California State Fair honors rancher for his dedication and persistence

Cattleman’s family has worked local acreage for 150 years
By: Kirsten Read Journal Correspondent
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Daryl Oest has a particularly good reason to head down to the California State Fair on Friday. Cattle rancher Oest will be inducted Friday morning into the California Agricultural Heritage Club. He is being honored for his family being in agricultural operations for more than 150 years. According to Teresa McEntire, California Agricultural Heritage Club coordinator, the club is an outreach program that annually inducts and recognizes members during a brunch and ceremony held at the fair. Members receive special recognition based on how long their family has been in the business. This year, the Oest family is being inducted at the 150-year benchmark, and given recognition of the highest honor. “This is a program run solely through partnerships and contributions,” McEntire said. “Primarily it’s the California Farm Bureau, who sends our press release and application to their members every year, the California Grain and Seed Association, and California Farmer Magazine that contribute to make this happen. The club’s purpose is to recognize families, businesses and special agricultural interests that have maintained a financial responsibility in agriculture for at least a century.” Oest lives on Lone Star Road and owns property along Highway 49 as well as in the American River Canyon, totaling about 950 acres, and raises about 300 cattle that he sells through the Cattlemen’s Livestock Market in Galt. Oest’s family has been cattle ranchers in this area since 1859, after his great-grandfather, Peter Oest, moved to New York from Germany, and then came to California with an interest in gold mining. Little did he know that his actions would result in generations of agriculture and tradition. “I’ve been doing it all my life. It’s my family business, so I grew up in it,” Oest said. “Summertime I do a lot of irrigating, and get feed for the cattle. I just like being outdoors, and preserving the land.” Preservation has been an important part of Oest agriculture. Oest’s father put the family land in the Williamson Act, also known as the California Land Conservation Act, in the 1960s, with the goal of protecting the land so people couldn’t develop on it. According to Oest, this act is a long-term commitment, and takes about 10 years to get out of once you have put your land with it. Oest took this a step further in 2009 when he decided to protect his land with a conservation easement with Placer Land Trust. “I like the open space,” Oest said. “I think it needs to be preserved for the future, for wildlife, but for agriculture. People need to eat.” With regard to how the economy has affected his business in the last couple of years, Oest felt that his enterprise has taken a blow similar to others. “You have to do a lot of cutbacks because a lot of expenses go up,” Oest said. “Our water bill has gone out of sight for irrigation. Fuel costs and other things are a big issue. And this year’s a very bad year for hay. The weather has created a problem in that respect. Weather is one of the issues. You either go through droughts, or rains don’t come right. There are always issues you’re dealing with. It’s that way with any agriculture.” Another issue that has affected the cattle ranch is the rise in protocols and procedures. “One of the hardest things that agriculture deals with is regulations,” Oest said. “It adds a lot of expense and takes up a lot of time to keep in compliance and go by the guidelines. We’re dealing with water issues and air issues, and coalitions that we pay fees to. We have to monitor our pesticide use, among other things, and do a lot of paperwork with the county and the state. To an extent these things need to be patrolled, but there is overregulation; they go to the extreme. They put a lot of the responsibility on agriculture, but don’t put a lot of it on ordinary residents. There are things that normal people gardening in their backyards can buy without a permit that I can’t get at all, such as Round Up, which is a weed killer.” With regards to the California Agricultural Heritage Club, Oest said, “This is a new thing for me.” He provided documentation to show the club how long his family has been cattle ranchers in Auburn, which included letters that his great-grandfather sent back to his family in Germany. The letters are written in Old German, and some are still being translated into English today. According to the letters, Peter Oest was instrumental in starting vineyards in the Placer County area, and planted orchards in the 1920s and ‘30s when Placer County was widely known for pears. But no matter what other enterprises take place on the land, the Oest family has always been cattle ranchers as well. Now, Oest’s total acreage includes 80 of the roughly 400 acres that made up the original cattle ranch. The rest of the original ranch went to his grandfather’s brothers. His two sons, Lucas, 32, and Loren, 34, help him out on the ranch and hope to continue the family tradition.