Some time ago (1976), Cam’s father Geoff participated in a six month long Young Farmers exchange where he stayed with several host families in California. One of those hosts was the Hagata family where Geoff stayed and worked on their cattle ranch for three weeks. The ranch is located in Willowcreek Valley, just outside of Susanville in northern California. Geoff and the Hagata family has maintained contact over the years, and Cam has grown up hearing stories and tales of Geoff’s Cowboy antics on the Hagata ranch. Teri, Geoff’s host sister back in the day, kindly welcomed us into her home along with husband Joe, and sons Andrew and Daniel Bertotti. The Hole in One (Bertotti) Ranch is located 45 minutes down the hill in Janesville.
During our three night stay at the ranch and visit to Willow Creek we were able to get a brief look at ranching and the challenges it presents in this area. We were frequently complimented on NZs farming skills in particular pasture management; but we soon learnt that farming in this part of the world is very different and not entirely comparable. For example, annual rainfall in Janesville averages 10 inches per year, a mere quarter of the rainfall on the farms back home (not to mention cooler summers and snowless winters). It was also interesting for us to learn about the farming practices used here. The more traditional farmers appear to farm for winter; cutting meadow hay and alfalfa all summer in order to have enough feed for the snowy winter months. However, the Bertotti family are trying something new to reduce the expense of making so much hay by windrowing their feed so cattle can seek it out through the snow, a practice more common in Canada. We came away being thankful for our great farming climate at home as these ranchers certainly do not have life easy.
We also visited the Hagata ranch to observe the branding and castration of their calves. Geoff’s host brother Daren, third generation running the ranch, showed us the old homestead built by his grandparents that had migrated from France. We enjoyed inspecting the remains and hearing the stories of this old wooden home.
This was followed by a lovely family BBQ in the field as the sun was setting across the ranch. It was a special chance to meet Geoff’s host parents Frank and Bernice, as well as the wider Hagata family. All grandchildren but one were there to meet us and join in with the stories of Geoff and his time on the ranch, we are so grateful to the entire family for making such an effort. Geoff - the Badger tale and the memories of your driving the tractor with no shirt on for the ladies lives on!
Rising early Saturday morning we accompanied Teri and Joe to Reno (Nevada) where they were selling their delicious grass feed beef at a local Farmers Market. Following this we took a 20 minute drive through the ski fields to Lake Tahoe and all enjoyed a lovely seafood lunch together in the sun.
We had such a fun time with the Bertotti family and felt privileged to be welcomed into their home, again we really look forward to hosting you all sometime soon in New Zealand.
Sunday morning we packed up the car, after a delicious cooked breakfast by Teri-no less, and headed toward Yosemite National Park.