I wanted to talk to holistic rancher Doniga Markegard about the ethics of cattle ranching, and I was pleasantly surprised with a far-ranging chat about how cows, our personal choices and the health of our local food webs are all deeply entwined.
Doniga Markegard and her husband Eric are hard at work in their paradise of ethical meat.
Following Allan Savory’s visionary prescription for what he calls “holistic management” of grasslands, the Markegard family’s method of ranching is restoring California’s threatened prairies while feeding people healthy and delicious meat and milk. They flip the traditional ranching model on its head in a very interesting way: by putting their needs, the needs of their community and the needs of the environment they live in first. A successful ranching business seems to spring organically from that groundwork.
Along with her husband and four children, Doniga owns and operates Markegard Family Grass-Fed LLC raising grass-fed beef, lamb, pastured pork, chicken and dairy supplying the Bay Area with local, nutrient-dense foods. The family ranch leases land throughout the Bay Area, spanning over 10,000 acres.
Doniga is dedicated to finding ways to regenerate lands and community through ranching practices that build soil, sequester carbon, capture and purify water and enhance habitat.
I wanted to talk to her about holistic management, the ins and outs of ethical meat, the “meat is cruelty” debate and what it’s like raising free range kids. Although we only got to the first two topics—we did plan a follow-up—this is a great conversation with a very interesting and passionate protector of the planet. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Doniga has recently published a book about her personal journey from vagabonding child of the earth to professional wildlife tracker to mother and ethical meat entrepreneur. Her book, Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild, is out now anywhere books are sold.