Ranch Manager Spotlight: Efrain Muñoz of Stemple Creek Ranch
October 8, 2020
Stemple Creek Ranch, located in Tomales and MALT protected since 2013, raises grass-fed, grass-finished beef, lamb and pork. Owners Loren and Lisa Poncia have created more than just a sustainable business model, they are also exemplary stewards of the land. But they can’t do this work alone.
Skilled farmworkers are crucial to a thriving agricultural operation. The Poncias feel fortunate to have Efrain Muñoz as a ranch manager at Stemple Creek. For nearly 16 years, Efrain has been part of the Poncia ranching family, working alongside Loren and his father Al Poncia.
Efrain grew up in Oaxaca, Mexico. His father taught him the importance of loving a job, stressing that if he was proud of what he did, it would show in his work. So when Efrain found himself feeling bogged down by the monotony of cooking in a commercial kitchen in Sonoma County, he turned to ranching to spend more time outside in nature.
Efrain says that he has enjoyed working with the Poncia family since the very beginning. A self-proclaimed perfectionist, he knows Loren values his work ethic and attention to detail. And for anyone who has been to Stemple Creek Ranch, it shows with an always-organized barnyard, sturdy fence lines, smooth farm roads and happy animals who graze the carefully managed pastures in rotation.
“Efrain has been working on our team for the past 16 years. He is such a genuine, honest, unselfish person and is very talented at problem solving and making things work,” says Loren. “Efrain makes working with him fun and is always happy with a positive attitude. He knows every part of our operation and is vital to our team.”
For Efrain, working on the ranch is more than just a job. He loves to explore the land, frequently taking time to visit a favorite hilltop, where he finds comfort soaking in the view of West Marin’s rolling hills, watching raptors and the fog that hovers above the grasslands on cool mornings. In these quiet moments, he says he “feels like as much of an owner of the land as the Poncias.”
When asked what the greatest challenge is working on the ranch, Efrain notes that he has “a weak heart.” He spends a great deal of time tending to the animals, watching over them, moving them from pasture to pasture, even bottle feeding calves in need. So when it comes time for animals to be harvested, he has to remove himself. One could argue that Efrain does not have a weak heart, but a strong one. The animals under his care are lucky to have someone who values and respects their life as much as he does, ensuring they are happy and healthy.
Efrain’s drive and dedicated work ethic are born out of a deep desire to expand opportunities for his family, so that they “can live life one dream at a time.” His most recent dream was realized two years ago when, with help from family in Mexico, he built a home for his mother — a surprise that he gifted to her on her birthday.
Efrain also dreams of purchasing a small ranch one day. In the meantime, he continues to enjoy every moment on Stemple Creek Ranch, walking the grassland pastures, tending to the animals and working alongside the Poncia family.