I have known Elizabeth Poett for a couple of years now. Our children are good friends. But before we had our children in common, I remember buying beef at the Santa Barbara farmers market from Elizabeth. Her passion for food and believing in what she does shines so brightly. She loves to tell customers about what Rancho San Julian does and the humane and sustainable practices they stand behind. I recently sat down with Elizabeth Poett to talk about her family’s ranch, why she chose to continue the ranching tradition and what truly inspires her. Here is what she had to say.
WHS: I know that you come from a long line of ranchers, how long has your family been ranching?
Elizabeth Poett: It all started five “greats” ago with Jose de la Guerra. The ranch was Spanish land, however in 1837, Governor Juan Alvarado granted Jose de la Guerra, my great – great – great - great grandfather, ownership of Rancho San Julian. And the ranch has remained in our family ever since. Over the years, the ranch has served as a place to raise cattle, sheep, keep bees, and grow a diverse collection of organic and bio-dynamic fruits and vegetables.
WHS: We've been buying Rancho San Julian Beef for many years now and recently have been a part of your CSA program. What else does Rancho San Julian produce?
EP: We also grow and sell certified organic lavender that we distill on our land. We have a beekeeper who produces honey, as well as a farmer who grows hay and grains. Our ranch is a living, constantly changing moving entity. It is a real working cattle ranch. I am currently looking to diversify even more by raising other animals and creating more events on the ranch.
WHS: Have you always wanted to work on your family’s ranch?
EP: I have always known that I wanted to be a part of my family’s ranch in some way but I wanted to go out and discover some of the world first. I left for a boarding high school at 14, went to college in the Mid West, lived in New York City for a number of years and then moved to Los Angeles. While living in LA I was coming to the ranch on weekends for cattle work and soon met a neighbor and rancher Austin Campbell, now husband, at a branding. I had always been interested in food and cooking and I decided that the best way for me to get involved in the ranch but also keep true to my passion was to start raising cattle for beef. I began to sell Rancho San Julian Beef at Farmers Markets, to restaurants and families about 10 years ago.
WHS: Who/what inspires you?
EP: My parents - my father, for showing me the importance of land, not just to enjoy, but to take care of. The significance of being a steward of the land and its wild life was something that he showed me from a very early age. He taught me about keeping this land the way it was many years ago, raising animals the way animals should be raised, making agriculture a way of life, which is difficult but must be done to keep these ranches and farms alive. My mother is also someone who has always inspired me. She was a young, hip, editor of the Village Voice living in New York City when she met my dad, a freelance writer who wore cowboy boots. They married and when they became pregnant with me they decided to move to my father's family ranch…Rancho San Julian. My mother was a New Yorker!?! She moved to the ranch into a 3 walled shed from Hell's Kitchen!?!? Not joking. They literally lived off the land. Grew what they needed to eat. Started canning, preserving and they bought some cattle. When I was 4 they started a newspaper in Santa Barbara, later becoming "The Santa Barbara Independent". I was with my parents at all times. I was always along for the ride. My mother showed me the importance of family but also the importance to be true to one's self and to follow my passion.
WHS: Ranching is not always easy. It is a 24/7 job! But as you have already shared, it can be extremely rewarding. What future do you see for your children in Rancho San Julian?
EP: Of course I would love to see our children be a part of the ranch but that will be up to them. My mother always opened doors for me in whatever I was interested in so that I could try things out. For our boys, I hope to do the same. Open doors and always have the ranch as a home.
WHS: What's next for you and Rancho San Julian?
EP: Rancho San Julian is continually growing and changing. I am very excited about all the things that are to come! One of my favorite parts of my work is getting to work with others on food. I want to raise more animals, cook more meals, creating more farm to table dinners at the ranch and continue learning.
WHS: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Elizabeth!
Photos by Lauren Ross