When George Goodwin bought the Goodwin Ranch in 1987, he was seeking to reconnect to the land and his agricultural upbringing. George grew up in Southern California and together with his wife, Martha, they raised their six children in San Bernardino County. But deep down, George knew he wanted to one day return to the place he spent many childhood summers—Northern California’s scenic Sierra Valley.
As a young boy, George visited his mother’s family’s ranch where he spent his days milking cows, cleaning stalls, and hunting and exploring the vast open spaces with his grandfather. It was during this time, that George developed a deep-seated appreciation for the land and its bounty.
In 1943, George enlisted in the United States Navy, and upon his departure, he told his father, George Sr., to find a business they could purchase and run together as a family. In 1946, the Goodwins established a small grocery store in Crestline, California and over the years the family expanded the business.
George worked hard to build up the grocery business, but while doing so, he also kept his ear to the Valley through his relatives, hoping to find a place of his own when the time was right. In 1987, a 5,100-acre piece of property came up for sale, and George knew it was the opportunity he’d been waiting for—a chance to return to his roots. Although he continued to live in Southern California, he split his time and visited the ranch often.
Unbeknownst to George at the time of purchase, he learned years later that his ancestors had coincidently built and lived in the civil war-era home on the ranch. In 1992, the family also purchased beautiful pastureland in the Dotta Canyon to expand their grazing capacity and cattle operation. And with this additional acreage, a deep family connection to the property, a firm desire to keep the ranch as a working landscape, and the forethought of the generations to come, George decided to conserve both ranches in 2012 through a partnership with the California Rangeland Trust.
“This was dad’s dream.” Patti Thompson, one of George’s four daughters, expressed. “He looked to the generations that he could not touch, and this [conservation] easement was a way to keep a lifeline to who he was and what the ranch was to him.”
George passed away in 2016, but his legacy continues to live on through the hard work of his family. All six of his children have taken their respective place in the family businesses, and each continues to encourage their own children to be involved to remain connected to their grandfather.
Early on, management of the ranch fell to local outsiders, but Patti, along with her husband, Scott, and their three children Teagan, Taylor, and Connor would visit the ranch while on vacation several times throughout year. Each time, it became increasingly difficult to leave. In 1994, the Thompsons made the huge decision to pack up their lives, move to the Ranch from Southern California, and step in as managers of the ranching operation.
Scott explained, “We never intended to make this ranch our job, but George passed his passions on to us and it was just a natural fit.”
Now that Patti and Scott’s children are adults, the pair have taken a step back from the ranch and allowed them to step into greater leadership roles. Teagan and her husband, Dan, run the day-to-day operations on the ranch, while her siblings lend helping hands when needed.
“All of our kids love this place and want to be here,” Patti explained. “Unfortunately the realistic aspect of ranching is that ranches nowadays can’t sustain multiple families at once.”
While the whole family isn’t involved in the day-to-day operations, the ranch remains a gathering ground for the Goodwin family, which has grown exponentially over the years with six kids, 26 grandchildren, 42 great-grandchildren and counting, and a great-great-grandchild. Whether celebrating the holidays or partaking in family brandings, there is room for everyone to find their place on the land.
“These new generations of Goodwins are smart; they have the same forethinking that dad had, and they want to make sure that the ranch and the grocery stores continue to thrive,” Patti said.
The Goodwins now own and operate three grocery stores in Southern California, one general store in the Valley, and the ranch. In many ways, the ranch has expanded into multitude of businesses including an Angus crossbred beef program, a hay farming operation, logging leases, and guided hunting and fly fishing experiences.
“Our family businesses are where we, as a family, get to bring our passions to the table,” Taegan explained. “For Grandpa, this ranch was built as a passion, not a job, and that same sentiment has prevailed in us all.”
The Goodwin Ranch is a place for family members to work hard, learn valuable lessons, and foster passions, just as George always intended. And because of his commitment to conservation, the ranch will remain just as it is today for generations to come.
Pictured above are the families of George and Martha’s six children.