Interview with a Yonder Steward—Sallie Calhoun, Paicines Ranch | Yonder
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Interview with a Yonder Steward—Sallie Calhoun, Paicines Ranch

Sallie Calhoun

June 08, 2020

Tell us your personal story and how you came to be a Steward of the land?

I’ve cared about nature, especially plants, my entire life. I grew up gardening with my family and hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains. I was inspired by the first Earth Day and have just carried on from there. When we bought Paicines Ranch in 2001, it was an opportunity to move from my organic gardening and ornamental grasses to working on regeneration on a much larger scale.  All of the concepts that I had heard and read about for years became real and fascinating.  Stewarding this landscape is the most intellectually challenging and fun thing that I have ever had the opportunity to do and I’m pleased to share it with others. 

Share some of the ways that your property is committed to nature.

Everything that we do is about working with, rather than dominating, nature.  We use the principles of soil health in everything that we do, and we monitor the diversity of our plants and birds regularly to see what is changing.  We attempt to combine our human creativity and knowledge with the power and wisdom of nature to grow food in a way that regenerates ecosystems. 

What is unique about your property that guests can’t find elsewhere?

The most unique thing is the wide range of experiences possible in a short visit.  We have a historic headquarters area set in the midst of 7,600 beautiful acres. During your visit, you can see ranch buildings from the last 150 years, reflecting the history of California since just before the Gold Rush days. Then, you can hike for miles across the oak-studded rolling hills, learn about our work in regenerative agriculture, visit our vineyard which is designed to be managed by our sheep, and return home with pasture-raised meat produced on this land.  Hopefully, you will leave with an understanding of how connected the landscape, food, and the people on it are to each other.

Can you share a trail that is a favorite among your guests? 

There are so many that come to mind. For folks interested in birds, there is a short walk from the center of our event space down the small hill to the spring-fed teal pond.  The scenic vistas are amazing, and as many as 65 different bird species have been spotted on the walk.  It can take quite a while for birders to make the short walk! Another favorite is to head up to the unique vineyard site. It's a bit of an uphill walk, but at the top of the hill, you find 25 acres of unique trellis systems and views of the ranch and surrounding area that go on for miles.  It's a great place to get an overview of our work in regenerative agriculture and to locate your spot on the ranch. 

What is one thing that you hope your guests will return home with- after experiencing a Yonder stay at your property? 

Our goal is for every visitor to leave feeling more connected both to the California landscapes and to their food. We want them to understand more about the plants and animals, along with the people stewarding these lands and growing food. We also want them to feel connected to our ranch like it is "their ranch” as well. 

What is your best advice for sustainable living and staying close to nature in everyday life?

I believe it’s very important that people understand more about how their food is produced, where their food comes from, and the impact of the food choices they make. Food, agriculture, and soil are so important in many of the global issues facing us today so we believe that everyone should eat and shop consciously and thoughtfully.  It’s very important to support those local producers who are innovating to create the next model of agriculture that will help restore diversity and clean water while mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

The Paicines Ranch is a very special place, and we look forward to sharing it with you. When my husband and I got here, we imagined that it would be our private place. Now, we realize that the more people who can experience it and share it with us, the better! 

See Paicines and hear more from Sallie and her crew.