Rancher of the Year Tribute
I would like to offer this tribute to Geovanny Sarigu Buenaño, my partner, my friend, and my soulmate, who oversees every aspect of Hacienda Tranquila (haciendatranquila.org) as General Manager. Without Geovanny, and his positive vision, focus and commitment to moving forward despite all obstacles, Hacienda Tranquila would not be what it is today. I am writing this to honor his latest achievement, being awarded Rancher of the Year by the Association of Ranchers, Coastal and Galapagos, the largest cattle rancher association in Ecuador, shining the spotlight on him as one of the top ranchers in the nation.
I met Geovanny in 2004 on my first surf trip to the island of San Cristobal, Galapagos. Born in Pelileo, Ecuador of an Italian father and Indigenous mother, Geovanny had moved to the island at age twelve to join his sister working in the tourism industry. He was certified by the Galapagos National Park Service as a surf guide and was responsible for me the last few days of my stay. We connected deeply and soon shared our dreams with each other, which included creating a natural sanctuary that would benefit both the local community as well as visitors. The next year we established Hacienda Tranquila S.A. on a 121- acre cattle ranch in the scenic western highlands of the island known as La Soledad.
The ranch came with 55 head of scrawny cattle, two horses, and a donkey we named Ricky Martin. After participating in a Hippotherapy project on the mainland, Geovanny and I designed an international volunteer project for collaborators to come and help us build upon the simple bases the property offered. Their contributions include eradication of invasive plants from the hacienda and surrounding farms, reforestation of endemic plants, domestic animal care, maintaining our organic garden, community service and our longest running initiative, the Hippotherapy program for children, especially those with special needs.
Throughout the last 17 years, we have focused on projects that benefit the local community while also striving to improve ranch productivity. Historically, cattle ranching in the Galapagos islands has been centered on the island of Santa Cruz, with San Cristobal having only smaller ranches with fewer, and lower quality, cattle. Geovanny quickly realized that if we were to upgrade our herd that we would need to import, so he visited Santa Cruz in 2007 and furthered his research. His conclusion was that the Simmental breed, originally from the Simme valley of Switzerland, would be most adaptable to the arid conditions of the island, while providing a good balance of milk production and muscularity.
Once this decision was made the next step was to figure out how to transport the animals. With no other options available, Geovanny convinced a local fisherman to use his fishing boat, and it was in that fishing boat that our first reproductive bull, Baron, and two milking cows were brought from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal. As there was no way to transfer the animals to a pier, they had to be coaxed into the water and then guided by a dinghy as they swam to the beach. Like the founders of the hacienda, our cattle have surfing in their DNA, and Baron provided the first uptick in our herd quality.
The Ecuadorian government provides a variety of programs to support cattle ranching. Beginning in 2012, we eagerly participated in their programs, both artificial insemination and embryo transplant. We were impressed with the rapid quality upgrades we witnessed in our cattle and before long Geovanny suggested that we get the training needed to artificially inseminate Hacienda Tranquila’s cattle on our own. Drawing from national experts and local trial and error we were able to assume full control of the process, from purchase of Simmental semen to insemination. This led to a dramatic increase in quality of Hacienda Tranquila’s herd impressing everyone with their beauty, docility, and physique. The results speak for themselves as our cattle have won the top awards in all of the annual local cattle shows.
In 2014 Geovanny started a new local cattle association called San Joaquin to share knowledge and motivate other ranchers to improve the quality of their cattle. In 2015 he was invited to join the Association of Ranchers, Coastal and Galapagos, the largest cattle association representing two of Ecuador’s regions. In their 78 years of history, Geovanny is the first Galapagos rancher to be a invited to become a member. The Association was impressed by Geovanny´s vision and quality results and elected him to their Board of Directors in 2016. A severe drought that year decimated grass-fed herds and the situation was dire. Ranchers were forced to sell their surviving cattle at rock bottom prices, and some were unable to survive. Mustering support from his two associations, Geovanny was able to motivate the local authorities to declare a State of Emergency for the ranching sector. He organized unprecedented permits with the Agency of Biosecurity for the Galapagos to bring in crucial feedstock for the weary animals of ranchers across the islands. The Ranchers Association awarded Geovanny a Golden Button in 2017 in honor of his altruistic spirit helping the ranchers to survive the drought.
These results and achievements laid the foundation for the recognition that Geovanny received last week. Recognizing his leadership, vision and collaborative spirit, the Association of Ranchers, Coastal and Galapagos selected Geovanny Sarigu Buenaño as Rancher of the Year 2021. Ever humble, Geovanny attributes this award to the positive perseverance and innovative spirit of the people and animals of Hacienda Tranquila a ranch like no other in the islands.
A United States citizen raised in Asia and the Middle East, David followed his foreign corespondent father wherever the Associated Press sent them. Ending up in Japan at age sixteen, he spent a total of twenty five years learning the culture, language and martial arts there. Finally moved to live in the United States for the first time at the age of thirty six. Recently retired from a 32 year career trading Asian equities, but a simple farmer at heart, David now tends the orchard of fruit trees left to him by his father on the north shore of Oahu. He established Hacienda Tranquila S.A. in 2004 and purchased the 121 acre cattle ranch at that time. Casa Verde in town was acquired the following year as a base of operations.