Environmental stewardship at TomKat Ranch, Pescadero, CA
I figured I knew Pescadero pretty well since I covered the town when I worked for the Half Moon Bay Review many years ago. But I had no idea what was in store for me when I turned off Pescadero Road into TomKat Ranch.
The ranch was once a dairy farm, but had fallen into disrepair over the years. The owners were mining soil off the hilltops, an environmentally destructive activity right up there will clear cutting forests. Enter Tom Steyer and Kathy Taylor (TomKat, get it?). The couple bought the 2,000-acre ranch with an eye on environmental restoration. They introduced cattle as a way to restore the scenic valley. Properly managed, cattle can perform a great environmental service, helping to restore the land, increase biodiversity of native species, retain water, and even sequester carbon, just like undulates used to do before man and his livestock ran roughshod over grasslands.
It was Kathy Webster, the ranch’s educational foundation director, who struck upon the idea of raising the cattle for beef and Leftcoast Grassfed was born. She also helped revamp the lunch program at the La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District.
There’s a growing demand for grassfed beef and she thought the ranch could help supply a growing market. Today the ranch is home to 101 head of cattle with plans to grow the herd to 300 or so. While they’ve only been at it a few years, the grassy hills are already showing signs of restoration. Blue eyed grass, a native species, has made a come back along with several other species of grass.
Our friend Joe Morris of Morris Grassfed helped establish TomKat Ranch’s rotational grazing program. The ranch is now recognized for its commitment to the environment and animal welfare with certification from Animal Welfare Approved, the American Grassfed Association and the Food Alliance. Oh yeah, the beef really tastes good, too. For me, the ranch is another example of what the pay-offs are for doing right by the land, animals and people: environmental restoration, commercial demand and a delicious product. Everybody wins.