Jack and Zera Varian purchased the Varian Ranch property in 1963 from the Biddle family estate. Jack had driven by the property frequently while leasing land in the Huasna valley, and jumped at the chance to purchase it. The Varian family utilized the land primarily for grazing cattle prior to creating the Development, utilizing Don Evenson as their ranch caretaker.
Don and Barbara Evenson and their eight children lived in a house where the community Ranch House is located today, with a dairy barn near where our shop stands. Don had also worked for the Biddle family in a similar capacity prior to the sale of the land to Jack Varian. There is a framed collage of pictures dedicated to the Evensons in the Ranch House game room.
All four of Jack and Zera’s children attended Cal Poly, SLO, and all lived part-time in a trailer located near the North Entry gate during their college years. Daughter Lillian (Lilly) also organized a week-long summer equestrian day-camp to earn money for tuition. On Thursdays the campers would ride out to what is now named Camp 49 to spend the day playing in the nearby pond and sleep overnight in an open-sided covered structure “out in the wild.” Lilly married Mike Massey, and together they are the current principles for the cattle grazing lease operation at Varian Ranch. The Varian family have grazed cattle on this land for over 57 years, thereby continuing the land use practices for this property that began in the 1770’s when Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was founded.
The Varian Ranch Development was approved in late 1987 as the very first Agricultural (Ag) Cluster Development in the County of San Luis Obispo. Many lots had been reserved in advance, and most of the 48 home sites were officially sold that next year. This unique Development was the culmination of a 20-year effort by landowner and cattle rancher Jack Varian to achieve a vision of preserving over 95% of the 3,127-acre ranch for valuable agricultural use while providing a unique rural living opportunity in the western-most corner of the ranch.
Jack was assisted by the award-winning Richmond Rossi Montgomery (now RRM Design Group) in creating the land use plan and developing the property. Most of the development’s infrastructure was built in 1987 and 1988, with the first home construction starting later in 1988.
Jack’s objectives in creating the Development were five-fold, as recorded in the Varian Ranch Development Plan
listed below and also built into the CC&Rs.
- To create an environment where people and agriculture can live in harmony with each other.
- To create and maintain a viable Ag operation that will produce food and fiber for the public using accepted Ag practices and new technology as it develops.
- To maintain the natural beauty of the property while still allowing the production of Ag products.
- To manage the land and its resources in such a manner as to preserve and protect native vegetation and wildlife.
- To teach those who live on the land the care of the land and the crops and animals to be sustained through proper stewardship of the land.
An excellent article on the Varian family
was published August 27, 2022, by the Tribune, as part of David Middlecamp's "Photos From The Vault" series.
Coming Next: History of the land before Jack Varian