Building Malibu’s biodynamic wonderland
Imagine a place—a nature lover’s dream, a healthy eater’s paradise, a biodynamic farmer’s fantasy—where every pesticide-free mizuna leaf is planted according to the lunar cycle and grown in pure composted soil made of alfalfa sprouts, yarrow and chamomile (and yes, dairy manure from the farm, too). Where the pepper grows on trees and the rescued dogs, horses, goats, sheep and pigs have names like Hamlet, Othello and Lady Gaga. Where daily workouts are synchronized only to the rhythms of nature. Envision a 25-acre slice of heaven nestled into the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking the Pacific, a heaven that’s harvested and ingested with every breath and every bite, daily.
Welcome to One Gun Ranch, an entirely real wonderland set high above the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. Owned and created by Alice Bamford and Ann Eysenring, One Gun Ranch (named by the property’s previous owner, Matt Sorum, formerly of Guns N’ Roses) exists on multiple levels that include a horse barn, riding trails, a creek, a main house, and an office where you can buy salad mix seeds, 25-pound bags of Supersoil, gardening gear, scented Bamford candles and Nohmad chocolate made with the ranch’s very own dried Meyer lemons. All this among beds and beds of the healthiest-looking radishes, carrots, arugula, lettuce and kale you’ve ever seen.
You may have already experienced a morsel of One Gun Ranch when savoring its biodynamic salad mix at Nobu or its vegetables at Spago—perhaps you’ve even purchased its arugula seeds or branded DIY farm box at Bamford and Eysenring’s Ranch at the Pier shop in Malibu.
The roots of the duo’s biodynamic sanctuary run deep. Bamford comes from “generations and generations of farmers”; her family owns JCB, a U.K.-based agricultural and farming equipment manufacturer founded by her grandfather Joseph Cyril Bamford in 1945. About 40 years ago, the company pioneered Daylesford Organic in Gloucestershire, England, a farm which Bamford refers to as “the Mother Ship,” as it produces and sells organic and sustainably farmed food, gardening accessories and housewares, in addition to creating restaurants and cafes. There Bamford learned about organic everything from her mother, Lady Carole Bamford. Eysenring, meanwhile, is a real estate broker whose clients include bold-faced A-listers in the film and fashion industries. She grew up in the farmland near Camarillo when crop dusting was popular—before people realized how completely dangerous pesticides are to our food supply, and where her mother developed thyroid cancer, likely because of it. (She recovered.) When Bamford and Eysenring met eight years ago, they bonded over horses, motorbikes and their love for eating “really, really, really healthy food,” says Bamford. “We both truly believe we eat our medicine.”
Just before the women crossed paths, Bamford, who was a producer for film director Wes Anderson, had decided to attempt to create a version of Daylesford here in the U.S. When she Googled “farm” and “Malibu” she found spectacular photos of the ocean and horses on One Gun Ranch, for sale at the time. She couldn’t resist. Once there, she wanted to cultivate the heritage seeds and veggies she had grown up with in the U.K. She consulted the Malibu Agricultural Society, where she met a biodynamic compost guru named “Farmer Jack” McAndrew, who introduced her to his nutrient-rich soil. She became obsessed with creating biodynamic soil, composting layers in an almost spiritual five-day ceremony to create what is now, in certain circles, the stuff of legend: the Supersoil compost that is the basis of the ranch’s biodynamic approach. It’s “the gift that keeps on giving,” she says of the fertile mix, which has fans like Pierce Brosnan ordering it by the truckload. (For the uninitiated, biodynamic agriculture revolves around planting crops according to lunar and zodiac cycles, much the way the Old Farmer’s Almanac has instructed for decades. It’s based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner.) This “closed loop” practice also incorporates everything from the rescue animals that protect the ranch and provide the manure, to the leftover vegetation, which the animals are fed.
Bamford and Eysenring live with their son, Otis, in a house on the property they rebuilt with architect Michael Kovac of L.A.-based Kovac Design Studio, and whose style Eysenring describes as “modern barn.” It’s light-drenched and airy, composed entirely of reclaimed wood (much of it from an old barn in Fort Bragg, complete with original lichen and moss). Metal and glass doors open to the views—and the residents, including miniature horses Luna and Blue, as well as donkey Waffle, who wander in and out. “It’s very organic,” says Bamford. “We wanted it to blend into the environment, so there’s lots of wood, stone and glass.”
They designed the interiors themselves, and decorative and functional elements alike are thoughtfully sourced: An office table is made from trunk of an old NorCal redwood, the floorboards were created from the scaffolding used to construct the house, and even the welcoming sea horse sculpture by the front door is composed of found Malibu driftwood, carved by a local artist. The main living/dining area features artwork by their friend Wes Lang and photographer and explorer Sebastian Copeland, who ventures to Alaska, the North Pole and other remote destinations, camera in mitt.
The idyllic atmosphere is one that begs to be bottled—and in effect, Bamford and Eysenring have done just that: They’re sharing their Malibu biodynamic lifestyle in One Gun Ranch, Malibu: Biodynamic Recipes for Vibrant Living, a new user-friendly, lifestyle-focused cookbook (printed on lightweight recycled paper, naturally), published this month by Regan Arts. The book provides recipes for everything from turmeric tonic to watermelon gazpacho and also gives suggestions on how to make your own compost, plant a garden of any size and shop a farmer’s market.
In composing the book, the women hope to show the accessibility of living a biodynamic lifestyle and growing vegetables the way they do. “Anyone can have a green thumb,” Bamford says. “Plant seeds wherever you are, whether it’s on your balcony or fire escape, in whatever you have—an old watering can, a bucket or a boot.” She suggests planting the way they grow their salad mix; tossing the lettuce seeds together and sprinkling them over soil. “You can work with the rhythms of nature and really create something astonishing,” she says. “It’s all about love, care and alchemy.” 1gunranch.com.
Photography by SAM FROST.
Written by MARTHA McCULLY.