Hutchinson Family Organic Ranch
Dave Hutchinson’s parents were grass-fed pioneers. Their commitment to raising grass-fed cattle was rooted in the strong conservationist ethic of the prairie grass rancher, plus a firm belief that feeding grain to livestock was unnatural. The family motto was “If it’s not grass-fed, it’s not gourmet.”
“My parents were interested in conservation of grasslands 80 years ago. We’ve never fed corn to our animals. We know it’s healthier for the cow and for people,’” says Hutchinson, who carries on the family tradition at his 5000-acre ranch in the Sand Hills of North Central Nebraska.
The Hutchinsons were also early adopters of organic methods, having gained organic certification in 1990. Along with help from his wife, one of his five daughters, her husband and a grandchild, Hutchinson raises about 500 cattle, along with a herd of 200 buffalo, 200 meat goats, a small herd of quarter horses, seven donkeys and some dairy cows that supply milk for the family.
Hutchinson explains that the ranch’s location in Nebraska’s Sand Hills, about 70 miles from Broken Bow and 80 miles from Valentine, dictates that the land be carefully managed. Though the sandy soil of the Sand Hills has never been suitable for raising crops, it does support a thriving mix of sand-tolerant grass species, including short-grass, mixed-grass and tallgrass.
In the late 1800s, these grasslands were discovered to be great places to graze cattle. The region continues to be prized as a productive cattle ranching area. The massive Ogallala Aquifer underneath the Sand Hills feeds creeks, rivers and streams throughout the region, ensuring plenty of water for grazing animals.
Hutchinson’s ranch is particularly favored with “some of the purest water on the earth” that comes from 17 artesian wells on the property. Though rainfall is plentiful most of the time, herd sizes are also carefully managed to ensure that animals will have enough to eat, even in times of drought.
Conservationists like the Hutchinsons apply successful land-management practices that prevent overgrazing of the land, so that the natural landscape remains much as it was hundreds of years ago.