Ranching has its roots in earliest day Plumas County as a result of hungry gold seekers and their horses and mules. "Ranchos" were established in all the major valleys and most of the minor ones by the early 1850s. The American Rancho, now Quincy, was begun in early 1850 by the Turner Brothers. James Beckwourth, the famous African-American mountain man, established his ranch on the west end of Sierra Valley in 1851 as a stopping place for emigrants on the Beckwourth Trail. To the north in Cache Valley (now Indian Valley), Peter Lassen and associates set up a trading post just east of present-day Greenville in 1850. Two years later Jobe Taylor and others founded a ranch at the south end of the valley that soon came to be known as Taylorville. Jobe Taylor later wrote: 

"An emigrant came to where we were sacking turnips, and said to his little girl, 'Give your money to Mr. Taylor and get some turnips.' She gave me ten cents and I told her to go to the sack and help herself. She took one that weighed at least eight pounds, and which had cost us $1.20, the emigrant no doubt thinking at the same time that ten cents was a big price for one turnip."

Big Meadows, now the site of Lake Almanor was summer home to cattle ranchers from the upper Sacramento Valley and soon became a permanent settlement. Cattle ranches and ranges branched out all over the north part of the county. 

Small dairies were established as early as 1850 to supply local mining camps. It wasn't until the 1860s though, that commercial dairies of significance appeared.

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.