herd of distinction 150


mark deneane joanne's influenceMark and Deneane Ashcraft both descend from California Pioneer Families who spent their lives making a living in “Food and Farming.”

Mark’s ancestors settled in San Mateo County, Half Moon Bay, in the 1800s, to engage in farming and a variety of merchant trades. His Grandfather, W.P. Cunha and Grandmother Joya Della Bidia Cunha founded Cunha’s Country Store in the 1920’s which continued to be family owned and operated until last year when it was sold.

Mark spent most of his growing up years on the family farm working with a breeding/show herd of Angus cattle. He graduated with a degree in Animal Science from California State University, Chico, and is a research analyst for the animal health branch of California Department Of Food and Agriculture. On the farm, Mark takes care of the small Angus cow herd, and is in charge of the farming/hay operation, as well as purchasing needed hay and feeds. He’s also a familiar face at the Farmer’s Markets, making deliveries, as well as assisting with the care and maintenance of the goat herd and their facilities.

deneane-9 motherDeneane is the sixth consecutive generation of her family to farm/ranch in California. Both sides of her family were Pioneer Settlers in Sonoma and Marin Counties in the 1800’s and engaged in a variety of agricultural pursuits through the generations. Dairy, Beef, Quarter Horses, as well as orchards and an apiary are all included on the “branches of Deneane’s family tree.” At right nine-year-old Deneane is pictured with her mother after showing her own horse earlier in the day. The gelding in the picture was her mother's and Deneane showed him as well when she was older.

Deneane is also a “Chico State Grad,” and taught elementary school for a decade before leaving her position to follow her lifelong passion of farming and working with livestock. She is the fulltime herdsman for the goatherd, as well as the cheese maker. Most days she can be found either milking in the parlor, out doing something with the goats, or working in the cheese room. Her passion for “dairying” and livestock management, are equaled only by her passion for making exceptional and unique cheeses.

Contact Details:

North Valley Farms
P.O. Box 698
Cottonwood, California 96022

Phone: 530-347-7151

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All photos not otherwise attributed are by Deneane Ashcraft.