With the settlement of Sierra Valley and its smaller satellite valleys by Swiss-Italian immigrants, the industry became a major factor in the economy of Plumas and Sierra counties. Butter, milk, and cheese were shipped to local gold camps and the Nevada silver lodes. Today, the dairies are gone but the descendants of the pioneer families continue the ranching tradition in the high mountain valleys.
Sheep herding generally was confined to valley ranches until about the turn of the century when they began to be ranged in the mountains during summer. Many of the sheepherders were Basque, and on occasion, their names and artful carvings may still be found on aspen trees where they were working.
Many of the early ranches of the county have now been split into smaller ranches or subdivided into housing tracts. Placed about the mezzanine gallery at the museum are photographs of various ranches, some still in existence, some now only a memory. Along with mining and timber, ranching and farming still play a vital role in the natural resources industries of Plumas and Sierra counties.