Perched on a mountainside overlooking the Pacific and flanked on two sides by soaring sandstone cliffs, Alice Bamford’s One Gun Ranch might look like a simple, peaceful Malibu hideaway, but don’t be fooled.
One Gun is ground zero for local sustainable agriculture, starting with a 40-ton compost pile of biodynamic soil so fertile, you merely have to sprinkle a seed over it to create a lush, practically instant garden.
Bamford comes by her eco-consciousness naturally. Her parents, Sir Anthony and Lady Carole Bamford, have run Daylesford Organic Farms for 36 years near Gloucestershire, England.
“My family has been organic since before I was born,” Bamford wrote recently in an email from England, where she was traveling. “I grew up understanding that we farmed in a closed loop system‚ that every animal had its place, which instilled me with a great wonder of my surroundings. We grew without any pesticides, which resulted in our food being incredibly delicious and nutritious.”
A stroll around the ranch’s terraced hillsides shows a very non-traditional ranch layout, with a bucolic guest house complete with potbellied stove, a teepee, a dressage arena (Bamford is an enthusiastic rider), a shipping container that doubles as the dogs’ lounge (furnished with a comfy couch), a vintage Airstream camper, and pens for a lively menagerie of alpacas (Winston and Elena, who is expecting), tiny pigs (Othello and Hamlet), sheep, goats, chickens and an ancient burro named Waffles, whose bray belies his age.
“Actually, the alpacas are excellent guard animals,” ranch Manager Jennifer Hozer said. “We don’t have any coyote problems at all.”
The large circular corral is used to grow alfalfa, so the rescue horses are not welcome, and there is a ground-level trampoline for brisk outdoor workouts. Hozer said the whole spread encompasses Bamford’s many interests, both personal and business (Bamford was co-producer on Wes Anderson’s film, “The Darjeeling Limited”).
Local school groups tour the ranch, learn about home gardening and start personal little crop plots while enjoying the pastoral scene. The tours are an important part of Bamford’s desire to set an agricultural and nutritional standard for the future, both locally and worldwide.
“[The kids] learn how to appreciate healthy foods and the importance of where their food comes from,” Bamford said. “The fun experience of pulling a carrot out of the ground and actually eating it! The joy to take a seed, plant it, nurture it and watch it grow.”
When she purchased the ranch three years ago, Bamford was determined to farm with the same principals she learned when she was a child growing up in England. Hence, her gardens are meticulously attended with drip irrigation systems, her special compost recipe [which they call Super(ior) Soil] and nary a pesticide or extraneous fertilizer in sight.
To hear Jack McAndrews, Bamford’s compost manager, talk, never has manure been so magical. McAndrews has been studying organic farming for decades, ever since he discovered a biodynamic composting recipe from Rudolf Steiner, the German educator who developed the Waldorf Schools. The system involves vast amounts of dairy cow manure, special herbs like stinging nettles, alfalfa, oak bark, yarrow and chamomile and a complex calculation of moon phases to create the fertile gardening soil.
“This is recognized as the finest recipe for growing crops in the world,” McAndrews said. “It sounds kind of esoteric, but in the end, you don’t need any other fertilizer or pesticides. And look what you get! Prince Charles has been promoting biodynamics for the past 50 years. This form of agriculture is ahead of its time.”
The lettuces, microgreens, chard, kale and beets currently growing in the ranch’s raised beds are sold at Malibu’s Sunday Farmers Market, Nobu (where Executive Chef Gregorio Stephenson is planning a One Gun Ranch Salad for his upcoming menu) and P.C. Greens.
More information about One Gun Ranch may be found at 1gunranch.com.