The Wild Wild Drought

I’ve never photographed a ranch before.  But as I was driving to Roger Haley’s ranch in Ojai I began to ease into the pressure of capturing moments. Upon my arrival Mr. Haley himself walked up to me with a big smile on his face and said, “Howdy!”  Shadowing him on his daily rounds I felt like family as his endearing, genuine personality put me at ease immediately.

Originally called “Rancho Misolar,” or “my own ranch” in Spanish, Haley’s land stretches across Ventura County from Ojai all the way to Mondos Beach.  Haley keeps vintage Western cowboy culture alive and well on his ranch with a large private collection of old wooden wagons and other American antiques.

But behind the veneer of the old West on Haley Ranch lies a deep struggle to save the Haleys’ livelihood.  Since California Governor Brown recently declared a drought state of emergency Roger Haley has faced one of the most difficult challenges of his life.

The drought has not only effected the ranch’s residents but its livestock as well.  Predators such as black bears, mountain lions and coyotes, go to adjacent Lake Casitas because the rivers have dried up and it’s now the only water source in the area.  These deadly animals then find themselves hunting for food at Haley Ranch and have been eating the calves, which are valued at $2,000 each. “This ranch is like hell on Earth and this drought is not a joke, it’s serious,” Haley said. “We need to make a change or else we’re not going to have any more ranches successful out in Ojai.”