At the Market: Healing People and the Planet

Author: Elizabeth L. Woessner | Published: January 3, 2018

If asked what he does for a living, Marcus McCauley, owner of McCauley Family Farm in Longmont, would say simply, “I heal people and the planet with delicious food.”

Given his background as a biomedical engineer and the son of a physician with a long family history of ranching and farming, McCauley comes to this passion for healing naturally. In 2012 his family sold its ranch in Oklahoma and moved to Colorado in a quest for healing — for him, his family and his community.

His first attempt at planting grasses on his new 40 acres was not successful because of what McCauley calls the desertification of the earth from a broken ecosystem. He quickly realized he needed to create a permaculture with a multi-species grazing system to benefit the soil. He also uses a keyline plow that cuts right into the subsoil and drops water right where it is needed.

“You need to nurture the soil if you want it to grow healthy plants and vegetables,” says McCauley.

He is currently planting a food forest that mimics the growth of a natural forest, using fruit trees, shrubs, culinary herbs and vegetables. Much like a natural forest, once the food forest takes roots it will provide fruits, herbs and vegetables with little or no interference. These regenerative farming practices create and maintain a vital, healthy soil, which in turn provides healthier, nutrient-dense produce.

Most of the farm is used for grazing sheep and chickens, with about 5 1/2 acres of cropland. The chickens are moved every six days and as they feed on bugs, worms, and insects and scratch through the soil, they regenerate it and enrich the pasture.

“To raise a chicken outdoors anywhere is very difficult, but especially here,” McCauley said. “There are not many places where chickens forage for food outside. Eating our chicken regenerates pasture here in Boulder County where land is rapidly turning into a desert. Some people say the landscape will look like Albuquerque in 20 years if we keep desertifying at this rate.”