We are proud to offer Rock Front Ranch's honey and certified organic jujubes here at the Co-op! As our Featured Local Vendor from September 6 – 19, their honey and jujubes are on sale:
Honey (1 lb), regular $13.99, sale $11.99
Honey (2 lb), regular $22.99, sale $19.99
Dried Jujubes (5 oz), regular $8.99, sale $7.69
Fresh Jujubes (1 lb), regular $4.99 lb, sale $3.99
Alisha Taff and Barney Skelton had been running cattle and raising performance horses on their Rock Front Ranch and were looking to diversify. With poor soil and a lack of water in the Cuyama Valley, Alisha knew she didn’t want to grow conventional crops that would need a lot of inputs to get to market. Wary of exploiting the land, she sought out crops that would work within the biome. She collaborated with an expert she met through the California Rare Fruit Growers (CRFG) to determine what would be suitable.
Alisha learned that jujubes would be perfectly matched to conditions at the ranch. They are native to Asia and the variety that she grows is drought-tolerant, hardy to -30°, and very prolific. Jujubes were already familiar to Alisha; as an Asian-American, she has happy memories of eating jujubes as a child but had no idea they were so nutritious. Fresh jujubes have many more times the amount of Vitamin C that citrus fruits have, and they are loaded with potassium as well. Jujubes have 18 of the 24 amino acids and contain flavonoids, important for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Flavonoids have sedative and calming effects as well, and have been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat anxiety and insomnia.
Not only that, but jujubes taste wonderful! When selecting fresh jujubes, pick the browner fruits which will be sweeter (though don’t be surprised if they seem a bit dry, as they are not a juicy fruit). They have a pit but other than that, can be eaten skin and all. Dried jujubes are delicious right out of the bag or used as any other dried fruit.
In addition to jujubes, Rock Front Ranch is known for its exceptional honey. It is the only honey in the western United States to be certified free of glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup. This is very rare because the vast majority of honey bees are trucked around the country to pollinate various crops, and so come into contact with farms where Roundup is used. But because Alisha’s bees stay on the ranch, surrounded by Los Padres National Forest, there are no such farms within flying distance of her bees.
In the spring, the bees pollinate wildflowers and purple sage in the chapparal, and these are the two varieties of honey that she sells. In the fall, the bees pollinate buckwheat and toyon, but Alisha doesn’t harvest this honey, instead leaving it for the bees’ winter food source. Keeping bees means year-round management to monitor the hives’ health, both individually and collectively. There are 450 hives, an amount that the ranch and surrounding area is able to support. Their living conditions as well as management practices have allowed the bees to thrive and Alisha has not experienced the hive losses that some beekeepers have.
Alisha, Barney, and their daughter Ky all work on the ranch. They see themselves as caretakers of the land, both because they feel it is the right thing to do and because it will produce the best quality fruit on their CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers)-certified organic farm. They look to the wildlife to see if they’re getting things right, checking in with the wild bees, birds, and mammals to see if they are flourishing. The goal at Rock Front Ranch is to improve, not just to maintain the land.