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Rancher adapts to better protect his environment

Jan./Feb. 2007 California Country magazine

Jack Varian changed his way of life and ended up changing a whole city along the way.


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To call the town of Parkfield small would be an understatement. The town only has 18 residents, but they can all lay claim to living in a place with a big reputation--earthquake capital of the world. Legend has it that a big one hits this place every 22 years. But for the people who live here, the fault is just another neighbor, a familiar feature in a landscape they love and a community they cherish. And at the center of that community is Jack Varian.

Jack came to Parkfield simply to continue his family farming operation. But along the way, something funny happened: Jack not only changed his way of life, but ended up changing a whole city along the way. First, came the town of Parkfield. The family built much of what's in town today. From the inn to the café to the rodeo grounds, the Varians have played a part in each project. Seeing the potential of the community, Jack invested everything in it and literally built the city from the ground up, albeit, a shaky one.

Next came a change to his occupation, and a big change at that. A rancher for more than 45 years, Jack thought he knew all there was to know about the land he worked on. That was until he was hit with five straight years of drought. But from despair comes desire and for Jack his desire became finding a new way to ranch, a way that would not only help him, but the land too.

So he started with something called holistic management. It is a system that teaches ranchers how to see the big picture and set long-term goals that improve the quality of life, while increasing and enhancing biodiversity. Today Jack and his family own and operate more than 16,000 acres of pristine land at their V6 Ranch in Parkfield.

And in addition to finding new ways to ranch, Jack is also looking for new ways for his ranch to remain prosperous. So he regularly has guests come out and go on bird watching adventures, roundups and even a couple of real working cattle drives. Four times a year, the Varians invite city slickers to come out and experience a little country life in Parkfield. They only spend three days out in the rural countryside, but they leave with memories to last a lifetime, many involving their fearless leader, Jack. The emotional attachment to the land runs strong through the three generations of the Varian family. They have all worked together to keep the ranch profitable and to make Parkfield a great place to live and visit. And over the years, Jack Varian has come to the belief that when you're part of a ranching and farming family, your one true legacy is the land you call home.

"I think probably the most beautiful picture ever painted is the one Mother Nature painted. It's better than the Mona Lisa and better than anything any human could dream up," Jack said.


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