Recognize this happy face? Brandon helps with the Rockside Ranch booth at our farmer's market frequently. He's one of the many young men Rockside Ranch, a 100-acre non-profit from Etna, has helped since its inception in 2012, when the Thompsons, Dolans and Kate Newgent came together with the full intent of creating a farm program that would equip at-risk youth for life.
Craig Thompson is frequently at the booth, too. Farming is in his blood: his family has been farming rice in the Chico area for four generations now, but Craig "broke the mold" by working with livestock instead.
The biggest reason for working with livestock? "Animals are a good tool. A lot of times we can connect with an animal easier than we can a human. Working with animals fosters responsibility, compassion, and it's therapeutic."
This is important because the young men that Rockside Ranch works with often don't have these life skills in place. Over a million 18-24 year olds are in jail, rehab, or on the streets, or have aged out of the foster care system and are at-risk. Rockside Ranch has put together a 16-32 week program to help youth develop the necessary tools for success. There are non-residential programs for both men and women, and an on-site residential program for men (this is currently what they have housing for). Graduates of the program move right into a job or into school, and before they leave they have a plan in place that includes housing, transportation, employment, education, and service (how they will participate in their community). Craig says that graduates become like family, sharing holidays, and people often come back to visit.
What does this incredible non-profit mean for us at the market? It means giving youth a chance, and it means pasture-raised meat and eggs: certified organic chicken, eggs, pork and turkey as well as grass-fed lamb. You can even call or email and order beforehand and they'll bring it to the market for pickup (one of us does this frequently for chicken feet, which Craig introduced us to as a delectable and healthy treat for dogs: loaded with collagen, protein-rich and high in chondroitin, our old dogs and their joints are very grateful for these treats!)
Rockside Ranch sells direct from the farm, and at the Mount Shasta, Etna and Weaverville farmers' markets. They also have a delivery route once a month that visits Chico, Redding and the Bay Area. Purchases go to directly support the life-changing work of Rockside Ranch.
To hear Brandon tell his story and see pictures of the stewards and animals of this incredibly beautiful place, check out their website at http://www.rocksideranch.org.
Craig also keeps an Instagram account with more photos and inspiration at https://www.instagram.com/rocksideranch.craig/
See you Monday!