With a drought in California, how are farms and ranches surviving? It’s a tough situation farmers and ranchers are facing, but it can be done!

Kevin Kester, a fifth generation rancher from California’s Central Coast, and his wife, June, a ranching cattlewoman, run Bear Valley Ranch. In this video, created through a partnership between USFRA and Food52, they show both the struggles and successes they have endured.

“As probably everybody across the country knows, California is sustaining its fourth straight year of severe drought,” Kevin explains. “Here on the Central Coast of California, we’ve been in the highest drought category.”

At Bear Valley Ranch, cattle spend more than 85 percent of their lives out on the range, and they’re grass fed. These animals receive no added hormones or antibiotics. (It’s worth noting that, under federal law, there are never any antibiotics in meat.) More recently, the ranch has had to bring in hay for the cows to eat as not enough grass is growing on the parched hills.

Over the last 20 years, the Kesters have begun growing grapes as well. “I recognized that we should be more diverse in our agriculture. We started out with our first vineyards in 1999, and it’s been very beneficial to have that second agricultural product to sell. Especially in the last four years of drought, our grapes have helped us stay financially stable,” Kevin says.

Bear Valley Ranch uses modern technologies to maximize water usage. “Whenever technology comes along we try to take advantage of it – it’s good for sustainability, environmental issues, all the way down to financial sustainability,” Kevin explains. The ranch’s vineyards have water sensors in the ground that measure soil moisture and report back to the office and a smartphone every 15 minutes. This allows the ranch to water these crops precisely and only when needed.   

“Farms across the nation are truly family operations. We do it because we love it, and we’re also producing food for the world,” Kevin shares.  

June Kester prepared steak and tri-tip for our crew when they were out on the ranch, and don’t miss her cooking tips for that lunch in the video!

This video is part of a series USFRA created in partnership with Food52. We traveled across the U.S. to take an inside look into a variety of farms and ranches to bring answers to the many questions consumers have about the food we eat and how it’s grown and raised.

Visit Food52.com to learn more about our partnership.