With a changing climate, many communities nestled within Santa Barbara’s rolling hills have watched helplessly as the land consumed by drought goes up in flames. Looking upon a landscape charred, dusted in ash and smoke, Farmers and Shepherds Jenya Schneider, Jack Anderson, and Anthony Graham of Cuyama Lamb see a way out. Cuyama lamb is committed to the regeneration of native California grasslands and the sustainable production of ethically raised food & fiber. Their collaboration and co-operation model of agriculture is informed by a passion for laborer rights and is rooted in age-old Native American principles of land stewardship and regeneration. With the lofty aim of fire reduction and ecosystem restoration, Jenya, Jack, and Anthony look to sheep, the perfect natural remedy for a thirsting and shifting landscape. Animal husbandry is largely regarded by environmentalists to be hopelessly unhealthy for the earth. Animal waste, greenhouse gasses, close quarters, the livestock rearing business gets a bad rep in the world of environmentalism, and often for good reason. Cuyama Lamb serves to shift this perspective entirely. Cuyama Lamb is a mobile sheep outfit founded in 2018 operating throughout Babareño Chumash territory, on either side of the Sierra Madre and Santa Ynez ranges, and everywhere between the Santa Clara and Cuyama Rivers. This landscape, though now dotted with wildflowers and happily grazing sheep, was once home to the Babareño Chumash tribe. Their rich history is one often hidden and purposefully neglected, but it has played an essential role in laying the groundwork for modern regenerative farming. Jenya, Jack, and Anthony saw the opportunity to break this cycle and delve headfirst into understanding and appreciating Chumach culture, specifically to better understand the ways native peoples have managed their land for centuries. Regenerative agricultural practices utilized by the Cuyama Lamb operation for the preservation of this fertile land draw heavily on the Native American archetype of existence in symbiosis with one’s environment.
What does the concept of symbiosis look like to Cuyama Lamb? For Jenya, Jack, & Anthony, sheep rearing is so much more than wool and meat. Working in tandem with Kiss the Ground sponsored courses on holistic land management, the organization utilizes rotational grazing delineated with incredible attention to timing and space to aid in the wellbeing of their sheep, in addition to the wellbeing of the Santa Barbara landscape.