My sister, left, on Rowdy, and myself on Cayenne out for a ride. We were probably out checking cows in the fields… I am guessing this was about 15 years ago. Our dog, Teko, was tagging along that day. Unfortunately, all of the animals have since passed, but we will always have fond memories. In horseback in the mountains I shared more about how Cayenne came into my life, as well as how he went out…
Do your childhood memories included horses and animals?
Seeing all of the recent grads on Facebook has me reflecting on various graduations over the years. The one I was most excited for was also the one that brought the biggest change — graduating with my PhD!
My advice for new grads: take time for you and do things that make you happy. It is easy to get wrapped up in the next stage of life. A little “me” time is critical for maintaining the best you (personal and professional)!
As National Ag Week continues (also posted here and here), I wanted to share an oldie but goodie. My sister and I are the 4th generation on our family ranch which has been in our family for about 100 years. Below is a picture of my Grandpa (aka Pop) on the right and his brother, my great uncle (aka Bob) on the left (both have since passed). This was taken after working cattle, and they were washing down the dust with a Budweiser and a Pepsi, respectively. I have so many great memories of ranch work with my family, including moments with both of these guys.
Next week I head to California to spend Christmas with my family and friends. And I am pretty excited! In all of my years in college and living away, I have yet to miss a Christmas at home. Yes I said home, as that is where my heart is… My heart loves the mountains, trees, rivers and lakes, ranches, livestock, and of course family and friends. And I get to see these people…
Where is home for you? Is that where you are spending Christmas?
Annually, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) posts the cost of a Thanksgiving meal. This is their 29th year of providing an estimate of what the items on a traditional Thanksgiving table will cost for 10 persons, in 2014, it is estimated to be $49.04, a $0.37 increase from 2013. At roughly $5 per person, that is a pretty good deal! The average cost of the Thanksgiving meal has remained around $49 since 2011.
As you guessed it, the turkey was the most expensive at roughly $1.35 a pound. John Anderson, the AFBF Deputy Chief Economist says that some grocers use turkey as the “loss leader” – a common practice to entice shoppers to come into the store and purchase other groceries while there.
Also included on the AFBF’s menu in addition to the turkey is: bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee, and milk.
If your household is like mine, and you will be adding additional items containing dairy products, alcoholic beverages, and/or additional dessert options the price will increase. I have no doubts the food and company will both be good this year!
What is on your Thanksgiving menu? Any special traditions?
I had so much fun digging out old steer showing pictures for last week’s throwback Thursday, that I dug back into the photo archives (as it was before digital existed) to bring you more of my favorites.
One of our family hobbies was riding into the mountains to enjoy fishing, picnicking, camping, and the natural beauty of the good ol outdoors.
Fun fact, the horse I am on, Cayenne, I received through a partnership that U.C. Davis had with 4-H kids who completed an application and provided proof they had facilities and horse knowledge/experience. We picked him up when he was just five months old, and he is an Appaloosa/Standardbred cross. He is now 24 years old and enjoying retirement on the ranch. He LOVED to go to the mountains, he was the only horse we ever owned that would come running to the horse trailer and whinny at it when it pulled up! He was also a ton of fun to ride in the mountains since he was so tall he had a smooth pace and his Standardbred trot could cover some serious ground when needed.
What are your favorite childhood memories? Do they include horses?
Update (3-14-15): I am sad to report that my horse Cayenne has since passed away. Unfortunately, he was in a pasture and rolled into a small, shallow ditch. Even though my parents found him the next morning, it was too late 😦 We had many great years together and I will cherish those memories forever.
I recently attended the AgChat Conference in Austin, TX and had the privilege to be on a panel with two other persons, a mom who is food writer and a local chef/restaurant owner. Then there was me, a life-long agriculturalist. While our experiences, views, and beliefs differed, I left feeling like at the end of the day we might all agree on the following message: Agriculture is important, no matter who you are or what you do – it is essential for survival!
One of the talking points that came up during the panel was a rich farmer versus a poor farmer and where the line is drawn. I have been thinking about this for several days now and I wanted to get my thoughts out.
Growing up on a ranch we had access to horses, 4-wheelers, irrigation ditches to swim and play in, fishing holes, goose and duck hunting hot spots, and acres to learn to drive manual vehicles and ranch equipment on – it was essentially a 300-acre playground! We raised 4-H animals, our own food, sewed our own clothes, and could hunt and fish. We also believed strongly in family dinners, family projects on weekends, life celebrations, and good friends and neighbors. While we played hard, we also worked hard, very hard. We fixed our own vehicles and bought new-to-us equipment. We didn’t watch much tv, play video games, go out to dinner, or go on many vacations. In high school I could arm wrestle and beat the first-string football players and I could certainly hold my own in the weight room; all of the bale bucking and good ol fashioned hard work made me tough 🙂
I thought my childhood was awesome!
At no time did I ever think my family was rich. Monetarily rich that is. Wealth isn’t necessarily measured in number of cows, acres, or amount of equipment owned. We were rich in our knowledge, skills, work ethic, family legacy (my sister and I are the 4th generation), family and community love and support, and so much more.
I was my class Salutatorian, and was banking on the fact that good grades and some money in savings from the sale of 4-H animals would get my through college. It never dawned on me that other people thought my family was rich until I started applying for college scholarships as a high school senior. Several people wondered why I would need the scholarship money, my family was “rich ranchers” and could afford to send me to college! I was shocked that was the perception others had of my family. We weren’t (and still aren’t) fancy or rich people. But in the eyes of others my family had money, and lots of it because we had land, livestock, and various vehicles and equipment. Perception is an interesting thing…
I also never thought my family was poor. In our family, and with many others in agriculture, money is tied up in land, animals, equipment, and other assets. Ranch income was spent fixing up and/or making purchases of things that had been neglected over the past year. Because in ranching, you may only get one or two paychecks a year – when the calves and any open (non-pregnant) or crippled cows are sold! Talk about budgeting. So as a kid, and still today we knew that some months would be financially tighter than others. We also knew how to differentiate between wants and needs.
So as you can see, I struggle with the rich vs poor in agriculture. I think food production is one of the hardest professions, but also one of the most rewarding. And it doesn’t matter if you have 10 acres or 10,000 acres. The time and financial commitments, the long hours, hard work, and dedication are all similar concepts just on different scales. There are certainly those who are rich in agriculture, and kudos to them for making a profit with their livelihoods. But does that mean a person who may not have much money in agriculture is poor? Not necessarily, they could be rich like my family – rich with all of things that are hard to touch, see, and measure. You see I always thought my family was rich…
McDonald’s recently announced that they would commit to buying sustainable beef by 2016. Additionally, meat processor JBS recently introduced more sustainable hamburger with Wal-Mart in Brazil. When one hears these stories they question what do they mean by sustainable? Commonly when people talk sustainability they think “green”, if it’s green it is good for the environment – it must be sustainable. However the concept of sustainability encompasses more than just the environment and its natural resources. Fellow UNL Extension Educator, Jessica Jones, at Insights for Sustainability, and I invite you to explore what sustainable means to you.
Sustainable? I think it is safe to say we all think we know what sustainable means. Does your definition include green, healthy, organic, or all-natural? What about stable, viable, generational, profitable? According to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, sustainability is defined as meeting “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (International Institute for Sustainable Development).
People need natural, financial, and human resources to meet their needs. Natural resources help to meet our basic needs like air, water, food, and shelter. Financial resources in our society provide us the ability to buy needed goods and services. While human resources provide us knowledge needed to meet our needs and the social interaction needed in our lives. These resource types form the three components necessary for sustainability: environmental, economic, and social.
To think about sustainability one must think about the world in which we live as a system that includes intertwined environmental, economic, and social parts that interact. The goal of being sustainable is having a healthy system which functions infinitely without detrimental changes to its health. Preserving the system’s health means protecting the quality and quantity of the natural resources, providing opportunities for people to prosper, and growing vibrant and resilient communities.
Below are three examples of farm and ranch families continuing to work towards sustainability.
Kelli Loos:As a fifth generation rancher, sustainability is important for our family and has been for years. While the term and its definition are often controversial, they take on different meanings depending on the particular agenda of the person you are talking to.
I don’t think that regulations and government infringement on personal property rights are the way to achieve real sustainability. I believe that since the day ranchers built fences and had to feed their cattle on the grass inside their fence, they have been continually working to improve that natural resource. As a kid I remember the hours we spent with Dad in our pastures chopping musk thistle and cedar trees to keep our pastures clean and able to grow good grass because we had a neighbor that didn’t control his weeds. My Dad carefully managed the moving of the cattle so no area was never over-grazed. He wanted to make sure that grass would come back even better the next year. While I probably didn’t understand at the time why he was so meticulous about these practices, it all makes sense now. He wanted to make sure that the land was better when he passed it to his kids than it was when he got it from my Grandpa.
Pasture management is much the same but also very different than it was 100 years ago. As stewards of the land, we continue to learn and develop the tools we have to make the best use of our resources not only for the short-term but for years into the future. Thanks to careful management, many ranchers have been able to maintain their cow herds even through drought years because they have planned ahead and developed strategies to address these challenges of Mother Nature. It is not just our way of life, it is our living and our legacy. It means that much to us!
Ranchers aren’t the best stewards of their God-given natural resources because of any law or government program. They do it so that the land and legacy they pass on to their children is one that will continue for generations that far outlive them.
Lacey Heddlesten: Sustainability is a fantastic “trendy” word that is being heavily used in the marketing industry in this day and age. However, when you ask a farmer or rancher what that word means, you might get various responses, but they all boil down to one common theme. It’s our way of life; it’s just what we do. Coming from a multi-generational farming operation in Western KS, Lindsay asked me to write a little bit for her blog about sustainability. I feel as though I’m one of those “lucky kids”, I grew up with farming all around me as far as the eye could see. Both sides of my family (Mom and Dad) were involved in farming and cattle operations, both were multi-generational, going into the 4th generations. Both sides of my family have changed with the times when they deemed it necessary, but the core values of what the farm was founded on, and the type of work ethic, financial responsibility and moral obligation to uphold that Farmer’s code has never changed.
Being raised the way I was, has 100% affected the person I am today. I’ve seen my share of family farms disappearing around our area as well, so how did my family survive this trend of family farms drying up? How were they able to be “sustainable”? These are my thoughts. Although, it seems farmers and cattleman get a bad rap in social media as being a bunch of rednecks wearing overalls and sideways caps and a piece of straw in their mouth, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Well maybe the overall part (right Grandpa?). Farmers in this day and age that are part of a multi-generational farming operation have mastered the art of sustainability. Farmers are individuals with incredible passion for what they do, and they are 100% aware that the agricultural industry has no choice but to be sustainable in order to make the world go round, in order for life to continue to survive and thrive.Farmers have to be incredible businessman to maintain their farms through the years of extreme hardship, because not every year do they end up “in the black”. They have to be able to stretch a dollar to where it needs to be. They have to be able to make their own decisions and not rely on others to do that for them. Farmers do look out for #1, but you can bet your life’s savings that if you were in need, they would be right there to help you out too. The network that a farmer builds within his or her lifetime is a big one, and a tight one.
These are just a few of the “big” points that have made my family’s farm “sustainable”. Now, I will admit, I’m not currently out working on the farm alongside my mom and dad, but I can tell you I’m still in the agriculture industry, I’m still applying those lessons learned to my current job. And I’m currently working like hell to get my family moved back out to the farm so my son and daughter can be raised in that “farming community” just as I was.
Lindsay Chichester: In my personal definition of sustainable, I would certainly include the word generational. The ranch I was born and raised on in Northern California has been in my family since the early 1900’s! My sister and I are the 4th generation, while neither of us live there now, I know we will continue the tradition. While many things have changed over the years, like fences, facilities, efficiency of waterways, and the kind and type of livestock raised, there are some things that have not changed. Those things are work ethic, family values, responsibility, and resource management. A 15 hour work day was not uncommon; dinner at the table as a family was expected; feeding and caring for your livestock before you ate was the norm; conserving water, responsibly applying pesticides when needed, and managing livestock grazing systems were essential traits to learn as stewards of the land.
While I worked harder than most kids growing up, could beat most of the boys at arm wrestling, and regularly had manure on my shoes I would not change a thing. It was and still is a wonderful lifestyle and I hope to raise my children with the same ethics and values, as well as love and responsibility to the land and the livestock instilled in me on the family ranch.
I hope these examples have provided you with a wider viewpoint of sustainability – maybe sustainability from 10,000 feet? It is more than just a buzzword for local, green, or natural, but also includes family, values, generations, and stewards of the land. Next time you see a farmer or rancher, see what sustainability mean to them. I think it may surprise you!
During the holiday season we reflect on the past year, spend time with family and loved ones, and prepare for a new and fresh year.
Speaking of families, did you know that of approximately 2.2 million farms in America, 97% are operated by families, family partnerships, or family corporations! (Source: American Farm Bureau Federation).
It is a common misconception that many American farms are “factory farms” – which is simply untrue. Personally, every single farm and ranch I know is family operated and/or owned (by some very fine people I might add).
This a photo from my wedding day of my immediate family. Both my Mom and Dad’s families were ranchers, and my sister and I are the 4th generation born and raised on our family’s ranch.