Where We Work
Our home base—and our namesake—is the Cuyama Valley, a 75 mile long mountain-ringed stretch of land located in Central California. The name Cuyama derives from kuyam, the name the Chumash gave their village that inhabited this valley for 10,000 years. Kuyam means “freshwater clam,” in reference to the abundant shells that remained in this ancient lakebed, and serves as a reminder of how much this landscape has changed over the years by human and more-than-human forces. The arrival of the Spanish 250 years ago brought with it the arrival of their livestock, a force that changed the landscape in dramatic ways. At Cuyama Lamb, we’ve seen firsthand the ways that historic grazing practices have impacted our land in negative ways. Today, we seek to harness the power of grazing to restore the native ecologies of our valley by grazing differently.
Our home base and the site of inspiration for our inception, Quail Springs is an educational non-profit, subsistence farm, and community nestled into one of Cuyama Valley’s subsidiary canyons in the Ventucopa Uplands. Our 400 acres is home to a perennial spring—one of the last left in the Cuyama Valley—that has been tended by residents since the beginning of Quail Springs in 2004, from a depleting trickle into an increasingly robust riparian corridor that provides refuge for a prolific number of plant and animal species. Cuyama Lamb was born out of a central mission of Quail Springs: to tend and restore the land we live on.
The Gaviota Coast is stunning section of coastline that showcases the quintessential landscape of California: rolling golden hills. In summer it’s the Avena fatua (wild oat) and other annual grasses that grant that golden hue, while in spring it’s the yellow-blossoming wild mustard (Brassica spp.), both of which swept the state after the arrival of the Spanish. While these plants have become definitive in our state, California ecologies have not grown accustomed to their presence: they crowd out natives, including every local species of bunchgrass that historically inhabited the region. While these native species provide essential habitat for bird and mammalian species and prevent soil erosion, the annual grasses crowd out the animals and do little to feed the soils they inhabit. Cuyama Lamb is working with ranches on the Gaviota Coast to restore balance to these coastal grassland ecosystems.