by Holly Madrigal
Nye Ranch began as a seaside dairy farm, stretching two hundred acres into what is now MacKerricher State Park, just north of Fort Bragg, California. The land was purchased in 1880 and throughout the years the ranch has had several different dairy operations as well as a pea and potato farm. The property has been reduced to six acres of pastures on the ocean-side of Highway 1, it includes a beautiful historic redwood house and barn dating back to the early 1900’s. The family of Kyle Forrest Burns purchased Nye Ranch in 2003.
Kyle and his partner Melanie MacTavish moved to the Mendocino coast in October of 2015. The couple leases a section of the land for their farm from Kyle’s family.
Their first step was planting fifteen hundred cloves of garlic and sowing a half-acre of cover crop in the pasture chosen to be cultivated. The heavy winter rains combined with the compacted soil led to an unsuccessful cover crop, which was submerged in six inches of water. With their fingers crossed they started over ten thousand vegetable and flower seeds in anticipation of an early spring planting. As the seedlings began to germinate and grow these farmers got to work hand digging forty-seven permanent raised beds, each a hundred feet long. The process was muddy and labor intensive but the farm began to take shape.
With soil tests as their guide, the next step was applying copious amounts of organic compost and amendments to balance the depleted soil. They also used a broad fork to alleviate the decades of compaction. With perfect luck, the field dried out enough so that they could transplant the starts from the hoop house right on schedule. Just as everything began to take root the northwest spring winds tore through the farm with gusts as high as 50mph. There’s no current barrier between the farm and the ocean so the salt winds badly burned the baby plants and for awhile it wasn’t certain they would recover. Most likely because the plants enjoyed their ocean view, they persevered and eventually thrived.
As the early spring crops came to maturity, Kyle and Melanie opened a farm-stand on Saturdays. It turns out the neighbors were anxiously awaiting their offerings. Nye Ranch grows over twenty-five varieties of vegetables and over thirty varieties of specialty cut-flowers. The farm fresh vegetables and bouquets have become an immediate success with the very supportive community. The farm’s location, directly on Highway 1, along with its diversity and beauty make the Saturday farm-stand a destination for locals and tourists alike. Nye Ranch also sells at the Fort Bragg and Mendocino Farmers Markets from May through October. The farm-stand is closed during the winter.
Nye Ranch offers wedding and event flower services for those who appreciate beautiful, seasonal, locally grown flowers. With a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts and years of cut-flower experience working for California Organic Flowers in Chico, Melanie has developed a unique style in her floral arrangements. Kyle has always dreamed of starting a farm. As the farm transitions to no-till, they plan on a slow expansion of area cultivated with a focus on nutrient dense food, community involvement and soil health. Nye Ranch is not certified organic but they consider their approach to meet or exceed organic industry standards.
Kyle and Melanie recently received funding through the U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service for a pollinator hedgerow to be planted around the farm. It will incorporate native plants and herbs providing habitat for beneficial organisms, bees, pollinators and create a windbreak from the salty coastal winds.