2005 NCBA Environmental Stewardship Award

Awarded by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)

Washington, D.C. (July 7, 2005) — The Walter W. Ralphs and Jim & Mary Rickert families of Fall River Mills, California, have been selected as regional winners of the 2005 Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP). Their farm, Prather Ranch, is one of seven regional winners nationwide. The prestigious program is in its 15th year and is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences L.L.C. and the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS).

The annual award program, administered by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), recognizes cattle producers across the nation whose stewardship practices are innovative, cost-effective and contribute to environmental conservation. Prather Ranch is the sole representative of NCBA's Region VI, which includes five southwestern states and Hawaii. They were nominated by the California Cattlemen's Association.

"This award program acknowledges cattle producers who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to preserve natural resources," explains Stacey Katseanes, coordinator of the program. "People who devote their lives to working the land embody the true meaning of environmentalist, and for these California families, conservation is a lifetime commitment that has greatly rewarded them. Prather Ranch demonstrates how today's cattlemen utilize creative technologies and innovations to operate a profitable and environmentally-friendly business."

The Prather Ranch is diverse cattle and farming operation, including cow/calf, feeder, feed yard, slaughter facility and retail meat outlets. The cattle herd consists of approximately 4,000 head, being grazed on 28,555 acres of deeded and leased land in Siskiyou, Shasta, Tehama, Glenn and Colusa counties of northern California. Being environmentally-friendly is a large part of the philosophy of Prather Ranch, and they have incorporated conservation practices such as rotational grazing, creating wildlife habitat, limited access cattle watering ramps, manure handling and a hydroelectric plant.

"The Prather Ranch is a tremendously unique, vertically integrated beef cattle operation in northern California which has shown a deep commitment to balancing environmental stewardship with economic sustainability," says Ben Higgins, Executive Vice President of the California Cattlemen's Association. "Our organization is extremely proud of the impressive accomplishments of the Prather Ranch in the fields of environmental protection, holistic management, wildlife management, specialized production and marketing and animal welfare."

The Prather Ranch has continuously worked with agencies and organizations such as the NRCS, California Division of Forestry, California Department of Fish and Game, United States Department of Fish and Wildlife Services, Sacramento River Watershed Program and the California Rangeland trust, just to name a few. The ranch also works with colleges and universities to help educate young people about progressive animal husbandry techniques. They host tours for organizations including the Hereford Association, California Cattlemen's Association, Oregon State University and many high school FFA departments and 4-H clubs. They have been previously recognized with prestigious awards such as the 2004 Governor's Environment and Economic Leadership Award (California) and the Beef Improvement Federation 2005 Commercial Producer of the Year (national).

"The impressive story of the Prather Ranch has been featured in many local, state and national newspapers and magazines describing the operation," says Katseanes. "They have also been covered by various national television and radio programs."

With their holistic approach to ranching, Prather Ranch helps the environment by increasing plant diversity and productivity and sees a 20 to 30 percent return on investment from their hydroelectric plant per year. The ranch provides a clean watering system for livestock and wildlife and creates a friendly environment for wildlife populations. Prather Ranch is committed to raising beef in a sustainable manner with high environmental standards, which makes them a leader in their community and in the industry.

"My dream is to own a productive, environmentally progressive operation in northern California," says Walter Ralphs. "It is my wish to leave a legacy of a ranching operation that is highly sustainable, provides environmental, economic and social benefits and is an innovative leader in the cattle industry."

Prather Ranch will be formally recognized as a regional ESAP winner at the 2005 Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver, Colorado on July 28th. One of the seven regional winners will be selected as the national winner and announced in February 2006 at NCBA's Annual Convention, also in Denver. For additional information on the family or other regional winners, contact NCBA's Washington, D.C., office at 202-347-0228.


Prather Ranch hosted the author for her book