I’m Alice Bamford and first of all, I’m a mama — Otis is three and Iris just turned nine months. Secondly, I’m a biodynamic farmer, cultivator of the land and lover of good soil. My partner, Ann Eysenring, and I are passionate cultivators and custodians of One Gun Ranch, a biodynamic farm in Malibu. We are also shopkeepers; we have a shop at the end of Malibu Pier: Ranch at the Pier, a general store selling everything from seeds to surf boards. We are constantly seeking and creating special things.
From the moment I was born, I was connected to the land. I come from a farming family in Northern England, a long line of farmers and farriers (we make horseshoes) and farm equipment.
When I was three months old, I became a catalyst without even realizing it. In 1976, during a summer heat wave in England, my mama was pushing me around in my stroller on our farm in Northern England. She realized that while the farm crops were doing well, the roses were dying. My mama knew the roses shouldn’t be dying — even in the heat. So she started doing her research. When she asked the farmer about it, he said, “Oh yes, we’ve been putting this magical thing on our crops, it’s making everything grow so well by killing all of the weeds. It’s called Roundup.” My mama said, “Well, it might be good for the crops, but it’s certainly not good for the roses, and it can’t be good for me or my new baby daughter, who is breathing this air.” And how right she was, back in 1976.
My mama is a huge influence and inspiration in my life, and she really had the foresight to see that these roses were dying from Roundup, a weed killer full of the most horrific chemicals. Not only does it affect the land, on a very human level, it affects us. There have now been so many cases showing chemicals in Roundup to be carcinogens (known to cause cancer). Roundup was really a symptom of it’s time, post-Second World War, where people were coming back from war and wanted instant solutions. They looked at new hope and new solutions and suddenly a weed killer seemed very convenient. People were drawn to living in the cities, so there were a lot less people working in agriculture. It solved a human resource problem of our time, and people were focused on the benefits and not the risks.
That moment led my mama to deep, deep investigation; she started going to the agricultural shows, and at the time there was very little information about organics. There was of course Rachel Carson’s incredible book and bible, Silent Spring, but apart from that, you really had to dig. She started talking to organic farmers and began to understand that organic farming was the way forward. In the mid-to-late 70’s conventional farming was still the way to go because you could grow larger crops. She persuaded our farmers to go organic, which meant having smaller crops until they got the hang of it. So, I was the catalyst for my family farm going organic in 1976, and we’ve been organic ever since.
Our family farm in England, called Daylesford Farm, is completely wonderful, productive and abundant. We farm 12,000 acres in total, all organic crops, lots of heritage varieties of radishes, lettuces, tomatoes, and we also raise heritage cattle. We saved a rare breed that was going into extinction, so we are actually farming Gloucester cattle in Gloucester, and producing Gloucester cheese from the milk of the cattle. We get very involved in the heart of how farming was and how it should be. The farm is a healthy business — it’s a farm shop, a creamery, we raise our cattle, lambs and chicken there. And we have five shops in London and two spas in London as well, called Bamford, and we make skincare products with some of our ingredients from the farm. We live our ethos: what you put in and outside your body must be true and authentic, and very well-sourced.
Now we live in a time where people are much more aware — we’re beyond the tipping point. But when we turn on the television, we still hear stories of Roundup impacting our health. My hope is that in five or ten years, Roundup isn’t being used at all, and that there are alternative and very viable solutions.
Growing up on the farm in England, running around and riding horses, meals were very important to my family and me. We would literally roam around and pick our lunch and dinner, find the berries and carrots, and it was an absolute joy to eat fresh food on the spot — that perfect crunch and instant, overwhelming sense of flavor and deliciousness. And feeling in every fiber of your being that what you’re eating, is so nourishing and good for you. That’s when I began to realize that I was born of this, and as a farmer, I feel absolutely complete.
My mama used to say to me, ”Eat your vegetables, eat your medicine.” And that’s something I truly believe. rowing up, we lived very healthfully, and there was always an herb or a fruit to use for an ailment if we were feeling ill. I was very aware that there were no poisons in what we were eating; it was all very clean. We had an excitement for the seasons similarly to how people feel about Easter or Christmas or Halloween. We’d celebrate each herb or flower or food as it came in season. It was my childhood, something taught to me by my family, but it was something that became a part of me at the same time.
As mamas now, Annie and I really celebrate with our children — it’s part of our day-to-day existence. First thing in the morning, we’ll go pick the vegetables or the herbs with the kids, pulling carrots out of the ground, and we save our food scraps, collecting them every day. We use them to feed the chickens, and then collect their eggs. It’s that wonderful circle of life, and it’s so exciting when you’re a child. It’s my son Otis’ favorite thing to do, to pick carrots or feed the chickens and check how many eggs there are today.
It’s not just the products and food that’s making us sick, it’s also the barrage of information, the noise, the technology, the constant feeling to be plugged in and as human beings, that’s not how we’re designed to be. We’re made up of flesh, water and nature — and that’s what we truly need to connect with. It’s so interesting that now iPhones tell us our “screen time,” it’s a very good reminder, because it’s so easy to get stuck there. There’s nothing like spending time in nature until you are thoroughly exhausted, to fall down, to learn to stand up, to have a full physical day and go to sleep exhausted. I think is a wonderful childhood to have.
We try to have wooden toys, we recycle clothing — our daughter Iris wears a lot of my baby clothes from 1976, and my kids play with a lot of my childhood toys that we’ve kept. And I’ll save their clothing and toys for their children as well, just as my mama did for me. Iris has been wearing Annie’s shoes from the late 60’s, so there’s a wonderful way to treasure some objects, full and infused with memories. Now when the grandparents see their grandchildren wearing their clothes, there’s something magical about that. It’s a full circle, closing the loop, and that brings up so much good emotion, and truly is sustainable.
Nature puts everything in perspective. We live by nature’s rhythm, and there’s a beginning and end to every day. There’s always hope, there’s always renewal, and there’s always rebirth. And the timing — nature doesn’t hurry, and yet everything is achieved.
And it’s so true... in death, passing on, or passing to the next chapter or life, everything is renewed. That’s how I see it. I see life, I see death, we are here now, and goodness, we might come back in the future.
Annie and I have created our slice of heaven in Malibu at One Gun Ranch. It’s a biodynamic ranch. We also helped build a biodynamic, edible garden at UCLA, which was a five year project. It’s an old outdoor amphitheater, and it has now become an edible amphitheater that we opened last year. Now people sit on benches amongst the food that was being grown there, the food grown goes into food lockers, and it is there to feed the students who are less fortunate and rely on ten meals a week from the lockers. That was an incredibly proud moment. In five years we did this and are now seeing the results — from the seed of an idea to a garden now being tended by the students.
Alice and Ann’s 3 Tips for Living Sustainably:
- Seek out a local farmer’s market and talk to your local farmers.
- Shop in the organic section and think of “food miles”— go, biodynamic, local and seasonal whenever possible.
- Find ways to eat and reuse food, repurposing the scraps and waste.