"Over the last few years, as I have met more people who own agricultural land, it has occurred to me that in the same way that aligning my money and values is challenging, so is aligning what happens on the land. I am interested in being part of a community of land owners who are dealing with these issues and want to incorporate their land into their mission."
Letter from Sallie Calhoun, host of Lead with Land and co-owner of Paicines Ranch
In the late 90's my husband, Matt, and I were running our software company and raising two children. We wanted to build a house out in the country and bought a 400-acre ranch in San Benito County when a very strange thing happened. To get to our "starter" ranch, we drove down the side of a much larger ranch, which was owned by developers who were planning to build 4500 houses. At first sight, Matt became obsessed with the property and announced his intention to buy that ranch. My response was, "I don't know what you're smoking, but that seems pretty impossible."
In early 2000 we received an unsolicited offer for our software company, which we took, with the deal closing at the end of August. On August 1, 2000 the San Benito county government killed the development project at the Paicines Ranch and by February 2001, we owned a 7600-acre ranch. We had no plan, no knowledge, and really no expectations. It is the largest single investment we have ever made, and certainly the craziest thing we have ever done.
When we bought the ranch, our intention was to lease out the cattle ground because we "knew" that cattle were bad for the land, but there was too much fire danger without them. In the spring I met the woman who had been forced to sell the ranch to the developers. She told me that I should read Allan Savory's book and that if she had read the book, she would still own the ranch. I was intrigued, and read the book.
Savory’s vision got me hooked by the possibility of restoring California's native perennial grasses. By the end of 2001 we owned a cow-calf herd and were investigating the possibility of raising grass-fed beef.
Since then it has been an amazing journey that has included producing and marketing grass-fed beef, studying holistic management, becoming board chair of Holistic Management International, and running a meat-packing plant. I have learned more than I ever imagined.
I have also met the most creative, inquisitive, interesting people. One of the people I met was Don Shaffer, then leading BALLE and now President & CEO of RSF Social Finance. As a result of that introduction, I began to question how my money was working in the world. One step in that process was to attend Play Big, a convening organized by Marian Moore and built on the example of Carol Newell and her work in British Columbia. I loved the format and the people, and it has made a real impact on my work in the world.
As I have met more people who own agricultural land, it has occurred to me that in the same way that aligning my money and values is challenging, so is aligning what happens on the land. I am interested in being part of a community of landowners who are dealing with these issues and want to incorporate their land into their mission.
I would like to be part of a community of practice, learning, and connection that accelerates and strengthens our work on the land. That is what I hope Lead with Land will help us create.