To listen to Ian Somerhalder describe the bucolic slice of paradise he shares with wife Nikki Reed, their two kids and a menagerie of 18 pets (both farm-related and domestic) far outside of the city, it's pretty easy to understand why they put their beachside Los Angeles home on the market and never looked back.
"Walking through the farm with kids and dogs and family," the actor detailed in an exclusive chat with E! News, "every stop, you're pulling off of trees or off of bushes, pulling up out of the ground and feeding everyone as you're moving through the farm."
At their expansive spread, the parents to 6-year-old daughter and a 5-month-old son, grow lavender, rosemary and cucumbers, cruise through the fields with their cows on a halter and tend to the mini donkeys that protect their collection of goats from coyotes and other predators.
"It is a lot of work," he acknowledged of farm living. But there are more than a few payoffs. "It's unbelievable when you see these amazing creature life forms," he marveled, "and how they all live on the farm together is really special."
While it's been four years since either The Vampire Diaries alum, 44, or his Twilight actress spouse, 35, have sunk their teeth into a new role, they've been busy digging into a different passion project.
"We're farm people, we produce most of our own food, I live in my cowboy boots," noted Somerhalder. And the only time those beloved kicks have scuffed the inside of a studio was to narrate bits of his 2020 documentary Kiss the Ground and its newly released follow up Common Ground, each detailing how focusing on regenerative farming and improving the world's soil can help combat climate change.
And though the Louisiana native has long been an environmentalist, becoming a father in 2017 only enhanced his desire to help reverse the impacts of climate change.
"By using healthy soil management practices, we are building a secure future today, or tomorrow," he explained. "And once you do have children, you realize I am no longer alone here. I am leaving this to my children."
So he aimed to create Common Ground, with filmmakers Josh and Rebecca Tickell and a star-studded cast of fellow narrators like Laura Dern, Jason Momoa, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson and Donald Glover as a "love letter to our children," he said. "As a parent, you never want to have to look at your kids and say, 'I'm sorry.' You want to be able to look at your children and say, 'We did something. And as a result of that we secured our future.'"
He understands the concept of overhauling the agriculture industry feels daunting, because he's discussed it time and again with people and watched their reactions.
But for those that aren't sure where to start, he stressed, "You have the ability every day you walk out of your house to have the single most powerful vote on the planet, which is to vote with your dollar. What companies are you going to support? Are those companies good stewards of not just the environment, but of the communities that support that?"
Topping his list of brands: pet food brand Nutro, which launched Greater Ground, their own initiative to increase awareness around healthy soil practices. And they tapped Somerhalder to give voice to their animated short film Tail of Two Farms detailing the mission.
While Somerhalder acknowledged he's not the sort to amass brand deals, "This was everything I'm about all rolled into one."
Not only is the brand educating pet parents on the lengths they're going to provide the best, healthiest eats for their furry friends, but they're aiming to raise up to $300,000 for their Greater Ground soil growth grants, banking a $1 towards the initiative with each video view.
"That's their way of saying, we want to get in there and literally get our hands dirty," said Somerhalder, "and start helping these farmers transition because it can be a little scary, right? But when we do it together, it's way less scary."
"It's the best thing ever," Somerhalder marveled of adding to their brood, which has only enforced his desire to create positive change. "Once you become a parent, you realize everything you do throughout your day, you have the ability to make these little tiny incremental changes, whether it's who you buy your cat and dog food from, what restaurants you eat in, how you dispose of your own waste."
Each little win throughout his day adds up, he continued, "because it's a pretty big, pretty crazy world out there. So the tiny things that you can do throughout your day, that make you feel great, are making a difference."
Which is why he has no intention of hanging up his ever-present boots.
Though he wears quite a few (cowboy) hats thanks to projects like the Brother's Bond Bourbon brand he shares with former onscreen sibling Paul Wesley, his environmental work is what keeps him grounded.
"I was asked why I care about this," Somerhalder said of fighting against his image as just another Hollywood heartthrob. The answer, quite simply, "is because I'm building my entire life and world to do that exact thing."
When he looks years down the road, he continued, "I will be a rancher and building legacy brands, whether it's my bourbon or my health and wellness company, and the regenerative agriculture and healthy soil management practices that I live by and our family lives by. That's where my life was going. So when people say 'Why do you care?' That's why I care. Because that's who I am, that's what I'm going to become."