John Baumgartner was a renaissance man of the California cattle industry. Equally at home on a horse roping cattle or in the Pacific Club in San Francisco, he was sought by others and effective in leading their thinking. His early experience as a boy was on the 250,000-acre Santa Margarita Ranch near the Mexican border. He learned to ride, rope, and handle cattle and horses, as well as speak Spanish with the ranch hands. This background gave John unusual insights as he attended Lowell High School in San Francisco, the University of San Francisco, and the University of California, Davis, where he majored in Animal Husbandry, graduating in 1925. While at UCD he was active in student affairs as a member of the livestock judging team, president of the student body, and chairman of the student welfare council. In discussing his experiences at Davis, John stated that being on the judging team assisted him in developing decision-making talents. He further stated, "The most valuable lesson I learned in college was to think clearly and get along with my fellow man."
After graduation John worked in a packing plant but soon returned to the Santa Margarita Ranch for several years. Growing restless he went on his own by renting property for a cattle operation in San Benito County. By 1934 the depression and drought ended his private enterprise. He joined the University of California as an Emergency Assistant Farm Advisor to help the cattle industry survive the crisis. After two years he returned to ranching in San Benito County. He purchased his home ranch near San Juan Bautista in 1968. He ran about 1000 Hereford cattle in San Benito County, summering some in Oregon and selling weaner calves in the fall. He cooperated with the School of Veterinary Medicine by loaning his replacement heifers for a Foothill Abortion study. He also worked with his Farm Advisor to organize 4-H and FFA feeder calf programs at the Cow Palace.
In recognition of his leadership and other guiding qualities John received many honors including "Livestock Man of the Year" in 1957, Grand Marshall of the UCD Picnic Day Parade, and membership in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center. His interests were broader than the cattle industry, including activities on the State Board of Forestry, the California State Park Advisory Board, Advisory Committee to the UCD Department of Animal Science, and the San Juan Bautista Historical and Museum Association