Ranchin’ on the River

redbudThese hot, dry summer days sometimes seem to drag on forever. Our Garden Bar Preserve, located along the Bear River in Southern Nevada County, seems to be patiently waiting for fall and for the first rain storms to pass over and re-quench the parched land. The oaks have begun to go dormant and drop their leaves; much earlier than I have ever seen before. It must be their survival instinct telling them to just hold on… the downpour is on its way.

fencewdpkrGarden Bar Preserve is BYLT’s first and only working cattle ranch that we own and manage. In August of 2013 we were able to purchase these 652 acres with funds from the Wildlife Conservation Board. It is an amazingly wild place. Before our acquisition this was essentially open range. We were given a raw piece of land and our challenge was to create infrastructure that would allow a grazer to utilize it. Our hopes were that we would generate income and restore the land at the same time.

jimFenceEnter Jim Gates, owner and operator of Nevada County Free Range Beef. It has been one of the greatest pleasures of my job to get to work closely with Jim. His stories are great, but what’s truly astonishing is how he runs his business. I am unable to comprehend just how he pulls it all off. Every single step of the way – he’s right there – doing all of the work. At Garden Bar alone he has built miles of fence, in the middle of summer on rock solid ground. He births the calves, irrigates the land, drives the cattle to Reno each week for processing and delivers beef to local stores and customers.

Recently I was invited to help Jim and Roger Ingram decide which heifers (young cows that have not born calves) would continue on in his herd to become the new mama cows for the next 15 plus years. Jim knew each cow personally by their number. Genetics and individual appearance were determining factors in the choices. Quickly the new mama heifers were separated from the others.

IMG_2826These heifers will eventually have calves that will make their way down to Garden Bar Preserve. One of the most satisfying things about our grazing operation is that all of the beef stays in our community. Nevada County Free Range Beef can be found all around town. Knowing we have preserved this land for cattle production that directly benefits our community with healthy, delicious beef is comforting. Everything is falling into place at Garden Bar Preserve. And even as the land prepares for winter dormancy, there is beauty everywhere.

– Stewardship Program Manager, Erin Tarr