And the ranch accommodates wildlife nicely, as well. "I manage my acreage for habitat. Some folks think I should mow more of the acreage, but you wouldn't believe how many birds we have nesting out there." And when he walks across the rolling hills he likes to see the pheasants and coyotes and raccoons as much as he likes to see his cows grazing.
It's a good thing he does, given that John's family has been chased across California by development his whole life. Four generations of his family have farmed in California, and they were farming in Europe for generations before that. His great grandfather had a farm on what is today the Los Angeles Harbor. Out in Modesto, developers are knocking on John's door again.
John joined Organic Valley as soon as he transitioned and has been with the cooperative ever since, even though he had had bad experiences with co-ops before. "The way the other co-ops were structured, it was their way or the highway. Folks at Organic Valley listen to you and do what they can for you. If you have a problem, they take care of it. If there's a trucking issue, they can get it straightened out. Plus, their standards are high so they provide a good, wholesome product to the consumer. When the public buys our milk, they know the cows have been on pasture and been humanely treated." John feels it's a good thing for dairymen, too, because they can be proud to provide milk for a brand that's trusted nationwide. As for his four children, all in their 20's, "One of the main reasons we went organic is that we figured it would make the dairy last longer in California, and that would mean a better future for my family."