‘Best reward’: Grass Valley couple feeds community through Cosmic Roots Ranch
Special to The Union
A typical day for Ellen Cole and her fiancé Jesse Olson of Cosmic Roots Ranch starts with feeding the pigs, chickens and cow, and watering the garden.
“All of our animals know their routine and wait patiently for us at their feeding stations. Once the main morning chores are done, we spend the rest of the day doing whatever we can to make our farm better,” said Cole.
Almost immediately upon purchasing their nearly 9-acre property in 2015 at the intersection of McCourtney Road and Indian Springs Ranch Road, the couple began working it. No stranger to hard work, the couple keeps a busy family life with three children: Jasmine, 15; Ashley, 12; and Landon, 5.
Locally, grown raised & sold
Cosmic Roots Ranch is dedicated almost entirely to raising a heritage breed of pigs known as Mangalitsa. In addition, they grow fruit and vegetables in a 10,000-square-foot garden. The ranch sells products the first Saturday of every month through November at Nevada City’s Farmers Market.
Mangalitsa pigs are a friendly, woolly pre-1800s breed from the Netherlands known for their fat quality and incomparable flavor. Before people had access to refrigeration, the fat content of the animal helped preserve the meat. The breed was nearly extinct until Barbara Meyer Zu Altenschildesche brought them back from the brink, said Cole.
“Until we had researched and found this breed, I was unaware of the long-haired beasts. We often have neighbors ask about our big woolly animals, sometimes mistaking them for bears or wild hogs,” said Cole.
Recently, the couple acquired Victor, a nine-week old, white-haired Blonde Mangalitsa pig from Michigan that will help diversify their stock. A blonde female pig will soon join the ranch, too.
Cole began her early years on a farm on the San Juan Ridge across from Mother Truckers grocery store. Her family grew a garden and raised pigs, goats, cows and chickens. Later, her family moved to Grass Valley, but she never lost her passion for a farming lifestyle.
“I love growing and eating my own food. There’s something about the taste that just can’t be beat,” said Cole, adding she has worked a number of odd jobs during her life and never found anything as meaningful as farming.
Cosmic Roots Ranch found their first customer in Chef Zach Sterner of Penn Valley restaurant Twelve 28 Kitchen. The two businesses came together during last year’s Bounty of the County competition when Sterner took away the top prize. Sterner opened his restaurant shortly after, just in time for Cosmic Roots Ranch first pork harvest.
Since then, they have attracted customers from South Pine Cafe in Grass Valley and at their new on-site farm stand every Thursday afternoon from 3 to 6 p.m. Folks can also browse what’s in stock, place an order and choose from several pickup and delivery options at the ranch website.
‘Setting goals, working to achieve them’
In addition, Cole makes all natural handmade soaps from refined pork tallow. She specializes in four varieties: lavender, peppermint, orange peel and “mellow mint” (a mix of lavender and peppermint).
“Pork Tallow is one of the most cleaning agents available, and leaves your skin feeling amazingly clean and soft,” said Cole.
In September, Cole will travel to Michigan for an annual meeting of Mangalitsa Breeders where she will teach a soap making class. Her soaps are available online, at the Cosmic Roots Ranch farm stand, and at Olson’s parents’ shop, Gold-N-Green Rentals in Grass Valley.
In the coming years, the couple has set goals to improve rotation patterns and forage crops and increase efficiency. Now, Cole daily grows and soaks barley fodder for the pigs, but she dreams of purchasing a fodder machine. Funding for the ranch is always a challenge, but the couple says they always manage to get what they need.
“Setting goals and working hard to achieve them, and see how happy everyone is around us for what we are doing is the best reward I could imagine,” said Cole.
Though the ranch is hard work, they are drawn to the agrarian life and find purpose in the way it gives back.
“I enjoy they daily life of being a farmer,” she said. “I enjoy having a home that helps support my family and many other families by the food I provide. Being able to make a living doing what I love is priceless.”
Learn more at: https://www.cosmicrootsranch.com/
Contact freelance writer Laura Petersen at email@example.com or 913-3067.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to correct the location of Cosmic Roots Ranch, 16284 Indian Springs Ranch Rd
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