Llano Seco Rancho is a place like no other. Located at the northern end of California’s Sacramento Valley, this 18,000-acre ranch is home to native grasslands, wetlands, oak savannahs, and riparian forests rich with wildlife.
It has not always been this way. Prior to 1991, much of the land was ‘lasered’ (leveled and graded) to create more suitable conditions for rice production. Other acreage was dedicated to dry grain production and grazing, leaving little unaltered space for the area’s native plant and animal species to thrive.
Between 1991 and 2006, the ranch’s owners took a bold step, destined to change the Llano Seco landscape forever. They sold conservation easements to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy in 1991 and an agricultural conservation easement to Northern California Regional Land Trust in 2006, guaranteeing the protection of natural habitats on this land in perpetuity.
The effect of this decision has been remarkable, according to David Sieperda, Ranch Manager at Llano Seco. “We have successfully converted thousands of acres of former rice paddies into seasonal wetlands that serve as a resting place for greater sand hill cranes heading to and from Canada. We’ve also helped to create favorable habitats for a variety of water fowl, turkeys, golden and bald eagles, Blacktail deer, fresh water otters, Swainson hawk, and osprey.” Plus, Sieperda says that the move to put Llano Seco into conservation ensured that the unlasered areas of the property, which are rare in California, remain as close to their natural state as possible.
At the same time, converting the ranch land into a large-scale conservation area has helped to reinforce Llano Seco’s long-standing commitment to sustainable land and resource management. “No matter what we do, we always work to ensure that the steps we take support the overall health of the environment,” Sieperda explains.
This attitude is reflected in all phases of the production process at Llano Seco. Hogs raised on the ranch are fed organic peas and wheat, and are housed in barns in which organic rice straw and corn stalks are used for bedding. When the bedding is soiled, it is then composted and used for fertilizer on the ranch’s fields. In turn, the crops grown on these fields are used as hog feed.
The effect, Sieperda says, is the creation of an efficient, ‘closed-loop system.’ “We are in many ways self-sustaining, which not only helps us to manage our costs, but also allows us to keep our environmental impact to a minimum.”
The fact that the hogs raised at Llano Seco are processed at a plant fifteen minutes away further helps to keep the size of ranch’s carbon footprint small.
“When you add all our work up, we hope that the only mark we leave behind is that of a thriving natural environment that can be enjoyed for many generations to come,” says Sieperda.