Jennifer Bice named 2014 Leadership in Agriculture Award Winner

Jennifer will be honored at the 42nd Annual Ag-BBQ

We’re so happy to share that the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce recently announced Redwood Hill Farm owner and CEO Jennifer Bice will receive the Leadership in Agriculture award at this year’s Agri-Business BBQ on July 29th! The 42nd Annual Agri-Business BBQ honoring the diverse and pivotal role of the agriculture community in shaping the quality of life here in Sonoma County, will take place at Shone Farm, Santa Rosa Junior College’s 365-acre outdoor learning laboratory. Select HERE for more details on the awards event in July.

Jennifer began showing and learning about dairy goats as a young Sonoma County 4H member.

In 1978, Jennifer Lynn Bice assumed ownership of Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery, Inc., the family farm and Grade A goat dairy the Bice family started in Sonoma County in 1968, and never looked back. Along with her late husband, Steven Schack, Jennifer expanded the business to produce a greater variety of goat milk products, and diversified the dairy goat-breeding program.

Today Redwood Hill Farm is owned and operated by Jennifer, along with five of her siblings that worked to establish Redwood Hill Farm in the 1960’s.  In addition, more than 50 dedicated employees now run the day-to-day operations at the Certified Humane® farm and state-of-the-art organic creamery in Sebastopol. Promoting the benefits of goat milk products and developing a genetics program of excellence for the Redwood Hill Farm herd remain her top priorities, and this commitment has positioned Redwood Hill Farm at the forefront of the dairy goat industry.

Jennifer with her National Champion Redwood Hills Jambalya.

Like all company owners, Jennifer is mindful of the bottom line, but for her it is a “triple bottom line” – planet, people, profits – with an added “P” for pledge. The Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery Pledge is a statement of the family’s commitment to producing delicious dairy products of the highest quality and providing a sustainable environment and implementing practices for the benefit of the animals, the land, and people.

Quality and sustainability have remained Jennifer’s guiding principles throughout the years. The most recent example is a 2,548 panel solar energy system encompassing nearly two acres of roof space on the creamery. The goat dairy farm is 100% solar powered. Redwood Hill Farm also holds the distinction of being the first goat dairy in the United States to be Certified Humane® by Humane Farm Animal Care, which is considered the gold standard in third-party certification for humane animal treatment.  From artisan cheeses consistently awarded in national competitions, to superior goat milk yogurt and kefir, to a dairy goat breeding program that has brought her national acclaim, Jennifer remains true to her vision of providing a satisfying and sustainable lifestyle for the farm, the goats and all of her employees.

Her goats are consistent award winners at shows throughout the country, and Jennifer was named Premier Breeder by the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) at its 2012 National Show.  She has served as a dairy goat judge throughout the United States and Canada for more than 31 years and holds the distinct honor of being selected to judge the ADGA National Show seven times. Jennifer is chair of the Judge’s Training Committee and serves on various ADGA committees such as Linear Appraisal, Products, and Annual Meeting. She is a past board member of the American Cheese Society (ACS) and was inducted into the ACS Academy of Cheese in 2011 as one of the 8 pioneers of artisan goat cheese in the U.S.

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Mother Nature’s Fly Trap: Insect Control at Redwood Hill Farm

Bait jugs filled with prepared bait

How we control the flies on our organic farm including complete plans for “Mother Nature’s Fly Trap”

We are totally committed to protecting our environment and the health/safety of our employees and goats.  Therefore, we have a policy of zero tolerance for synthetic chemical pesticides.  Cleanliness and sanitation are the first line of defense against such pests as common flies.  Their larvae need a moist, nitrogen rich area in which to incubate and hatch.  In so far as possible, such habitats are minimized in our management.  However, certain areas are always problematic on a working farm, such as around and underneath platforms supporting water tanks.  Insect predators are routinely distributed to such areas to feed on the fly larvae.

We allow swallows to nest under the eaves in the outside peaks of our barns.

Mud nest and barn swallows.

Seasonally these swallows are constantly busy swooping through the air to catch flying insects to transport back to their mud dabbed nests to fill the ever hungry mouths of each fledgling hatch.  Literally thousands of insects are needed each day to feed these babies.  This is a self-perpetuating cycle, as these young birds will return to these same nests each year after their southern migration for the winter.  One can almost time their return towards the end of April, and a flurry of activity will again occur under the eaves as nests are repaired, prior to the laying of eggs in preparation for the newest hatch.

Fly tape used in barns

Inside the barns and milking area, large reels of sticky tape with a naturally occurring fly attractant, but no pesticide, are strung at the ceiling.  Flies land and cannot take off.  Each day these reels are wound so that the fly covered tape is replaced by new tape.  This patented product is available from agricultural supply companies, such as www.schlueterco.com.

Still the battle against flies demands other more drastic measures

About twenty-five years ago, we had a very inventive employee who garnered the nickname of Mother Nature.  She was constantly trying to improve on various products available commercially.  Her creativity was boundless, as was her enthusiasm. She set out to improve on the original “Big Stinky”.  As a cottage business, she began designing and assembling large fly traps to sell to the farm.  As she refined her design, such traps became more and more effective.  She no longer works for the farm, but her legacy endures in Mother Nature’s Fly Trap.  The original traps are slowly disintegrating and often need to have extensive repairs and/or rebuilding.  This is now an annual spring maintenance project.  Currently, there are about twenty of these large fly traps in use at Redwood Hill Farm.  Visitors often ask about how these traps work and instructions to assemble and maintain them.

First of all, a bit about fly dining habits

Fly trap for controlling barn flys

There is a bait tray at the bottom of each trap with a fermented mixture of two food grade ingredients in water.  As it ages, it smells like something dead and flies will enter the bottom of the trap to get at such a delicacy.  The interior of the trap immediately above the bait tray is an inverted mesh screen cone which narrows to about 3” at the top.  Once a fly has eaten its fill, it usually likes to fly straight upward towards light, which in this case is at the top of the cone.  For whatever reason, no fly has yet mutated to the extent that it can figure out how to escape by going back down that same cone.  The more flies that are angrily buzzing around in the top of the trap, the more flies will enter the base of the trap to participate in the feeding frenzy.  The captured flies eventually dehydrate and drop dead.  As these accumulate and build up around the cone in the trap interior, less and less light will be visible at the top of the cone to lure flies to their fate.

Routine cleaning to remove dead flies is necessary; chickens regard desiccated fly as a special delicacy!

A bottle storing prepared fly bait.During the cleaning, the screen mesh should be carefully sprayed with water to remove accumulated dust and cobwebs.  Flies prefer a clean, well lit trap.  An extra bonus during yellow jacket season is that they also will enter the traps not for the bait, but rather to feast on still living flies.  They appear to be no smarter than their prey, cannot figure out to go back down the cone, and dehydrate and die as well.

Bait jugs filled with prepared baitThe recipe for the bait is listed at bottom of page. Place a 9 inch disposable foil circular cake pan at the trap bottom, fill half way up with bait, carefully position in the center under the cone.  As the bait dries out, refresh with additional bait.  Eventually this foil container will be full of dried bait.  Discard in a sealed garbage bag (otherwise the flies will attack your garbage containers!).  Fill and insert a fresh bait tray.  Because of the smell when handling, the use of disposable plastic gloves is recommended.

How to assemble a trap:

  1. You will need a piece of galvanized 2” X 1” welded wire, 24” wide and 36” long, with no points protruding on any side.
  2. Form this into a cylinder with the 24” sides meeting and attach together with cage clips, available at most hardware stores.  On one end which will be the top do not clip the last two inches together.  At the other end which will be the base and opposite
    to the junction, use diagonal pliers to cut off 2” by 10” of the wire (this will be where the bait tray can be inserted).  Set aside.
  3. Now the hardest part!  Use a concrete forming tube about 11 1/2” in diameter. Mark around the tube at 22” from one end.
  4. Cut a piece of aluminum mesh window screen 30” in width and 42” in length. Roll the screen around the tube at the line, with 10” of screen extending beyond the end of the tube.  A set of helping hands would be very useful at this point.
  5. Temporarily remove the screen from the tube, marking where that 10” line is.
  6. Flatten the screen and mark at 9”, 18”, and 27”.
  7. Use a straight edge to fold over and crease at the 10” mark again. Flatten.
  8. Firmly crease triangular sections of the screen folding upwards from the bottom at the midpoint of the three marks towards each mark.  These folded over triangular sections will form the top of the cone.
  9. Then flatten again and reposition on the tube, with the 10” protruding with the creased sections.
  10. Hold the 3” overlap of the screen from each side firmly together and fold around a yard stick at least twice, tightly creasing each fold.
  11. Using a large common paper stapler, staple the folded screen together as your helper slowly pulls out the yard stick towards the 10” end.  Do not yet staple the 10” which will form the cone.  Gently invert those 10” into the tube and slip the mesh off the tube.  Reach inside to overlap the triangular sections one at a time and staple together; overlap the unstapled end section and staple firmly.

The hardest part is now done. But the tedious part begins!

  1. Carefully insert the screen into the wire cylinder with the cone at the same end as the opening made for the bait tray.  There should be 2” of welded wire below the bottom of the mesh cone.
  2. At the top of the welded wire cylinder and beginning where the two ends are clipped, carefully align the stapled seam of the mesh screen.
  3. Use very fine gauge vinyl coated electrical wire and weave through the mesh at every 1” spacing from inside out and then over and repeat 36 times. (Do not weave through the stapled seam to allow flexibility.)
  4. Weave snugly but very delicately so as not to distort the mesh.  Wrap the ends around the welded wire on either side of where it is clipped together to allow for some adjustment when fitting the lid.
  5. Using cable staples carefully tack the base of the trap in three of four places to a pre-painted 12” square of 3/8 to 5/8 “ exterior plywood.
  6. Use a standard five gallon white bucket lid (preferably white) to make the top.  Drill a 2” circular hole in the center.  Cut a 3” square of acrylic plastic, position over the hole in the lid and attach at two opposite corners with ¾” No. 8 self-tapping hex head screws.
  7. Very carefully push this top onto the trap, being sure not to crunch the mesh downward.  The lid groove intended for the bucket should snugly fit the upper part of the trap.  Some flexibility is possible because the top of the cylinder was not clipped together.
  8. To form a handle, either use a heavy gauge insulated electrical wire or heavy gauge wire with a piece of flexible drip irrigation tubing slipped over it.  This should be about 30” in length and attached by twisting to itself on opposing sides of the trap to the welded wire about 4” from the top and well away from the join in the welded wire.

Mother Nature’s Fly Trap works best when clean, freshly baited, and placed in the full sun.  If a trap fails to attract flies, it may be that spiders have spun a web in the cone.  Carefully remove the acrylic square in the lid and use a long stick to carefully swish around the interior of the cone to remove cobwebs.  Keep the acrylic clean.  Always refresh the bait after rains.

Recipe for Fly Trap Bait

A do-it-youself recipe for baiting your fly trap

Yield: 1/2 gallon   Prep: 10 mins   Cook: 2 days

Ingredients
  • 1/2 gallon water warm, not hot
  • 1 1/4 cups yeast active, dry
  • 1 heaping Tbsp ammonium carbonate (a powdered leavening agent; available on line at www.spectrumchemical.com; order technical powder
Instructions
  1. In a small pail, whisk together warm water with baking yeast.
  2. Add ammonium carbonate and whisk well.
  3. Pour into a one gallon plastic bottle. Plug the top with a vapor lock such as is used in home brewing; this simple device allows gases to escape during the fermentation process.
  4. Place in a warm place out of the sun and let it age for at least two days prior to use.

Our dairy goat buck Jarvis.
We hope that you’ll try it and let us know how it works for you. We’d love to share your comments! “Bucky Boy” Jarvus says keep the goats in your barn smiling by using Mother Nature’s Fly Trap!

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Redwood Hill’s Rima: A Very Special Dairy Goat

Redwood Hills Rima
By Scott “Goat Guy” Bice

All of our goats at Redwood Hill are special, but every once in a while, a certain individual will come along and grab everyone’s attention. From the experienced goat breeder visiting Redwood Hill Farm who exclaims “WOW!!” when they see her gliding around the barn, to the third grade student that very same goat befriends by coming up and rubbing her gently on their back, as if saying, “Love me”.
Meet Rima, the American Dairy Goat Association’s (ADGA) 2012 National Champion and Best Udder Alpine.
Rima combines the strength and sweetness that her maternal family line, Redwood Hills Zimba is known for, and the style her sire, Shining Moon X-Rated, is gaining a reputation for. X-Rated sired four age class winners at the 2012 National Show and was named Premier Alpine Sire of Show!

Redwood Hill Farm's Rima

Rima as the Alpine Junior National Champion in 2009

2012 was not Rima’s first time at an ADGA National Show. In 2009, Rima went to the National Show in Sacramento as a junior yearling. She won her age class and was then named the Junior National Champion for the Alpine breed. It was evident that we had a special one here. That fall, we repeated the breeding of her mother, Raindrop, to X-Rated. In the Spring of 2010, Rima’s full sister, Redwood Hills Drop of Rain was born. Rain was awarded first place two year old at the 2012 ADGA National Show.

Redwood Hill Farm's Rima at ADGA National Show

In 2010, Rima and about twenty five herd mates made the long trip to Louisville, Kentucky for the ADGA National Show. Rima freshened with a beautiful mammary system and earned the first place ribbon in her age class at Nationals once again! Former Redwood Hill employee and alpine breeder Ben Rupchis handled her in the show ring that year. I recently asked Ben his thoughts about working with Rima, and he responded: “Rima is joie de vivre in caprine form. She was a charmer the moment she freshened as a yearling. Her infectious optimism and cheerfulness–always expecting and appreciating extra attention and goodies–brightened chores on even the rainiest of spring mornings. In the parlor, after milking she would turn on the stanchion in hopes of a hug and scratch on the withers after being milked. She is always among the first to inquisitively wander over to see what treats you may have brought her either in the barn at home or at the show.”

Redwood Hill Farm's Rima

Rima is the 2012 ADGA National Champion and Best Udder Alpine

We did not attend the 2011 National Show, as Massachusetts is a bit too far for us to travel. This year, ADGA held the National Show in Loveland, Colorado and we began our trip out there on July 4th. This year was different, as we traveled in a “goat caravan” with four trailers of goats and multiple California herds. One thing was the same as our last trip, Rima was attending and looking great. She won her age group once again, this time as a three year old. When all of the age class winners came in for the selection of Senior Champion, the air was thick with tension and the field deep with competition. Rima, as usual, carried a look of confidence and a carriage of grace in that final lineup.
We were overwhelmed with joy as she was then named Senior Champion and then ADGA’s 2012 National Champion and Best Udder Alpine.

Alpine kids of Redwood Hill Farm's Rima

If that wasn’t exciting enough, we were thrilled as we heard Rima’s 2012 born son, Redwood Hills Snapple Resonate, was just accepted into this years Spotlight Sale in Boise, Idaho! The Spotlight Sale is a live auction held annually at the ADGA National Convention and is the culmination of a week full of everything goat. Only a few nominations are accepted into this prestigious sale and we are very proud of this boy and his potential as a herdsire!
Redwood Hill Farm Herd Manager Trinity Smith had this to say about our newest National Champion: “Rima is the quintessential dairy goat. Full of personality. Any person is drawn to the sparkle in her eye, and her radiating curiosity. She puts milk in the bucket better than most, and reigns as one of the barn queens. Now with multiple National Show wins, she is quite sure she should monopolize all human attention that is offered. Simply put she combines the work and play of life as well as any other goat out there!”
Rima has given us at Redwood Hill Farm so many special moments in such a small amount of time. Her family line is known for outstanding longevity, so hopefully this is just the first few chapters in an outstanding novel!

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The First Olive Harvest at Redwood Hill Farm

Bice family picking the first Olive harvest

At Thanksgiving time in 2012, our family gathered around more than just a dining room table.  We also gathered around an olive grove for our very first harvest of the beautiful Tuscan olive trees planted two and a half years earlier.

In Italy there are many festivals in November to celebrate the olive harvest, when family and friends gather to harvest the plump green and purple fruit by hand.  On a cold but sunny morning, we started a new Bice family tradition: picking the fruit to make “green gold”—the buttery, peppery, and delicious olive oil.

In 2008, we were able to purchase the 10 acre property that bordered Redwood Hill Farm. This new land for us consisted mostly of old neglected apple trees. We went right to work on trying to revitalize the orchard and we enjoy our “annual cider press day” every late summer. We began to spread the goat manure in the orchard certain times of the year and it has done wonders for feeding the apple trees as well as retaining moisture for the organic, dry farmed apples. The extension to our property also gave us space for our solar panel system, which powers 100 percent of the dairy, barns and housing around them; once again continuing our commitment to sustainability. Later in 2009, after touring some of our fabulous local olive oil producers, Jennifer along with our Dad, Kenneth, decided we should dedicate a small piece of the new property to that ancient Mediterranean fruit.

Planting our first Tuscan olive oil trees

During that winter I planned the planting of the new grove, although it was a difficult time for us because our mother Cynthia passed away after a long bout with ovarian cancer.  Like the olive trees, Mom was always strong and lived much longer than the doctors first predicted.  I am grateful that she was with us to welcome the arrival of our son Colton, who was born six months before she passed away.  The staff at Redwood Hill Farm thoughtfully and appropriately gave our family an olive tree as a memorial gift; the olive branch is a symbol of peace, and although we were deeply saddened by the loss of our dear mother, it was a relief to know that after an arduous battle, she is now at peace.

Redwood Hill Farm ~ Capracopia olive orchard installation with Farm Manager Scott Bice and Dad Ken Bice

The darker days of winter turned into the renewal of Spring, and it was time to plant the young olive trees. Dad, horticulturist and drip irrigation extraordinaire, came up from Arizona to help me with the project. We purchased 35 trees of Tuscan varietal from local oil producer McEvoy Ranch. Mom’s tree is a Frantaio varietal and went in first. We also planted Leccino, Pendolino and Maurino varieties. Our orchard is composed of the famed Goldridge soil—a rich, sandy loam ideal for many fruit trees, including olives. This along with our Mediterranean climate, a south easterly sun exposure and ample amounts of composted goat manure, was the perfect recipe for the vigorous growth of the juvenile trees.  We pinched off the tiny olive flower buds the first two springs the trees were in the ground so all the energy could go into branch growth. The third spring we allowed the buds to turn into tiny white flowers that would soon be wind pollinated and create the fruit that would lead to our first harvest.

The Bice family posing with buckets of olives

It was nice to have harvest time right after Thanksgiving as Dad was here for the holiday and could help with the harvest of the trees he planted two and a half years earlier. The various olive varieties ripen at different times. For optimum complexity of the oil, it is best to harvest the olives when you have a good mix of green (not fully ripe) and purple (ripe) fruit. The green fruit will add more “grassy” and “peppery” notes to the oil while the purple fruit will add “floral” and “buttery” notes. Timing of the fruit was perfect as well as the weather, as the sun warmed our bodies while we plucked the fruit.  Laughter and the pleasant conversation of three generations of our family could be heard as we moved down the rows. The plump fruit were gathered into buckets that later would be brought to a community press where it would be crushed into the pungent, fresh green oil. We had a contest to guess the total weight of what we picked and sister Sharon won, being only one pound off of the 160 pound total! Not bad at all for such young trees.

We will enjoy this maiden harvest of oil with our favorite crusty bread, atop salads made of farm grown greens, and with classic goat milk feta cheeses. There is an old Italian saying that “You plant an olive orchard for your grand children”. This came about due to the slow growth of trees and the many years it takes for them to reach full production. It may be true that yields will be small for now, but being seeing my children out with their Granddad, as well as there Aunties and Uncles on a beautiful morning on our special farm, makes me so thankful for all we have now.

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