The largest cattle ranch on the western end of the Gaviota Coast (and the forth largest cattle ranch in Santa Barbara County) is the Hollister Ranch. Typically over 1,000,000 pounds of beef annually are shipped from the Ranch. Subdivided into 135 parcels of 100 acres or larger in 1971, Hollister Ranch remains primarily a cattle grazing operation. Wishing to maintain the cattle ranching heritage that has spanned over 250 years, the owners opted into the Agricultural Preserve. Having done so, they committed to devoting over 98% of the 14,000+ acre ranch to commercial agriculture… over 99% of which is cattle grazing. Since then the Hollister Ranch Cooperative has actively pursued a “best practices” grazing program, and the owners have jointly funded a watershed improvement project that successfully lures cattle from streambed water sources to well placed water troughs throughout the ranch. This results in significantly less riparian traffic and prevents overgrazing of areas near the creeks by encouraging a more even grazing pattern throughout the hills.
The owners at Hollister Ranch cope with the inconveniences that come with living on a cattle ranch. Cattle and cowboys on horseback are often on the roadways, and vehicular traffic must yield to the four-legged kind. The cattle also leave “gifts” on the roadways that can affect the paint jobs of vehicles. Owners must fence the cattle out of the 2% of their property that they are permitted to use for development. The primary enjoyment they can derive from the remaining 98% of their property is passive and visual. However, the owners are rewarded for the limitations on use of their property. It is an extraordinary experience to live in the middle of a full scale, honest-to-goodness working cattle ranch. The cowboys do all of the work, and the owners take pleasure in the ranching ambience and from the knowledge they are helping to preserve the cattle ranching heritage on this part of the California coast. Furthermore, the cattle function as a free lawnmower service, and cut the range grass to a level that results in far less of a fuel load in the event of a grass fire. And, of course, the owners benefit from reduced taxes for having acquiesced to the restrictions of the Agricultural Preserve program.
Many Hollister Ranch owners are members of the Cattlemen’s Associations of both California and Santa Barbara. These groups work to the betterment of cattle grazing operations in the state. Organizations such as these preserve the open space heritage that has lasted in California for several hundred years.
The issues that impact California cattle producers are plentiful. As such, each year, at the annual CCA Convention, members come together to update CCA policy on the variety of issues that are important to them. The CCA Policy Book is written and updated by CCA members. The policies within that book dictate the position that CCA takes on issues at the State Capitol as well as in the regulatory arena as CCA staff and officers work on behalf of members throughout the state of California.
Ranchers are truly environmentalists at heart. As hardworking people who love working outdoors, no one cares for the land, water and air like beef producers. The beef industry honors leaders in conservation with an annual award. The Environmental Stewardship Award recognizes farmers and ranchers who have successfully combined natural resource conservation efforts with good business practices. It also encourages the adoption of new environmental best practices across the entire industry.