On April 30, 2016 at the Wood Ranch in Orland, California, California Rangeland Trust presented the Conservationist of the Year award to Jack and Zera Varian of the V6 Ranch in Monterey and Fresno Counties. Each year, the Rangeland Trust awards this honor to an individual or family that models sustainable conservation practices on California ranchlands during their annual gala, A Western Affair.
Jack and Zera, from Palo Alto and Culver City respectively, were just married when they bought their first ranch – a land more suitable for black tail deer than cows. A recent Cal Poly grad with a degree in Animal Husbandry, Jack now spent the next three years crawling through the scrub looking for his cattle. In 1961 they sold the ranch and bought 8,000 acres near the town of Parkfield in southern Monterey County. After the birth of their fourth child, the ranch was named the V6 as there were now six members of the family. Over time, the ranch grew to 20,000 acres; the original Varian crew became 18.
In 1991 Jack came across the work of Allen Savory when he attended a Holistic Management seminar in Paso Robles. California was in its sixth year of drought, a significant part of the cattle herd had to be sold, and now his children were raising their own families on the ranch. Jack and Zera began looking in all directions for ways to generate income while stewarding the land. Over the next two decades, the V6 became a western lifestyle destination, offering trail rides, cattle drive and roundups, workshops, and their own Cowboy Academy. Agri-tourism and hunting not only help sustain the land, but also connects city folk to the natural world. Over the next 25 years, Jack’s motto became “Slow Down Water!” His life’s work is now to slow evaporation and runoff, caring for the soil which cares for the grass which cares for the cattle.
16,683 acres of the V6 Ranch was put into a conservation easement on March 23, 2001 that ensures the land will never be developed or divided into smaller parcels. The Varian family requested that California Rangeland Trust hold the easement because the organization understands the needs of the ranching community.
As Jack accepted the award and grew emotional as he spoke of how the land is a living thing and must be protected, the guests at A Western Affair 2016 grew silent. It was a powerful testimony of a life spent in stewardship of the land.
About California Rangeland TrustThe California Rangeland Trust, a 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation, was created to conserve the open space, natural habitat and stewardship provided by California’s ranches. To date, the Rangeland Trust has protected more than
311,751 acresof productive grazing lands across the state through the use of conservation easements. For more information, visit www.rangelandtrust.org.