Last month I got a rather interesting email from a Professor at Chico State. Dave Simon, who is the author of “Meatonomics” is going to be at Chico State and Dr. Jones (the Prof), is interested in putting together a discussion like The Commonwealth Club did here. Dr. Jones wanted to know if I’d like to be apart of this discussion.
I’ll admit, I was hesitant. My experience with some vegans and vegetarians have been less than stellar. Putting myself in the line of fire, away from my computer, is scary and outside of my comfort zone. But, part of the reason this blog exists is because of a vegan that went out of her way to attack my way of life, despite having never met me or seen my ranch. That experience did have a profound affect on me – I flung my barn doors wide open and never looked back.
When I flung my barn doors open, several leaders in my industry made it clear to me that they did not approve. While I certainly understand the repercussions of being so honest (I’m still feeling them), I think our industry needs to be as transparent as we can. We have nothing to hide.
It’s no secret that my biggest criticism of the beef industry is we don’t engage with our consumers in serious matters. We should be using every opportunity, every forum, every event as a platform to tell our stories. For too long, our stories have been told by others, and it’s gotten us no where.
When Dr. Jones mentioned he was having trouble finding someone from the cattle industry to participate, I knew, right then I would love to be apart of this discussion. I met with Dr. Jones to get a copy of the book and talk about this event. I was very much surprised to find Dr. Jones agreed with me about telling our story. He assured me that this event would be positive and informative and not your typical “meat bad, cattle rancher bad” event.
I’m excited. This is me, practicing what I preach.
If you are in the area Monday, October 20th, won’t you think about attending? Word on the playground is there is going to be some Q and A, and I know I could use some support. Plus, I think it is just great that our University is hosting events where we all can learn from different points of view, that is the whole point of education, right?
In California, cattle ranchers are the redheaded stepchildren of the ag industry. What I mean by that is we rarely get help when things go south. We don’t get subsidies, we don’t have many contracts, and we aren’t guaranteed a minimum for our product, etc, etc. This is ok, because in my experience cattle ranchers tend to be the most
paranoid self-reliant out of the bunch, and we survive.
Even when programs are offered that want to help us, a good majority of cattle ranchers won’t accept the help. Seems like every family has a horror story of an uncle, grandpa or friend that “lost the family Ranch” when the “government” got involved. Understandably, this has resulted in super, stubborn and skeptical ranchers.
Well enter 2014, we are in the middle of an epic drought. Cattle ranchers are selling cattle, farmers aren’t planting crops, shit is getting real out here folks. Programs are finally being offered to cattle ranchers that are designed to help us. It’s been an immense relief, and I have no doubt, this has saved many, many ranches (remember these ranches are the same ones that provide us with all this beautiful non-developed land, habitat and wildlife, we are surrounded with in Northern California).
This ranch is no different. This drought has affected us deeply. We now have several fields that have no stock water access. When you don’t have water, you have nothing. If my pigs and cattle don’t have water, just like us, they die. It becomes a huge problem when you have the land, the cattle, the pigs, the bills, the taxes, but no way to sustain them.
I made the choice to enroll in a program and get financial help. It was not easy, but for me, it’s a perfect storm of being a “beginning” rancher and the drought. The help was to ensure that I have water so I can continue to do, what I do. Fast forward a few months. I have invested my time and money in a well, solar pump and water tank, so my animals have drinking water.
My Parent’s have graciously allowed me to long term lease one of our pastures that had no water access. I had out-grown my pig pen behind our houses, and the pasture I was using for my beefs was not meant for that and no longer had regular water access. This ‘new’ area I am leasing is where I used to raise my cattle, when I was in 4-H and FFA, but the lack of water has essentially made it useless. By getting this help, I am returning this part of the ranch back into production, benefiting both my family and the wildlife that live here.
This is not a choice I took lightly. My long term followers have watched me and this blog grow. You’ve been with me from working in town, to Adult 4-H, to me quitting my town job to work full-time on our ranch. And now, to me making a huge step of growing my hog and cattle business.
Now that I have accessible water for my domestic animals and our wildlife, this is my year. This is the year I take initiative and grow my future. Because I now have water, I can use the knowledge I have amassed to better my land, grow my animals, improve our environment and habitat.
It’s going to be a great year.
This past spring, thanks to CropLife America, I got the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to talk about what I do. While I was certain I was going to die from anxiety, before and during the event, miraculously, I did not. It turns out, I had a fabulous time, and I felt like I was finally promoting my way of life in a way that I could feel. In short, I wanted to do it again!
When I saw that the U.S. Farmers and Rancher’s Alliance was searching its next class of Faces of Farming and Ranching, I decided to enter. I felt I was ready to finally leave the Ranch and take my advocacy to the next level, and this was the perfect year and forum to do that.
I spent a month making my Parents take video of me doing everyday activities on the Ranch. We started to really get into it, thinking of the prettiest places on the ranches to film, trying to get ‘good’ shots. I, somehow, managed to talk my friend Brendan (who has two small children – one is a newborn, a lovely wife, and a full-time job) to use his amazing talents and craft the short video needed for my application.
I asked my musician friends if I could use one of their song’s for my video soundtrack. This became more of a community effort. It was fun to have so many different people being supportive, helping and offering insight. Pretty much everyone in the immediate “circle of Meg” knew I was doing this and was pretty excited about it.
In typical Meg fashion, I turned my application and video in the day it was due. It was a very exciting day. However waiting the month to hear back was agony. I vacillated between being super excited and having super anxiety. This was a big deal!
When the big day came, I ended up not being a finalist. But I realized I was actually ok with that. I had so much fun making the video! Involving my friends and family was the best part, I made memories! The icing on the cake is I have this super, awesome video that shows a good part of my life! Plus, I’m getting twenty pigs this year and I’m certain my Parents would kill me if I left them that job.
I want to share this video because of all the work others put in, thank you everyone!
I’m really proud of this video. Brendan is so good at what he does! This was a bunch of 5 second, shaking clips from my iphone that got turned into something cool that I can share. Plus I totally know one of the finalists, and she is an amazing advocate that is going to kick more ass than I could! When it’s time, vote for Dairy Carrie!