull Smoothie and one of his calves.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Larga Vista Ranch in Boone, Colorado, along with some of the Bon Appétit team from Colorado College.  Doug Wiley, who owns Larga Vista Ranch along with his wife Kim, is one of those passionate, charismatic people that I could listen to all day.  A fourth-generation farmer working land that has been in his family for 95 years, he is well versed in everything from the benefits of raw milk to climate change and food safety.

A staunch believer in organic, Doug grew up raising dairy cows and growing their feed using the conventional cocktail of chemicals.  “I got tired of being sick from using chemicals “ Doug said when I inquired as to what inspired him to switch his practices.  In college his whole mindset about farming changed, and despite his professors’ efforts he didn’t buy into the need for pesticides when it was clear that “the insect were winning the war.”  The Wileys describe their practices as being “beyond organic,” saying they exceed the USDA requirements for organic certification and strive to use practices that are best for both people and the environment.

Doug loves collecting eggs from his pastured chickens every day.

Doug still raises dairy cows, but his methods are vastly different than those he grew up using.  As a child, 90% of the work on the farm was performed on a tractor, but now he spends his days walking the pastures, constantly analyzing how the cows are doing. He summed up his job by paraphrasing a New Zealand farmer, saying his main job is to “help cows meet grass.”

Doug and Kim also grow vegetables, rotating the cows, pigs, vegetables, and crops for animal feed to different plots so as to take care of the land. Besides buying some of their beef and pork, Bon Appétit “has made our vegetable business viable,” Doug said. “They really helped us build that enterprise to the level we like.”

One of the highlights of my visit was talking with Doug while he collected eggs.  “Everyday I collect eggs, and it’s just fun,” Doug said of his recently added pastured egg operation.  While he was working, a strange color caught my eye from the sea of light brown and pink eggs inside his basket. One of the eggs was a muted green color, and another was the exact color of teal children across America attempt to dye their Easter Eggs.  While I knew that the different colors of chickens would lay different colored eggs, I never dreamed I’d see an egg that shade of blue occurring naturally.

Beth’s 13-week-old puppy Rosie meeting a calf.

When preparing me for my visit to Larga Vista Ranch, the first information offered up by Beth Gentry, the General Manager at Colorado College — after “he’s awesome” — was “he has a yurt.”  While contemplating an addition to their house, a magazine serendipitously fell on the ground and opened up to a page advertising a yurt.  It seemed meant to be when one of the two places to buy yurts in the USA was located nearby in Colorado, so they purchased one and sent out an email to their shareholders, getting a group of 20 volunteers to come out and help them construct it.

Creative and passionate, it’s farmers like the Wileys who are changing our food system from the ground up.