The Effects of a Dry Winter

The dry winter has been very challenging for local ranchers. We count on rainfall to provide sufficient natural grass feed for our cattle. The price of supplement feed has risen dramatically, as have fuel costs. Some of our locations depend solely on lakes and ponds to provide drinking water for the cattle. If there is no water in the ponds, we must haul water to our livestock every week. Cattle prices are still high, but the rising input costs make it difficult to support the business in a year like this.

The good news is that our families have diversified into winegrowing and agritourism, which so far has helped get us through lean years on the ranching front. But there is no denying that the lack of rain and the rising operating costs are making it very difficult for the local ranching community this year.

Agritourism is increasingly vital to our business model. People want to see where their food and wine come from. We employ sustainable ranching and winegrowing practices that benefit our products as well as the environment. People really enjoy learning about these practices. Similar agritourism experiences are playing out all across San Luis Obispo County. Such agritourism enables us to keep doing what we are doing, and it ultimately helps protect the region's legacy of being a provider of some of California's finest farm-fresh foods, natural beef and world-class wines.

Story submitted by Amanda Wittstrom-Higgins of Ancient Peaks Winery and Santa Margarita Ranch.