Nestled below the Sierra Nevadas is the Carson Valley, full of pristine meadows that are cared for by Bently Ranch. In a few months, these irrigated fields will be grazed upon by a small herd of specially bred cattle, where they will summer in this beautiful landscape.
Raising grass-fed cattle on a sustainable ranch isn’t easy, but for over two decades, this family-owned and operated ranch has refused to take shortcuts, producing a premium beef that doesn’t simply nourish food lovers, but sustains the land it originates from.
Old West Tradition, New West Values
Ranching is one of the West’s most storied institutions, and while Bently Ranch embraces these traditions, it also incorporates cutting-edge land management and animal welfare practices.
The ranch’s pastures and farmland stretch from the meadows of Carson Valley to the high desert range of the Pine Nut Mountains — some of Nevada’s most treasured landscapes. To preserve these lands for future generations, pasture management plays a vital role: herds are moved to fresh pastures as needed in order to maintain the health of the grasses as well as improve the quality of the resulting beef. In this rugged landscape, the ranch’s cattle are allowed to grow at their normal rate, and are never fed grains or given hormones to speed weight gain or alter their health.
The Bently team also plays a vital role in the lives of the ranch’s cattle; to reduce stress on cows, cowboys introduce themselves early on. This is one of the quintessential ideals of traditional ranching, but there’s also science going on behind the scenes.
General Manager Matt McKinney has spent years perfecting the ranch’s unique mix of Hereford, Angus, and Charolais cattle; this custom breed not only thrives in the area’s ranch lands, but produces the premium beef the Bently Ranch is famous for. The ranch only raises the amount of cattle that the land can naturally sustain, allowing it to rotate pasturelands as necessary, from year to year and from season to season.
In addition to being eco-friendly, all Bently Ranch cattle are rated GAP Level 4 by the Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating standard. Ranch employees are working on obtaining a humane treatment certification. Bently Ranch beef is grass fed and finished, dry-aged for three weeks, certified hormone and antibiotic free, and 100% free-range.
Perhaps this down-to-earth pride in quality is best summed up in what General Manager Matt McKinney says about the ranch: “We really enjoy talking to people and seeing them enjoy the fruits of our labor. Every one of our products says ‘This is us. We created this. Please enjoy it.’ We also want to see future generations of farmers and ranchers benefit from our work in sustaining the environment and ecosystem of the Northern Nevada.”
Stewards of the Land
Bently Ranch views its 50,000 acres of land as much more than grazing or farming space: it’s an important part of the regional ecosystem — both human-made and natural. Employees of the Bently Ranch share a passion for preserving the land’s natural beauty. The ranch preserves one of the region’s most precious resources, water, by irrigating crops with effluent from the two neighboring water treatment facilities. This reduces the demand on local water sources, and helps maximize crop output by not depending on water allotments.
This kind of conservation can also have benefits during times of trouble: Northern California and Nevada recently suffered from a protracted drought that affected the entire region. During this time, back-to-back winters produced a small Sierra snowpack that failed to replenish the valleys below, greatly reducing local crop outputs. This program allowed the ranch to continue irrigating throughout the dry summer months — something many other farmlands could not do.
Another important conservation effort is the compost program, which is used not only by businesses and homeowners throughout the entire region, but puts to use organics received from several transfer stations and dumps throughout Lake Tahoe to Carson Valley. This reduces the strain on landfills, saves the local municipality money, and allows the ranch to enrich its soil and crops.
Bently Ranch has also stepped up for its neighbors in times of need. In recent years, the ranch volunteered to divert flood paths into its own pastures — while the ranch lost a crop in the process, it helped save the homes and businesses of neighbors. Bently Ranch employees are widely involved in community service programs throughout Northern Nevada, including Future Farmers of America, 4-H, and the Douglas County Farm Bureau.
As Christopher Bently, the owner of Bently Ranch says, “We’re just here for a little bit. Let’s try to make it better while we’re here. I want the Carson Valley to remain a green, agricultural valley for people to enjoy for generations to come.”
A Generational Legacy
Bently Ranch employees come from many different walks of life — its management team includes retired Marine Woody Worthington the Operations Manager, agricultural scientists, businesspeople, and entrepreneurs — but they all shares one vision: to make Carson Valley their home and to preserve its natural beauty and simpler way of life.
They have dedicated their lives to cattle ranching in the best traditions of the old west, while building a new ranching tradition for future generations.
To find out more about Bently Ranch, visit their website here.