A Legacy of Ranching
Steve is a fifth generation California agriculturalist and fourth generation cattle rancher. Steve's family's ranching history began in 1906 when they bought their cattle ranch in Shandon, CA. In the 1980s, they bought a second ranch in the Las Padres National Forest, located between the Garcia and Machesna Mountain areas.
A graduate of Stanford University and the University of Colorado Law School, Steve practiced water and environmental law in Sacramento for five years before returning to San Luis Obispo County in 1978 to continue his practice and help manage the family's two cattle ranches (both cow-calf operations). Steve manages these ranches today with his parents, Norma and Jim, and with his wife, Jane, he also manages a 125-acre vineyard. Steve and Jane have two children, Julie, age 27 and Daniel, 24, who are still pursuing careers, but love working on the ranch, becoming the fifth generation on the same land.
Innovation and Conservation on the Ranch
Steve protects his own 18,000-acre ranch from development by enrolling it in the state's Williamson Act program, which allows private landowners to work with local governments to voluntarily keep their land in agriculture. Throughout his ranch, Steve uses a variety of innovative practices such as rotational grazing to promote sustainability and protect the environment.
In their vineyards, Steve and his wife, Jane, employ management techniques that support and enhance wildlife habitat. He also works with the Central Coast Vineyard Team on new practices and he has participated in experiments with cover crops and erosion control. Further, they developed a unique trellising method for their cabernet grapes that helps to balance the canopy to fruit ratio, which allows for naturally higher yields and quality of fruit. The family also works to manage their grapes as organically as possible.
Steve partners with the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) on studies investigating oak tree regeneration, grazing and erosion control. Oak trees are an asset to the ranch and the family has never removed oak trees from its properties. Steve has also opened up his ranchland to experiments and studies intended to help preserve wildlife. One such example is the Tule Elk herd, which has lived on the Sinton ranch for the past 20 years. Additionally, in the 1970's and again in the 1980's, Steve and his father fought successfully for the designation of the Machesna Wilderness Area to protect the nesting ground of the California Condor. This designation includes parts of their own private ranch within the boundaries of the wildnerness area.
Most importantly, Steve notes that practicing good stewardship is a learning process and the knowledge of how best to protect and preserve the land must be passed from generation to generation. He discusses new techniques and practices with his parents and believes strongly that this exchange of ideas promotes an important connection with the land that "goes beyond just liking the place - it's understanding the land."
Leadership and Policy Activism
Steve Sinton truly exemplifies what it means to have a lifelong commitment to conservation and to practicing good stewardship of the land. Steve not only leads by example on his own ranch, but he also actively works to promote land stewardship throughout California. His tireless efforts are helping to ensure the future of agriculture in his state and the U.S.
Steve played an integral role in helping to form the California Rangeland Trust, California's statewide agricultural land trust formed by the members of the California Cattlemen's Association (CCA). In 1998, a newly appointed Board of Directors for the Rangeland Trust elected Steve to serve as the organization's founding chairman, an office he held for two terms. Under his leadership, the Rangeland Trust grew from a start-up nonprofit with no staff to a statewide organization that currently holds more than 170,000 acres in conservation easements on working cattle ranches.
In addition to his service to the Rangeland Trust, Steve has served as the vice-chairman of the CCA Land Use Committee where he led the CCA to change it's ruling opposing the use of conservation easements on private land (a move that prompted other statewide organizations to follow suit). Steve regularly partners with the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) on studies investigating oak tree regeneration, grazing, and erosion control. He is also a member of the Central Coast Vineyard Team that has created a system of self-analysis to promote research and innovative, environmentally friendly practices involving vineyard sustainability.