image taken by Jim Wilson for the New York Times: TomKat Ranch cattle The husband-wife team of Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor, of "TomKat Ranch," did not have the same vision and desires. Tom Steyer was a retired investment banker--the founder of Farallon Capital --and his wife Kathryn was a chief executive of One PacificCoast Bank. What did these two know about cattle farming and beef sales? But the business evolved and succeeded, in spite of the original intentions. Leftcoast Grassfed is the company through which TomKat Ranch sells its beef...and Leftcoast Grassfed has exceeded the projections and expectations of the investment specialist part of this team. “We could sell 10 times the amount we raise, in 10 minutes,” said Tom Steyer. When they bought the property, they had no intention of being in the beef business. They intended to create an area to demonstrate best practices for soil, water and energy conservation. Cows were part of the system for maintaining the land, so sustainable agriculture evolved as part of what was becoming a "huge science experiment." Steyer had devoted himself to environmental preservation as his retirement focus, so the project evolved as a labor of love more than a business proposition. One of the goals became to put into practice the theories described in Julius Ruechel's book, " Grass-Fed Cattle: How to Produce and Market Natural Beef .” If large herds of cattle, with their weight and sharp hooves, were churning up (cultivating) the ground, forcing dead plant materials deep so it could be broken down by bacteria, then that could fertilize the earth, allowing better, healthier grasses to re-grow there. In addition, the cultivation would allow rain to penetrate better and reduce water run-off. The article did not mention the manure, but I imagine that would be a factor in fertilization as well, since the cattle were not being fed harmful antibiotics. According to Wendy Millet (formerly of the Nature Conservancy), conservationists--once opposed to cattle on the grounds of methane production harming the atmosphere--now believe that migrating herds of grass-fed ruminants might be part of a cycle of replenishment. TomKat is trying to reproduce the cycles of migration, and are alternating types of farm animals (including birds and pigs), to maximize conservation of resources. Meanwhile, they are selling sustainable beef at a profit--partly because of co-operative arrangements with nearby farms. Source: " An Accidental Cattle Ranch Points The Way in Sustainable Farming " by Stephanie Strom, New York Times, November 11, 2013. Follow up: Have you ever started out on one path, and found yourself doing something that you have never imagined because of it? Maybe it has been travel to another part of the world, or learning to play an instrument, or having an avid interest in astronomy or baseball. Have opportunities for a new career path become apparent? If this hasn't happened to you, do you know of anyone who followed an interest that led to a unique career? According to the article, what other environmental issues does Steyer feel strongly about? How might these interests have related to his former career in investing with Farallon Capital? How are investment vehicles with an environmental bias performing in the marketplace currently? Is the TomKat experience typical or unusual? Describe the system of co-operative arrangements with nearby farms that makes the sustainable beef operation work well.