Calaveras County family secures their family’s long ranching legacy


(CALAVERAS COUNTY, CALIF.) – December 5, 2023

The California Rangeland Trust is proud to announce the conservation of the Nakagawa Ranch in Valley Springs, Calif. The project was completed with funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) as well as the California Strategic Growth Council’s Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC) Program in collaboration with the Department of Conservation. 

Established in 1941, the Nakagawa family ranching business is a story of hope following one of the darkest times in American history. After signing the deed to a 425-acre ranch in Acampo, Calif., the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor occurred just two days later. Sadly, the events that followed postponed the family’s ability to establish themselves on the land. Two months after the attack, in February of 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order authorizing the relocation of many Japanese Americans. They were ordered to camps in the western interior of the country, and many tragically lost their properties and belongings as a result. But fortunately for the Nakagawas, they were able to entrust the care of their land to a neighbor, while they were forced to relocate to an internment camp.  

After four long, tough years, the family was finally able to return to their ranch, where they then banded together and worked hard to reestablish their lives and bring the land back to its bountiful glory. For many years, the family grew Tokay grapes and squash, but in recent years, those fields have transitioned into alfalfa and oat hay.  

In 2007, the family secured a conservation easement and created the Nakagawa Preserve on roughly 280-acres of their Acampo ranch. With the money they received from the sale of the easement, they decided to expand their business and purchase a 380-acre ranch in Valley Springs.  

After purchasing the property, the opportunity presented itself to start the high-quality Wagyu beef business and since its introduction, the family has successfully sold their beef all over the state. They also sell their calves and breeding stock to small-scale ranchers – some traveling as far away as Tennessee.  

“Starting this business was an unexpected dream come true, it was not a plan of ours, but it all worked out with faith and timing,” Glenn Nakagawa, another owner of the Ranch, stated. “It is a business built on a good product and an honest sale.”  

The Valley Springs ranch is comprised of mostly grassland and oak woodlands with Youngs Creek running through it, making it idyllic for their livestock as well as the natural flora and fauna. The family sought out the California Rangeland Trust to conserve the Valley Springs ranch to protect these habitat values, fend off impending development, and ensure that their family’s ranching legacy would sustain into the future. 

“We are pleased that the SALC program has become part of the Nakagawa family’s story of sustainably managing agricultural lands,” said California Department of Conservation Director David Shabazian. “SALC ensures our state’s natural and working lands are permanently conserved, and we are honored to help protect upland and riparian habitat areas along Spring Valley and Youngs Creek. It is a true example of successful stewardship where both wildlife and agriculture are thriving together.” 

The United States is losing farm and ranch land at an alarming rate—2,000 acres a day are lost to development and conversion, according to a recent study by the American Farmland Trust. These losses threaten our nation’s food security and natural resources. Seeing development encroach firsthand led to the Nakagawas decision to conserve. Keiko Nakagawa, one of the owners of the Ranch, noted that it was just the right thing to do, they saw farm and ranch land is disappearing right in front of their eyes, and they wanted to safeguard their ranch for those who come after us. 

We’re excited our Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program can support the Nakagawa family in permanently protecting Nakagawa Ranch from suburban sprawl,” said Lynn von Koch-Liebert, Executive Director of the California Strategic Growth Council. “The Nakagawa Ranch Conservation Easement will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate open space conservation while strengthening the surrounding region’s rural economy.” 

Under the new easement, the family will continue to own and manage the land just as they always have. The ranch’s health will continue to be maintained through grazing by the family’s small herd of American Wagyu cattle.  

Michael Delbar, CEO of the Rangeland Trust, stated, “The Nakagawa family has seen more than its fair share of hardship. Their resilient spirit combined with their passion, faith, hard work, and stewardship in the face of adversity offers all of us an inspiring story of hope. The Rangeland Trust could not be more honored to stand behind them as they continue to safeguard the property for the generations that follow.”  

Founded in 1998 by a group of ranchers determined to safeguard rangeland agriculture and the natural ecosystems they steward; California Rangeland Trust is the only rancher-led land trust in California. Over the last 25 years, the organization has permanently protected more than 388,000 acres of open rangeland to provide clean air and water, carbon sequestration, vibrant habitat for wildlife and healthy foods that all Californian’s rely upon. California Rangeland Trust is a 501 (c)(3) organization headquartered in Sacramento, Calif., dedicated to serving the land, people and wildlife by conserving California’s working rangelands.