Driving down congested U.S. 19 or State Road 50 you wouldn't think that Hernando County was once predominantly agriculture or that family farms and ranches still thrive amongst the concrete and neon lights of fast food restaurants and shopping centers. One such family-owned operation is Golden Rainbow Ranch on Snow Memorial Highway in Brooksville.
Ali and David Baylor have owned their 10-acre ranch since 2007. Ali credits it with literally saving David's life.
“My husband and I were school teachers in Pinellas County when David was diagnosed with a brain tumor and given fourteen months to live. We originally moved here because David was ill and we wanted to grow our own food and be as stress-free as possible. Amazingly, he is still here,” Ali remarks.
The Baylors are now operating an animal rescue on their ranch. Their menagerie consists of alpacas, goats, ducks, a horse and a donkey. You can also spot dogs, a pig, a rabbit and geese on their property. Their turkey is safe from Thanksgiving dinner, but the Baylors do enjoy the fresh eggs from their numerous chickens.
In fact, Ali teaches a class called Chicken Raising 101 for would-be urbanite farmers. In the one-hour class, she covers everything from local zoning ordinances and making sure your neighbors don't complain to the proper feed to use and how to keep your flock healthy and safe from predators.
For people living in Spring Hill, zoning is much stricter than those who live in Brooksville or in more rural areas. In Spring Hill, you are limited in the number of chickens you can own, you must keep them in a coop in a fenced area so that they are not visible to your neighbors on all sides of you and you're not allowed to have any roosters. You must also get your neighbors' permission. If even one says, “No,” then you can't have your chickens. Anyone residing in Hernando County must also purchase a permit.
Ali and David have turned their ranch into a non-profit ecotherapy/environmental education center. They are also open to school children to learn about animals and to plant seeds in the garden they keep.
“Ecotherapy uses nature, animals and gardening to help people relieve stress and anxiety. I am a certified ecotherapist,” Ali explains.
Besides chicken raising, Ali teaches other classes to children and adults. These include Junior Naturalist classes for home-schooled children, jewelry making, nature crafts, every Biology topic imaginable and Girl Scout badges, such as "Pets" and "Insects."
The Baylors sell some of their products, including the farm-fresh, free range eggs that go for $4.00 a dozen. They also sell fertile duck eggs for eating or hatching and occasionally a chicken, rooster or goat.
Leaving a comfortable, albeit stressful city life, can be a big adjustment. Ali and David have learned a lot and gained a lot of satisfaction.
“The peace and learning how to be 'present.' The beauty. Knowing we are helping people learn how to calm themselves using nature. Spending the day outside, taking care of plants, animals, and people is so much more satisfying than teaching 140 seventh graders a day in a building.”
For more information on chicken raising contact the County Extension Office at 352-754-4433 or pick up brochures at their office or at any local public library. You can find out more about Golden Rainbow Ranch by calling 352-799-5425, emailing [email protected] or visiting their website: http://www.goldenrainbowranch.org/