Serina Harvey and her two sisters founded Flip Flop Ranch in
2003. The ranch, located in the desert of Southern California near
Big Bear Lake, combines a farm stay with heritage livestock and
farming therapy for women who have been victims of domestic
violence. The ranch's mission is "To build healthy relationships
between people and the world around them." We are excited to share
our interview with Serina, and give you the inside scoop on this
1. Neighboring farmers laughingly dubbed your place "Flip Flop
Ranch" when they noticed you and your two sisters -- city slickers
turned farm girls -- doing ranch chores in fiip flops! Have you
found any chores that you can't do in flip
There are few chores we haven't learned to do in Flip
Flops, but there are some. It's difficult to shovel in flip
flops, for example, although not impossible. Milking the
goats is definitely a challenge, mainly because they have a
tendency to step on your toes and boy does that hurt. We have
horses and cows and we don't do any serious work with them in our
flip flops. That is one thing that we will actually change
out of our flip flops for because if a cow or horse steps on your
toes, you are in for some serious damage. I'm racking my
brain to try and figure out what I won't do in my flip flops and I
can't really think of anything else. I don't like wearing
flip flops when it's really muddy outside, but fortunately that
doesn't happen very often in the desert. Also, sometimes when
I'm planting in the garden I will sit back on my feet and the
ground can be very hot in the summer (again, it's the desert) and
my poor toes get burned. Most of the time I just put a towel
on the ground first, but sometimes I change out of my flip flops.
Any activity that has a big likelihood of resulting in
permanent toe damage, I will change out of my flip flops
2. Tell us about your heritage livestock! What kind of, and how
many animals, do you have?
Just about all of our animals are heritage livestock.
We have 30 Cotton Patch geese, 100 Dorking chickens, a
handful of Nigerian Dwarf goats (and we want lots more), some
Australorps, Bourbon Red turkeys and Guinea hogs. We have
somewhere around 300 animals and we sell hundreds every year.
The cotton patch geese and dorkings are our biggest sellers
and they make enough to pay for themselves, plus a pretty decent
profit. We raise the bourbon red turkeys for thanksgiving and
hope to sell Guinea Hog meat soon.
3. You also have an orchard and organic gardens. What do you do
with all the food you raise?
We use most of the food we raise in order to feed our
guests and then we sell most of the rest of the food to them when
they leave! It's like built in customers. Direct
marketing is really the best way to make a profit for a small farm.
You cut out the middle man, farmer's market costs, transportation,
etc. We make jams from our fruit, zucchini bread, garlic
pumpkin seeds and many more value-added products. Our guests
become hooked on the great food we serve and want to buy some to
take home with them.
4. Tell us about
your ranch's setting. What's the landscape like, and the
The ranch is located in the High Desert of Southern
California. The landscape is very much like a western movie
setting and the area is actually very popular for filming movies.
Roy Rogers and Dale Evans used to live out here and John
Wayne and many other cowboy celebrities would vacation
The desert is shrubs, cactus, Joshua trees and gorgeous
sunsets. It certainly can get hot here, but the desert nights
make it totally worth it. In the summer, the nights are
perfect with a billion stars in the sky. Winters can also be
chilly, but most of the time, summer or winter, it's between 70-90
degrees with very little humidity.
5. What kinds of things do guests typically do when they
Guests are welcome to do whatever they want when they're
here, but most guests help feed the animals during the morning and
afternoon feedings as well as help to milk the goats. The
little ones (well, the big ones too) help collect the eggs.
The more industrious guests help harvest food from the garden
or orchard and maybe join us in the garden to plant or weed.
The very industrious guests grab shovels and join in with the
hard work. During the downtime, guests can swim in the pool
or play billiards, air hockey, darts or fooseball in the game
6. What are your accommodations like?
We offer four rooms in our 3,000 sq ft house. All
of the rooms are a good size with some of them just downright huge.
Our biggest room has 2 queen beds and a twin with room for some
blow up mattresses (available from us) for a large group to sleep
on. The rooms are pretty simple, but comfortable and clean
farm house rooms. We are starting to work on some farm murals
and cheerful paint on the walls and are constantly trying to make
the accommodations nicer and more comfortable because we want our
visitors to be happy.
7. Your ranch is also part of a domestic violence nonprofit
program for women who are victims of violence. How does the program
work, and how does it fit in with your farm stay?
I am a farmer, but I actually have my doctorate in
marital and family therapy. In all my copious spare time, I
offer farming therapy for military personnel with PTSD and for
women victims of domestic violence/abuse. Nature works
amazingly well to heal people and research has shown that farm
work, even without any therapy, can create significant improvements
in people's mental health. I simply take it a step further
and combine farming with actual therapy. Trauma seems to melt
away while you're milking a goat, bitterness disappears with every
pumpkin that grows, and self-esteem builds with each jar of jam
that is made. Our farming therapy program is something that I
and my family really want to expand. It brings meaning to our
lives, as well as our clients', and a service-oriented purpose to
8. What meals do you serve, and what's on the menu?
We serve all sorts of things at the ranch. We eat
with our guests so we have to cook for ourselves as well as them.
Sometimes we get bored with the same thing so we have the
attitude that our guests are joining US for dinner, rather than us
joining THEM. Tonight we had smoked brisket, corn on the cob,
mashed potatoes, salad and watermelon. However, we've also
had taco bars, spaghetti and sloppy joes. I make the most
amazing enchiladas. For breakfast, we usually have some
variant of pancakes, bacon and farm fresh eggs. My pancakes
are becoming (slightly) famous because I sometimes make
them in crazy designs like cows, chickens, goats or even a