This is the fourth and last in a series of articles focusing on PFC Director Gary Price and his family’s 77 Ranch in Texas.

Gary Price first set foot on his ranch land when he was eight years old. The owner of the property at the time, Lee Low, had become very close friends with Gary’s aunt. Gary spent a lot of time in his youth on the ranch and running some cattle with his dad. But he never thought he’d have the opportunity to buy it. Then tragically, Lee Low’s son was struck down by a heart attack.

Mr. Low, a lifelong cowboy born in 1900, called Gary and said he wanted to sell him his land. Gary’s first purchase from Mr. Low was 272 acres. The next year, he added another 105 acres. He kept buying and over the course of 43 years, he’s purchased 15 contiguous parcels to grow his ranch to its present size of 2500 acres.

Humility and reverence for the land

“Yesterday I stood at a stock tank looking for a cow, and I remembered that when I was eight years old, that stock tank looked exactly the same as it does now. It makes you humble to see how things endure. Is the land better? Mr. Low was a good manager, he appreciated the native grasses, since he was from west Texas where the low rainfall is less forgiving than here in central Texas. He was a good teacher.

“Everything everyday tells me I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I never get tired of it, I’m living a dream and know I’m lucky. It creates a reverence that I need to take this seriously. My son (who manages another large ranch north of Ft. Worth) is the same way.”

Partnerships and leading by example

Steve Jester, Executive Director of Partners for Conservation, cannot say enough about the enormous respect he has for Gary and his family. “Gary and Sue and their son Gary Lee have been recognized for their individual stewardship by Sand County, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and I’m certain many others. They are conservation leaders that lead by example and have long kept conservation partnerships and relationships in the forefront of all they do.”

When 2 + 2 = 6

Partnerships and relationships are key to just about everything that happens on the 77 Ranch. “Partnership is important,” says Gary, “because for too many years (at least 3 decades) the lines of separation between federal and state agencies were too rigid. Organizations like Partners for Conservation are now beginning to blur those lines—and the key is we don’t have to agree on everything. We take the 20% we don’t agree on, and set it up on the shelf. Over the years, partnerships have taught me that 2+2=6! There is synergy in collaborating, and that’s catching on. We still have a lot of work to do with some agencies, but we are seeking common ground and helping the agencies to see things from the landowner’s perspective.”

Gary continues, “It’s very humbling that we never quit learning, things are always changing, we just want to continue to learn how to do what we do better! We’ve discovered what we believe is the most productive way, long-term, to be sustainable and weather the storm.

“I look at the land like a bank account. You can’t take out more than you put in; you may be able to do it for a while, but then there will be costs to pay! The land says you you can pay me now or you can pay me later! That’s why we aim to work with the land instead of against it.”

Read the previous articles in the series:

Article 1. Covid Concerns on the Ranch: Restaurants, processors, and the closeness entailed in loading a cow into a trailer
Article 2. From Cotton to Bermuda to Native Grass: the 77 Ranch of North Central Texas
Article 3. From Cow to Consumer, a new focus on Grassland Soil Stewardship