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A unique lifestyle

John HartCattle mill around a pond waiting for Matt Wolter to drop hay from a pickup driven by his wife, Jackie.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Matt Wolter has been ranching most of his life.

That means no time for family vacation.



It also means having to work as an auctioneer two to three times a week to supplement the family income.




But Wolter and his wife, Jackie, who are raising beef cattle on 2,400 acres in the south county, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ranching is a lifestyle, Jackie and Matt Wolter said, as they fed cattle on one of the two adjoining ranches they lease off Garden Bar Road near Wolf Road, where Matt grew up.

“I know who I am,” said Jackie Wolter as Matt distributed hay on a 250-acre pasture where dozens of cows and their calves graze on winter grass.

The Wolters were married on a bluff on one of the two ranches with a view of the snow-capped Sierra in 1985. They have three children – 18, 15 and 13 – and Jackie has a 20-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.

After their three younger children go to school, the Wolters head for the pastures, where they spend their mornings during the winters feeding hay to the herd – 200 mother cows, their calves and some 20 bulls.

The hay supplements the herd’s diet. It takes about 10 acres to sustain a cow and her calf during the winter months, 46-year-old Matt Wolter said.

In the afternoons, Matt and Jackie, who is 40, do more chores – from fixing fences to tending to the cattle’s medical needs. There are 100 miles of fences to keep an eye on.

“You have to make sure they stay healthy,” Jackie Wolter said. “It’s just like taking care of kids.”

The calves are sold twice a year to companies in the Central Valley, where they are fed on grain and eventually slaughtered for meat.

“That’s our pay day,” Matt Wolter said.

The family does everything on the ranch and only gets help to brand the calves.

The three younger children, all of whom want to work in agriculture when they grow up, help with the chores after school and on weekends.

(Their oldest child, Chanell, 20, wants to become a graphic artist and no longer lives on the ranch.)

His children rope and move the cattle on horseback and help brand and vaccinate the herd, Matt Wolter said with pride. The older children, both boys, also irrigate the pastures during the summers, he said.

Eighteen-year-old Cory Wolter and his 15-year-old brother, Jimmy, feed the cattle when their father leaves the ranch to work an auction.

The boys, both of whom attend Bear River High School, are best friends and do not tell each other what to do, they said. “We both know this has to be done,” Cory said. Their friends sometimes do not understand why they cannot go places after school, Cory added.

“This lifestyle is pretty unique,” said Cory, a senior who will study agriculture at Chico State next fall. “It’s really neat what a family can do with love and dedication.”

The two boys and their 13-year-old sister, Kathleen, a student at Magnolia Elementary School, also raise steers for school projects and the boys belong to the California High School Rodeo Association.

Kathleen is an active member of the Wolf Creek 4-H group in the south county while her two brothers belong to BRHS’s FFA.

Cory, who also wants to become a certified welder to supplement his income as a rancher, is training a horse for his senior project.

For more than a decade, Matt and Jackie operated the ranch with Matt’s parents, Jim and Janet Wolter. The elder Wolters retired to a remote ranch a daughter and her husband own near Aden in the Susanville area in 1997, Matt Wolter said.

His parents moved to the Nevada County ranch from Monterey four decades ago to escape the crowds, Wolter said.

While the south county continues to grow, the Wolters ranch on will remain agricultural. Most of the land has already been placed in an agricultural conservation easement under the Nevada County Land Trust. Eventually, all 2,400 acres will be under a conservation easement, Matt Wolter said.

Wolter wants to keep on ranching for as long as he can.

“I enjoy it so much that if I died on horseback, that would be all right with me.”


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