“He was born with a cowboy heart in Pasadena, California.” Julie Ott proudly says of her father, David James, who bought the family ranch with his wife, Kay, in 1961. They raised their five children on those 450 acres and started their first family enterprise in the form of a pond that lured tourists off the road with a sign reading, ‘Fishing Fun for Everyone!’ Today, the James Ranch has grown beyond that little pond.
The adult children started coming back to the ranch 16 years ago, and now along with Dave and Kay James, three of them have their own enterprise. Together, the four enterprises make up the successful family-run operation that offers a variety of agricultural products to the public that goes well beyond organic.
In addition to using organic methods to run the ranch, the James family embraces rotational grazing practices that mimic the role of predators, reincorporates byproducts into their operation, such as mixing cheese whey into pig-feed, and teaches that agriculture is seasonal as reflected in the products sold from their ranch. The preservation of open space is also deeply embedded into their family philosophy, as is evident from the 81-acre conservation easement that they placed on their land, and from their plans to conserve more acreage in the future.
Dave and Kay James attribute the success of their family-run operation to their conservation-minded children and to the quarterly family meetings where delegated roles rotate with each meeting, business is handled professionally and harmoniously, and grandchildren are invited to attend; after all, the future of the family ranch lies with the grandchildren, and they are taking careful notes. Running barefoot after the turkeys and helping with the endless chores on the ranch, they understand the value of what they will inherit. When asked what they think about the early idea to turn the land into a golf course, Abe Ott doesn’t skip a beat, “I’d rather have turkeys.”