August 2013 - Richard Atmore

Richard Atmore is a big man with a jovial gregarious personality and a big mission. He is a pleasure to converse with, mainly because he is a man with conviction and he always seems to be in a good mood. When I pulled onto his ranch after a long drive up Sexton Canyon Road, high in the hills above Ventura, I saw a slew of dusty trucks parked on his property and said to myself, “A lot of real work gets done here.” Richard is at the helm of that work and runs R.A. Atmore & Sons and R.A. Cattle Co., which runs a herd of several hundred cows, calves and bulls on about 6,800 acres of land that has been rangeland since before the Spanish came here in the late 1700s.

When we first started talking Richard wanted to discuss water. The lack of water, I should say. “Ventura County averages about 19 inches of rain a year and this season we got about 6 inches,” he informed me. Not good for grass-fed steer. The terrain where his cattle graze is very dry causing him concern. Cattle on supplemental feed becomes expensive.

Richard is not only a rancher and the president of his company, he is a father as well. He takes great pride in the way he raised his sons. Richard III 16 and George 14, clad in ranch work clothes and cowboy hats, were sitting on bales of hay listening intently to what their father had to say to me. Both his sons were proud to tell me they fetched top dollar for the cattle they raised and sold at the recent livestock auction at the Ventura County Fair. “Most kids cry at the fair after their livestock sells”. They told me. “Did you cry”? I asked. “No”. That’s all they needed to say. These kids are cattle ranchers, they know the ropes. Like father, like sons.

Atmore’s ranch is known as a cow-calf operation — he breeds his own cows to his own bulls, and raises the resulting calves until they weigh about 500 pounds. At that point, they’re sold at auction to “stockers” — ranchers who specialize in adding another 400 or so pounds to each grass-fed steer — who in turn sell them to feedlots, where the animals typically will be fed grain until they reach market weight of around 1,200 pounds.

Atmore, 47, is a sweet man who reeks of being in his element on a ranch in Ventura County. He was born in North Carolina but moved to Ventura when he was in fourth grade. He learned the ranching ropes, so to speak, from a couple of real old-timers, Rocky Esparza and Toots Jauregui, who ranched adjoining leased parcels in the Ventura hillsides. Atmore started working on Esparza’s ranch in 1979 when he was two years out of Buena High School and bought out the operation when Esparza retired about eight years later.

In addition to providing stewardship for over 7,000 acres of open space, Mr. Atmore has managed a wide variety of habitat restoration, mitigation installation, non-native plant removal, fuel load reduction, and erosion control installation projects. He works with the Ventura County Fire Protection District on large-scale fuel modification projects and is President of the Central Ventura County Fire Safe Council. He is a member of the Ventura County Farm Bureau, the California Cattlemen’s Association, the California Invasive Plant Council, and the California Native Grasslands Association.

Video – Art Shinn