It all started out as a dream for a young boy named Joe Hester; that once he became a man and was able to afford to purchase a piece of land where he could raise cattle, ride horses, maybe even do a little farming if he so choose, he would do so right then and there. Sounds pretty simple, right?
Well Joe Hester did in fact grow up…in some ways more than others if you knew Joe...
Joe worked with his father at their construction company in Oakland, California and was well on his way to saving up for this dream of owning a piece of land. He even bought 1.7 acres in the Oakland hills where he could raise a few sheep and goats, have a large garden, and work on his horsemanship in preparation for that day that he would finally get the deed to his own ranch and do things his way…aptly named ….”Old Mc. Joe’s Farm”.
During this time of preparation, Joe fell in love with and married a beautiful young woman by the name of Mary (yes their names were Joseph and Mary….and as slow as I was it took me until my 10th year of Catholic school and a friend to point out that they happened to have the same names as another more famous couple…one we had been studying that whole time). They did what most young couples do and started a family…..NATURALLY…..
First child: “Any Rancher needs a son to help with the chores. This is wonderful!”
Second: “Two is always better than one, Hooray!”
Third: “Awesome, we are going to need more horses!”
Fourth: “Now we are going to get some serious work done!”
Fifth: “Well the Lord has blessed us and must know something we don’t.”
Sixth: “Ah,..OK….How much was the private school tuition? What’s wrong the public school again?”
Seventh: “Are you sure that test was positive honey? Why don’t we take it again.“
Eighth: “Were we trying to buy a ranch or start our own basketball team?”
10th & 11th: (Twins) “I think I need to go for a walk. Don’t wait up”
Let’s just say that Joe and Mary didn’t give birth to baby Jesus, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying!
Joe soon realized that maybe his idea of uprooting his family to relocate to Oregon or Montana (States where larger ranches were much more affordable) was going to be harder than he originally planned. I cannot speak for everyone else but the younger Hip-Hop version of myself would have gone kicking and screaming to Billings Montana where at the time our family would have doubled the local school which went from grades K-12th.
So Joe put his dreams on hold in order to keep his family happy. One could also argue that it was because his present job was the only way he could afford to feed us all…our Costco bills rivaled most people’s mortgages!
But Joe never stopped wanting his ranch, he did however change his criteria. He was no longer looking for 5000+ acres in Oregon or Montana but rather looking for a smaller piece of property in Northern California. A place where maybe he would not have to uproot his family and could be close enough for his ever growing population of grandchildren to visit (and work!).
In 1998, after 20 years of looking, Joe stumbled upon what he was looking for in a tiny cattle town called Stonyford CA. Joe finally made his dream come true when he purchased a small 350 acre ranch and after taking the time to learn the ropes from other cattlemen, various classes and seminars Joe purchased 25 pregnant cows and started his herd in 2003.
Of course Joe always thought bigger was better (if you don’t believe me just look at the size of his family) and so he needed help and more land. With the help of a hired 3rd generation cattleman in Shad Albertson and the purchase of 2000 more acres, they together grew the herd to 180 mother cows in the next 9 years.
2012 was a tough year for Hester Ranch. Joe had passed away from lingering complications from lung cancer diagnosed in 2008. And in a bittersweet move, my then friend and mentor Shad Albertson took an opportunity to fulfill his own dream and take over his grandfather’s ranch, the very one where he grew up and had worked the better part of his life on.
With the Hester Ranch’s future in limbo, I decided that I (Tim, 7th Child) would take over the ranch duties and see if I could keep this thing afloat. It was not easy for a city boy turned cowboy. I was the only employee, which meant that I was the not only the Manager but I was the Janitor and everything in between.
Thanks to the support of my family and some help on weekend and holiday visits, I was able to continue - and here Hester Ranch is today at 230 mother cows and a bundle of 100% Certified Organic Grass-Fed steers we are proud to call our own and sell as beef today.
Here's to you, Dad!
When you have 11 children, they do make for great weekend work parties and huge food bills! Lots of fun but don't be surprised if you get a couch instead of a bed to sleep on!
Blue, Rose, and Jeff are the real brains and brawn behind the day to day operations. They are very well trained Border Collies that help both protect and move the herd to greener pastures.
Without Joe this is all for naught! This ranch was his vision, his dream, and his purchase! An Oakland native who both loved Oakland and the dream of owning a ranch. Miss you Dad!
Yes sometimes I can lead from the back while still being in the front...I call it being attentive! As the sole operator of Hester Ranch, I am the current Manager, janitor, web site marketer and everything in-between!
When you have 11 children you are bound to have a grandchild or two...we have 21! They especially come in handy when its time to feed!
Festus and Roz are the two youngest of our 10 horses on the ranch. Although these two are too young to ride now, they will eventually help us with finding, moving, and doctoring cattle in a quiet low-stress manner.
Behind every dreamer is the go-getter! It was Mary's insistence that everything be done right... Stress-free, organically and without chemicals. She is the reason we are 100% Organic today.
Here Livi is learning the ropes...so to speak! We not only enjoy sharing this experience with our family but also with others!