In a bold move for both land conservation and the future of earth-friendly farming, the Summerland-based White Buffalo Land Trust just purchased the 1,000-acre Jalama Canyon Ranch for $6 million, with plans to turn the property into a center for regenerative agriculture. Located on Jalama Road close to Highway 1, about eight miles north of Point Conception and a 10-minute drive south of Lompoc, the ranch was best known for years as an event venue and home to JCR Vineyard, which was the name of a wine brand until recently.
“It was an Earth Day gift for sure,” said Ana Smith, the director of programs and engagement for White Buffalo. “We’re really excited about this opportunity to begin the development of this center for regenerative agriculture that will be an important hub for this region and beyond. It’s really a beacon for the power of regenerative agriculture and how we can grow out food, fiber, and medicine in a way that restores the ecosystem.”
Quickly gaining steam in farming communities across the world — including in the region’s vast wine industry — regenerative agriculture, according to RegenerationInternational.org, “describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity, resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.”
The $6 million was raised as part of a “blended capital effort,” with funding coming from the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County as well as foundations, individual donors, and conservation lenders. The next step will be raising another $4 million by May 2022 to pay for infrastructure development and bring the programs to life. White Buffalo plans to kick that campaign off in June. The grand dream is laid out in detail on this website.
Jalama Canyon Ranch, where the White Buffalo Land Trust plans to build a center for regenerative agriculture. Credit: White Buffalo Land Trust
“What we’re looking to create is a center that’s focused on demonstrating the principles and practices of regenerative agriculture, that focuses on the links between those practices and the positive ecological outcomes on the land, that focuses on training the next generation of land stewards as well as current land stewards,” said Smith of their ambitions, which will emphasize educational opportunities for all ages.
Among other goals, the plan calls for a biodiverse persimmon orchard, to feed the trust’s Figure Ate brand of persimmon vinegar; a reinvigorated olive grove; continued management of the vineyard; holistic managed grazing of cattle, sheep, and goats; and dryland agave production for both booze and fiber.
A nonprofit founded by Steve Finkel to honor the work of his late wife, Lyndsey McMorrow, White Buffalo Land Trust already owns a 12-acre farm behind Summerland, where the staff of about eight people are already practicing regenerative farming. The flagship farm is “our living laboratory,” said Smith. “Jalama Canyon Ranch is our opportunity to show regenerative agriculture at scale, and to work with others who have those types of land holdings to show how a transition to regenerative agriculture is possible.”
“Throughout history we have struggled to live in balance and harmony with the earth and with each other; yet our shared future rests on our expanding awareness and ability to do so,” said Finkel in a press release. “The community coming together to do this work at Jalama Canyon Ranch is a resounding step forward on this journey.”