Community-Supported Prescribed Grazing Program


As a part of the Ojai Valley Fire Safe Council’s 2021 community-focused and community-driven initiatives, it is developing a Community Supported Grazing Program (CSGP) using implementing an increasingly used approach of prescribed, targeted grazing of sheep, goats, and cattle for vegetation management and ecosystem enhancement projects in the Ojai Valley. This ecological approach is a practical and impactful alternative to chemicals and fossil fuel-dependent mechanical methods.

This program will engage the community to closely observe fire fuel reduction at work with grazing animals in some of Ojai’s most populated areas, bolstering participation in efforts to increase the Valley’s fire resilience.

The CSGP is a multi-stakeholder approach with private and public landowners and managers to create a singular source of funding and management oversight of contract grazing services to carry out the goals and strategies set forth by the prescribed grazing program.

The Ojai Valley CSGP initiative will be carried out by locally-based targeted grazing businesses to support a growing local industry for ecosystem services and public safety using this ecologically sound management strategy as another impactful asset in the fire prevention and preparedness toolbox.

Community-Supported Grazing Program-At a Glance

The First Four Months

  • Stakeholder Convening a success
  • 5 Demonstration Sites & Partners
    • Thacher School
    • Besant Hill School
    • Oak Grove School
    • Krishnamurti Foundation of America
    • Ojai Valley Land Conservancy
    • Ventura County Fire Protection District
    • Ventura County Resource Conservation District
    • Watershed Progressive
  • Grazing Fees Paid:           $84,910
  • Tools & Equipment:         $23,762
  • Fundraising to Date:       $90,975
  • Landowner Participation:              $73,250
  • Acres Treated:   Approximately 200 with 700 animals
  • 4 Participating Private Landowners

  • To develop a prescribed grazing program that integrates holistic approaches to impactful and efficient vegetation management of the wildland-urban interface of Ojai Valley.
  • This program is based in part of a successful grazing program developed by Marin Fire Safe Council and managed by applicant’s grazing partner, Grazing School of the West (GSW).
  • To engage regional government agencies, county/state/federal open space authorities, conservation groups, local schools, businesses, and private landowners in planning, fundraising, education, and training.
  • To support community engagement and fiscal support from private & public stakeholders, in addition, to grant funding resources.
  • To create an innovative and transferrable framework for how a community-supported prescribed grazing program can be developed and implemented from the ground up.
  • To utilize local resources and technical support of industry leaders from the Grazing School of the West to learn from other successful grazing programs around the state. Examples include:
  • To create foundations for a successful program with the use of new technology and software tools for implementing holistic approaches of prescribed grazing, GIS mapping systems, and cutting-edge software for communications throughout the duration of the program.
  • To collaborate with universities to develop research projects to monitor ecological factors and goals of carbon soil enhancement.
  • Develop a “Wildfire Intensity Reduction Zone”  that extends from Upper Ojai and along both sides of the Ventura River Watershed.  This will be a continuous, and contiguous as possible, grazed corridor of approximately 3,000 acres.

Community-Supported Grazing Program Team

Brittany “Cole” Bush, Program Co-Director

A self-deemed ‘shepherdess’, Brittany Cole Bush, AKA Cole has over a decade of experience working as a regenerative agriculture and land management specialist. Cole aids in the creation of prescribed grazing programs for public safety and ecological enhancement as an educator, practitioner, and consultant. She is the sole owner-operator of Shepherdess Land and Livestock Co., a contract grazing business working with sheep and goats based out of the Upper Ojai Valley at Oak Heritage Ranch. Her on-the-ground experience includes the development and implementation of large-scale prescribed grazing programs in the Bay Area of California as the Project Manager for Star Creek Land Stewards (SCLS), a premier contract grazing operation based out of the Central Valley. During her tenure with SCLS from 2012-2016, she oversaw contract grazing programs impacting over 2,000 acres of private and public lands on an annual basis for vegetation management, ecosystems services, fire fuel load reduction, invasive species management, and biological enhancement, using upwards of 2,000 head of sheep and goats in over six counties. Cole is also the Co-Director of the Grazing School of the West, an ongoing project creating vocational paths for next-generation agrarians as land stewards through training, technical assistance, and experiential learning. Cole is thrilled to be working to support fire resilience and ecological health with her experience as a land steward shepherding animals, people, and projects.

Michael Leicht, Program Co-Director

Michael has been passionate about regenerative agriculture from an early age. At 20 years old, he began writing about the importance of local versus global food economies. When he started his own small farm at 23, he would slip short essays lauding the benefits of localized agriculture into his weekly ‘CSA’ veggie deliveries. When asked why he was so passionate about local food, Michael would exclaim “Localizing agriculture is not only good for our health; it benefits our community, our planet, and just tastes better!”

At 24, his daughter Lavender was born, and Michael struggled to find locally produced milk to provide for her. Not content with the store-bought fare, this first-time dad decided to learn how to milk goats to provide homegrown milk for his daughter.

Michael was milking several goats every day and raising the dairy kids for meat. After the Thomas Fire ripped through Ventura County, friends and neighbors started to ask Michael to keep the goats in their yards to keep the weeds down. The opportunity to make a living working with livestock to help protect his community from future wildfire was ripe, and Ventura Brush Goats was born. The demand for this holistic and effective vegetation management service was so great, Ventura Brush Goats went from managing just 6 goats to about 400 sheep and goats in just 3 years. The company clears 2-3 acres of fire-fuel per day on average. In the Spring of 2021, the herd was finally large enough for Michael to start a fledging meat enterprise. A long-standing dream of Michael’s, Wildfire Meat Co. is offering locally raised lamb, for sale only at the Ojai Community Farmer’s Market, Thursdays from 3-7pm.

Matthew Shapero, Livestock & Range Advisor, UC Extension:

Matthew sits on the Targeted Grazing sub-committee for the Society for Range Management. The sub-committee is actively involved in promoting targeted grazing across the western United States, as well as establishing a certification process for targeted grazing operations. As a Livestock & Range advisor in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, he was actively involved in responding to the Thomas Fire, which burned over 80,000 acres of ranched rangelands in his counties. His research and extension efforts post-fire have focused on using targeted grazing before fire to reduce fire intensity, understanding the ecological dynamics of grazing after fire, and supporting the use of strategic prescribed fire for range improvement and wildfire suppression.

Connor Jones, Ojai Permaculture

Connor is a long time Ojai resident with years of experiential knowledge working with the local ecology, the community and the landscape. His work as a consultant and designer of Ojai Permaculture involves a wide range of land management prescriptions for stormwater collection, soil health restoration, commercial scale regenerative agriculture, and ecological enhancement. His farm East End Eden, located on the east end of the Ojai valley demonstrates regionally appropriate regenerative agriculture methods including, watershed management, tree crop systems, and grazing for fire fuel reduction. Since 2008 he has worked as an educator offering tours of his farm and experiential workshops on ecological design. A keeper of goats and sheep for the last decade he has come to understand the complexities of livestock interaction with the brittle ecology and soils of the area. Time in the field has given him the ability to advise the use of small ruminants for vegetation management and to predict the outcomes. As the Thomas fire encroached upon his farm, he was able to witness the nuances of fire behavior in the chaparral plant communities, the effects on soil, the built environment, and the watershed as a whole. This was motivation to improve public safety and protect ecological diversity through holistic grazing practices

Olivia Tincani:

Olivia Tincani {Olivia Tincani & Co., LLC} is a food and agriculture business consultant and educator with 18 years of experience in the field. Her work focuses on business and strategic planning, entrepreneurial empowerment, producer training and technical assistance for institutions that service farmers, ranchers, and food businesses. She has specific expertise in whole animal supply chains, regional food systems development, food service establishments, communications, and community building. Her current work focuses on designing and executing extensive business training programs for non-profit organizations’ farmer and food producer initiatives. Projects include work with venerated organizations such as the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest Incubator, Glynwood, Southwest Grassfed Livestock Alliance, Pie Ranch, and Fibershed. She also works directly with food and farm business clients, past clients including Rancho Llano Seco, The Farm Bridge, Bonny Doon Vineyard, and the Phoenicia Diner. She was the co-founder of food service management company Fare Resources and founder of Farm 255 and Farm Burger, landmark restaurant enterprises with jointly-operated vegetable and pasture-based livestock farms in the southeast. Service is a crucial element of her business approach. She is on the Advisory Board of the National Farm Viability Conference and has been a guest speaker at multiple universities and conferences. She was a founding Board member of Kitchen Table Advisors, an organization providing business and financial coaching to primarily minority, immigrant and women-owned farming businesses, where she continues to dedicate pro bono advising services to the program team. Olivia has served as an advisor and community organizer for grassroots/non-profit organizations including CUESA, The National Young Farmers Coalition, Georgia Organics, Compassion in World Farming, Slow Food, and The Greenhorns and is a Chef’s Collaborative member, multi-year Slow Food Terra Madre delegate, and a National Young Farmers Coalition member. Olivia splits time between Sonoma County (CA), and her husband’s family farm and winery in the Valtènesi region of Italy, with her hands in the dirt and her skin in the game.

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