The Rural Woman Podcast Episode 55 – California Ranchin’ & Craft Beer Brewing with Alli Fender

On this week’s episode of The Rural Woman Podcast, you’ll meet, Alli Fender. Alli is a fourth generation cattle producer in San Diego County, California. She grew up on the family ranch and always had a love for the cattle and livestock. Alli participated in 4H and FFA growing up and when her and her husband Bryce got married in 2014 they received the unique wedding gift of 10 heifers from her dad which started them down the path to their own cattle brand The Flying F.

Alli Fender | BIO

My name is Allison Fender, but my friends call me Alli. I am a fourth generation cattle producer in San Diego County, California. Most people would imagine the beach, surf, the Zoo and Seaworld when you talk about San Diego. However, there are some beautiful hidden gems in the country-side that you’d be surprised to stumble upon.

My great grand parents traveled on a boat across the Atlantic from Switzerland to help their cousins with the dairy business in the North-East mountains of San Diego. My grandpa took over one of the dairies over time, and also added in beef cattle to his operation. After a few years into his own dairy business, due to the increasing regulations and declining dairy need, my grandparents decided to sell all their dairy cattle and buy property out in New Mexico in 1999 to continue raising beef. As well, my grandpa was an avid hunter and loved New Mexico’s hunting scene.

I grew up within the dairy and beef transition at our family ranch. I always had a love for the cattle and livestock. I participated in 4H and FFA growing up, however never had a chance to raise a steer. My dad drew the line there because “they were too much work.” So, I raised pigs, lambs and rabbits. I also showed my childhood horse and did gymkhana events. I always felt “at home” doing 4H and FFA activities and being on the ranch.

In high school, I met my husband Bryce. Bryce and I dated through out college and got married in 2014 on the ranch with all our friends and family. We got a unique wedding gift from my dad… 10 heifers. We live across the street from my parents and my brother and his family on my uncle’s property of about 100 acres. We run our lovely wedding gift (10 cows and bull) on this property.

Since our marriage, we created our cattle brand (The Flying F), made our own health management plan, records, identification system and health check schedules. This year is our first year that we have enough steers to “do something with.” We would like to directly provide our beef to the local public and beyond. Within the next few years, we want to add in more livestock to contribute to our land to promote diversity.  We highly believe in proper land management and hosting a diverse ecosystem for all life to survive in harmony.

Along with our cattle, we also grow barley for malting and hops to brew beer. San Diego is the #1 craft beer capital in the USA with about 150 breweries. Bryce has always been interested in the beer scene. Bryce and his brother have collaborated on ideas to create a beer from one single location. Which, has never been done in San Diego. However, San Diego is not known to grow any sort of grain crop. Our ranch used to grow and bale it’s own hay for the dairy 20+ years ago. So, Bryce did a ton a research and pulled the trigger to plant and harvest barley and hops about 4 years ago. Along with that, he bought a 1959 pull-behind combine from the Midwest. That combine cost more to ship than to buy (haha). It is a beast that looks like something from a history book. Bryce, my dad and uncle got the monster going and we’ve one two harvests so far. (With literally a few bumps along the way….).

After harvest, Bryce had to do a lot of research on how to malt the barley for brewing purposes. There is very limited literature on malting. So, Bryce learned for home brew blogs and YouTube. After some investigation work, Bryce figured out a small-scale system to malt the barley in the old dairy barn on the ranch. We had a few successful beer batches along side his brother’s brewery. Ideally, we would like to start our own brewery on the ranch to create beer 100% ranch grown from start to finish. 

While we got these cattle and barley operations going, we had two baby cowboys. Warren (3) and Wells (1 & ½). Since having the two boys, the malting was put on hold because my husband is a full time ER nurse and I work part time. Oh, and we had two babies within 18 months of each other (phew!). Living in San Diego is very expensive, so most small farmers and rancher must have a second form of income to make it work. Recently, we decided to give it a go again by working together with the malting process. Malting is very time sensitive and needs to be tended to at certain hour intervals. During Christmas, Bryce came down with the flu, so I had to learn how to do it on my own while Bryce was sick as a dog. He literally had to verbally tell me everything I had to do at the old milk barn for the malt.. It helped me learn quickly and now more than ever, I am very excited to continue on this journey with him.

Bryce and I have this idea in our minds that we want our business to be completely sustainable and work in unison with each other. The cattle are eating spend grain from the beer production, as well as apple peels and cores thrown out by local pie companies (Our tiny town of Julian is famous for gold and apple pie.). We want to feed our cattle on pasture, while being finished with spent grain, extra barley, apples and other finishing grains. Not only is it sustainable, but it also promotes the up-cycling process that cattle can provide. In return, the cattle fertilize our fields or our grain to grow. It is a circle of life! Diversity is another aspect we want to encourage on our land. In San Diego, ranching and farming is almost impossible unless you make it a diverse business. Cost of land and water is outrageous and you need to diversify to make it work in most cases. Combining beef, brews and more livestock down the road should help us end up in that direction.

As a family, we have dreams to start our ranching journey and make it something special that we all benefit from.  I know how important it is to raise kids on the ranch to learn about life, death, responsibility and kindness. That is very important to Bryce and I. We involve our kiddos in almost everything we do so they see mom and dad working together as a team, learn about good work ethic and well rounded kiddos. Thank you SO MUCH for this opportunity to share my story. I hope it peeks interest to you and your following!

Review of The Week

Instead of sharing the traditional listener review with you this week, I wanted to share a bit of an email thread that I had with a listener instead:

“I found your podcast in late January and binge listened to the first 42 episodes. It was wonderful, refreshing and very honest about life. My wife and I always wanted to be farmers but it was not the thing to do in the 1970’s as all the baby boomers were leaving the family farms. I remember driving from Calgary to New Brigden on Friday nights to go help on my friends farm. It was “wall to wall” traffic with all the “boomers” going home to help on the family farms. Same traffic coming back on Sunday night. As you know, those family farms are gone and a trip out there is very quiet now. A few years ago I went to do a job in Consort and the customer told me that if I didn’t want to go door-to-door asking for a coffee; that I’d better pick one up in Drumheller or Hanna on the way. Restaurants were all permanently closed in Consort.

Another thing that your podcast does is put to rest the meme that “millennial’s” are self centered and don’t want to work. My wife and I have four of them aged 42 to 31, so we knew this meme wasn’t true as they and the two daughter-in-laws work hard and are wonderful community members.”

A big thank you to Dan for reaching out and your contribution to The Rural Woman Podcast! Your kind words and financial support means so much to me and the show!

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R A L L Y

Links Mentioned in The Show

Alli Fender | Blog | Facebook | Instagram

San Diego County CowBelles | Website

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