meet the rancher

CATTLE, CROPS AND COMPOST

Meet the thoughtful stewards of Bently Ranch.

WRITTEN BY CHRISTINA NELLEMANN
PHOTOS BY JAMIE KINGHAM

meet rancher 1

You would think that with 50,000 acres of rangeland it would be tempting to take shortcuts with your ranching business practices. But the owner and employees of Bently Ranch wouldn’t consider it.

“We are surrounded by a large urban area, and I believe we think of a lot of things that other ranchers don’t,” says general manager Matt McKinney. “We work really hard to keep a good reputation, and to prove that we try to do what we say we’re doing.”

So just what is this impressive ranch on Stockyard Road near Minden doing? A lot more than you might think.

meet rancher 2

Distinctive cattle

Established in 1997 by Christopher Bently, Bently Ranch is home to more than 1,000 head of high desert-hardy Angus, Hereford, and Charolais beef cattle with some distinctive certifications. All the cattle are grass fed, grass finished, certified natural, certified hormone free, and rated GAP Level 4 by IMI Global, the Global Animal Partnership 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating standard. Ranch employees also are working on obtaining a humane treatment certification.

“We are driven to produce the highest-quality, certified natural agricultural and beef products possible,” Bently says. “A large portion of our grass-fed beef is about to meet the three-year requirement to be organic. We also demand humane treatment and an optimum environment to raise our cattle.”

Wolf Pack Meats at the University of Nevada, Reno processes the meat, and ranch employees sell it to the public as well as to restaurants, including The Pink House in Genoa; Philadelphia Restaurant & Sandwich Co. in Gardnerville; The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe; and the Thunderbird Lodge in Incline Village. Ranch employees also sell the meat at six seasonal farmers’ markets per week in Carson City, Minden, and Incline Village.

In addition, Bently Ranch employees are widely involved in community-wide service programs, including Future Farmers of America, 4-H, and the Douglas County Farm Bureau. Employees purchase lamb, goat, and pork through the Nevada Junior Livestock Show and supply that meat to the public as well.

“We really enjoy talking to people, selling the products to them, and saying, ‘This is us. We created this. Please enjoy it,’” McKinney says.

meet rancher 8

Hops, history, and heritage

Other portions of the ranch are dedicated to growing grains. The ranch’s newest crop is 1,500 hops plants. Five different types of hops are grown at Bently, based on input from brewmasters, and the plan eventually is to provide hops to local brewers and homebrewers. Malted grain also will be available from the ranch’s malt house.

The ranch produces alfalfa and hay to sell as well as for winter feed for its own cattle. Barley, rye, wheat, and corn are sold to the public, but most of it will be used for the ranch’s latest endeavor: Bently Heritage.

If you’ve driven through Minden and Gardnerville, you’ve see the two 40-foot silos on the north side of Hwy. 395. This 100-year-old flour and feed mill and creamery building soon will become a distillery where vodka, gin, and whiskey will be produced using handmade stills from Germany and Scotland. Bently Heritage is scheduled to open in summer 2017 and will include contemporary and eco-friendly amenities while maintaining the buildings’ history.

Formerly owned by the Dangberg Ranch family (the original ranch is now the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park in Minden), the mill was a pillar of the Carson Valley.

“It was back in the day when everything was local — kind of like what we are moving back to,” McKinney says. “All the farmers would bring whatever they had grown to the mill, and the mill would sell it back to the farmer as a mixed feed or to the public as flour.

“I grew up crawling around the creamery and mill buildings,” Bently recalls. “They are iconic to the valley and deserve to be restored. In today’s world of disposable construction, something with history and character is so precious to preserve.”

meet rancher 5

Keeping it green

While changing the face of Minden, the ranch’s 42 employees are committed to leaving the land better than they found it — a philosophy that’s existed at the ranch for decades. They do this through practices such as rangeland restoration, use of renewable biodiesel equipment, and composting. Christopher Bently started the ranch’s compost program 20 years ago, and now the biomass program is an ongoing effort to keep green waste out of the dump.

The ranch takes in wood, yard waste, leaves, and lawn clippings from the public, and ranch employees combine it with biosolids (organic matter recycled from sewage) from six municipalities. The result becomes the ranch’s main source of fertilizer.

“We do it naturally. We’ve been doing it for such a long time, so we don’t really think it’s something new,” McKinney says. “But it’s something we work really hard on. We reuse everything we can. With the compost we take something that otherwise would be landfilled or burned.”

The biomass program not only keeps waste out of landfills but it helps the ranch save water, too.

“We always are cognizant about how much water we use per crop,” McKinney says. “Because of the use of the compost, not as much water is needed for the crops.”

Bently Ranch’s full circle operation — its cattle, crops, and compost — is not only good for the ranch’s bottom line, but for the community as well.

“Chris (Bently) and the whole company look at the ranch and say, ‘We’re just here for a little bit. Let’s try to make it better while we’re here.’

“I want the Carson Valley to remain a green, agricultural valley for people to enjoy for generations to come,” Bently says. “We do this for one simple reason: It is the right thing to do, and it’s the only way we see to do it.”

Christina Nellemann is a writer and designer living in Washoe Valley. Not only was she impressed by the beauty and efficiency of Bently Ranch, but also her freezer now is full of their steak and ground beef.

Recipes

Bently Ranch Meat Sales

High-quality, dry-aged, certified natural and hormone-free, grass-fed beef can be purchased online, at the ranch office in Minden, or during summer and fall farmers’ markets.

For details, visit http://www.Store.bentlyranch.com.

Biomass Composting

Bently Ranch accepts yard waste from the public. This includes hay, wood chips, leaves, manure, branches, lumber, and wood pallets. The fee to dispose of it there is $20 per ton to cover the cost of grinding down the materials.

For details, visit http://www.Bentlyranch.com/farm.

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