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Harvey Ranch uses the land for multiple enterprises

Diana Jorgenson
Portola Editor

Anna Harvey is a fourth-generation sheep producer, her mother a Basque from Spain. She thinks it helps that she was raised in the business; taking care of sheep seven days a week, 24 hours per day was normal in her life.

“It’s a lifestyle,” she told a group of farm tour participants in May. “You have to love what you do or you will not survive.”

Although the ranchland at Calpine has been in her family since the 1920s, it was only used for summer grazing. Her family and their commercial flocks lived and spent the winters at lower elevations in California.

Rambouillet and Romney Coopworth crosses are the chosen sheep varieties for a spinning flock of 400 living year-round on the Harvey Ranch. Photo by Diana Jorgenson

She maintains that tradition with a commercial flock of sheep that she has in partnership with her sister.

But today, she also nurtures a year-round “spinning flock” of 400 to supplement that commercial venture.

She sells lambs, mutton and wool, but adding the specialized flock of Rambouillets and Romney crosses increased her wool prices from $2 a pound to $24 a pound. “My number-one crop is wool,” she told the group.

But she calls her spinning flock “a pampered group” and described the extra attention that went into its care, like special jackets to keep dirt and vegetation out of the wool and pedicures twice a year.

Twenty-five years ago, when she decided to live year-round at the ranch and to raise her family in Calpine, the only thing on the property was an artesian spring.

Today there are multiple barns and animal shelters and a couple of dwellings. The most recent addition is a new log home that Anna said was a log kit they “tweaked.”

The other buildings were all built out of lumber milled from trees on the property.

Anna’s family bought the property when it had recently been logged over, but they were not timber people and the land had been left to replenish itself naturally.

Anna’s husband, Don, saw a property ripe for timber management. He, too, has added multiple enterprises to the overall income provided by the ranch, and today timber proceeds are their main income.

Don sees a sustainable harvest of timber from the property for his lifetime and that of his children, if it is well managed.

He bought a portable sawmill in 1992, which allowed him to mill lumber for himself and for others.

He also invested in a wood processor that cuts, splits and conveys the firewood chunk to a pile.

As he thins and harvests timber from the ranch property, he chooses the best possible and most profitable use for a given tree. He can cut it into lumber, sell saw logs to SPI in Quincy or cut it into firewood.

Nothing gets wasted, Don said. Even the sawdust gets mixed with manure for compost.

In addition to these diverse enterprises, Anna continues to try other ways of using the property for income. Her most recent project was an attempt to grow blueberries. So far it has failed.

When asked whether there were other enterprises in the offing, Anna said no, although she had not quite given up on growing things.

Don, for his part, added that he had hopes of building a shop.

They have concerns about the present. Recent building codes preventing California residents from building with their native woods disturbs them both.

“Timber is our main income and it’s getting harder and harder. It’s very disheartening to think that we won’t be harvesting timber here in California, because for the past 25 years we have been basically grooming our property for our children. Now we are growing grade timber. That’s the cream of the crop. The thought of not being able to cut that is disturbing,” Anna said.

Holly George, UC Cooperative Extension adviser, asked them if they had any advice for people wanting to get into farming and ranching.

“You have to be young,” said Anna.

“Build the shop first,” said Don.


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