Leland (Lee) Hazeltine comes from a long line of scientists with a passion for learning. In the early 1930’s, Lee’s grandfather gathered up the family in their Model A car and drove across the country from San Jose to Ithaca, NY, so that he could attend Cornell University. After receiving his PhD, Carl Hazeltine returned to San Jose and became the head of the science department at San Jose State. Lee’s father, William Hazeltine also attended San Jose State and became a renowned entomologist. In a similar pursuit of science, Lee attended UC Davis (1982-1987). As a plant science major, Lee lobbied the department chairs for support of his major and became the first peer advisor. Today, Lee continues to carry on the tradition for higher education helping to administer and support the Bill Hazeltine Memorial Scholarship with UC Davis.
Lee’s system-thinking approach was evident in his early years, as he worked his way through college hauling hay and cutting firewood. He added practical knowledge to his studies with various agricultural jobs. Lee would say that his first successful integrative work, was starting his own business while still attending college. By age 21, Lee had a strong firewood business, providing jobs to workers. At 30 years old, Lee began his vegetation management business with a focus on forestry and rights-of-way. During these years, Lee developed a strong knowledge of fire and fuels management. In 2006, Lee bought his first herd of commercial goats, hoping to use them as a compliment to his primary brush management business. One day while Lee was studying the brush and observing the impacts of his grazing herd, an epiphany washed over him. Instead of trying to kill the competing brush, could he instead utilize the brush as a steady feed source for the animals while also protecting the health of the land.
With the downturn of the economy in 2008, Lee shut down his vegetation management business, and focused his effort on developing workable ways to sustain his goats and the environments in which they live. After persuasion by Patrick Shea of the Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Lee agreed to bring a herd of 570 sheep and 70 goats to the high-density area of Lincoln to begin a managed grazing effort. The experiment was intended to determine if grazing could work to satisfy both the conservation requirements and the varied concerns of the residents. For 18 months, starting in October 2008, Lee walked 640 animals from site to site, grazing, studying and gathering data, while also soliciting support for a strategic grazing system.
By 2012, we went from 22 acres at Sun City Lincoln Hills to grazing over 5000 acres and 14,500 animals in Lincoln and Rocklin. We brought in other livestock producers, sharing our best practices and ideas; teaching, creating an inclusive business model, and focusing on integrating the three major components of people, animals and land. This system-thinking approach gave birth to the integrazing philosophy, which we continue to build upon. Many of our counterparts have diverged from the initial holistic management approach, which has added both validation and contrast to various management strategies. Our passion for science understanding has driven us to study and learn, evolving our program to include strengthened benefits for the health of the land and animals. Lee’s passion for understanding the complex interactions between the many different aspects of grazing animals in widely variable plant systems combined with his plant science depth, both academically and applied, differentiates Leland Hazeltine from his peers.
Laura began her ranching journey in the Midwest. Passionate about nature, she studied environmental management & soon thereafter went into conservation work. At that time, it was the belief that we needed to “put up a pretty fence to protect our lands; with an anti-livestock approach.” What a complete paradigm shift in way of thinking, as we now know how critical large herds are to regenerating our ecosystems, holistically from the soil up. After living in NZ & Europe, & a decade long stint in managing business for Hewlett Packard, Laura saw the need to re-emerge with the conservation world, running large herds that mimic what was here before all of us, restoring our natural environments, from the suburban open spaces to our forests, transforming brushy timberland into healthy grassy woodlands, weedy, fire-prone conservation lands into healthy grasslands, & integrating livestock into crop farming for win/win strategies benefiting both farmer & rancher; in turn, providing both nutritious & economical food solutions. Her business background enables her to provide financially sustainable & comprehensive plans. Her belief is that we pass by the most medicinal & nutritional plants that we call “weeds” on our way to the pharmacy or grocery store.