Monthly Archives: May 2012
A couple months ago I received an e-mail from someone I went to high school with, she had moved back to her families’ farm and she wanted to meet up and talk grassfed beef. Well you guys know me, I love to talk about beef, but I also keep myself pretty busy these days, so I can be a flat out pain-in-the-butt to pin down. Well after about a month of playing phone, text and e-mail tag, we finally met up at our set of corrals to talk beef and cattle corrals.
I hadn’t seen Katie since high school. Like all kids that grew up in Chico, I actually have memories of going to her families’ farm to pick pumpkins (they had a you-pick pumpkin farm). They also had draft horses that would pull a wagon around the pumpkin field, it was incredible, even to a ranch kid like me (Ok, I may be just a whisper horse crazy, just a whisper). It was awesome seeing Katie again and I got to meet her husband Brian and their super cute son, Jack.
It was a great visit and great meeting Katie’s family. I really love what Katie and Brian are doing. They’ve moved back to the family farm and are living the dream. Talking with the Drakes gave me so much hope for the future of my industry! Their goals and beliefs about agriculture mirror mine in a lot of ways. Brian and I got to visit a little more when he brought his horse over to ride with Sue and I.
Now as you recall Sue is a retired cutting horse, she is fancy pants, I’m not used to riding a horse so well trained. And Sue isn’t used to be a ranch horse. She has to stop to poop, doesn’t like to walk in the mud, and really doesn’t care to be by herself (like some high school girls I know). Anyway Brian gave me some really great tips, that have helped Sue and I immensely. As cliche as it sounds, part of being in agriculture, at least for me, is the culture. The exchange of information, having neighbors you can go to for help or advice when you need it (I think this is why I’ve taken to social media, it’s one big neighborhood of knowledge).
Katie and Brian are like a breath of fresh air to our ag community. I feel like Butte County will soon be having an ag renaissance (we have a lot of support for ag and its building everyday), and families like the Drakes will be an essential part of agriculture’s success.
I could go on an on, but I’m going to let Brain Drake do the talking:
I always jokingly say my son wasn’t born in a barn but we got him into one as soon as possible. It gets laughs and thats why I say it. Its ironic for my wife and I because graduating from college if we had been asked what our future held for us neither of us could have predicted we’d be where we are now. Back to my son though, we literally did get him back into a barn as soon as possible. Our son Jack was born around 8am at a great birth center in Gainesville Fl and by noon that day was asleep in my arms in my blue recliner while mom got some much needed rest in the bedroom of our one bedroom barn apartment. Yep, our apartment was 2 horse stalls renovated into a 400 square foot apartment in a barn. My son Jack has barns in his blood. And horses, they lived a mere cinderblock width away on either side! It was tiny, cramped, we shared it with our border collie Luna, and I always tracked in shavings from the stalls but I look back on that tiny dwelling as the place we brought our first child home to. Even as I think about it now, the thought of my son that tiny, in that place just the the three, er 4(dog) of us wow I was so happy to be a dad, so proud of my wife and on this journey of beginning an ag based lifestyle that now I don’t think I could live without.
There is this great book called Little Britches. Its one of my favorites and I’ve read it many times. Its about a family at the turn of the century. The author recalls his experience as an 8 year old boy as his family moved from the east coast to the eastern plains of CO. The first chapter is called ‘Father and I become ranchers.’ My dream for Jack and I! The family lives through incredible catastrophe to flee the hopelessness of the east. To be free, raising livestock, trying to cause produce to grow where it shouldn’t, milking cows, meeting the men of the frontier! Cool stuff. I wonder about my son’s interpretation of his own life.
We now live on a great farm here just south of Chico, the Book Family Farm. To him it’s gotta be the land of milk and honey. Really, grandpa has milk cows and sells raw milk, we raise grass fed beef and pasture raised pork and poultry. Much of the produce we eat we grow. For my son and daughter they will grow up being connected to the food they eat and this land that gives life! Here on this little parcel of natural abundance his life isn’t that different from Little Britches author Ralph Moody. And the men of the frontier are still here. Everyday we meet men and women dedicated to this way of life that is rapidly diminishing. We are newbies eager to glean knowledge from those that have been there done that, tried this and that till it finally worked and became sustainable. I have huge admiration for those that have stewarded this land that really does give life.
I’m a first generation rancher and have so much to learn. And my son Jack, daughter Emma and wife Katie are right there along with me. I spent the last seven years working on a horse ranch in CO and FL. My wife is Katie Book now Katie Drake and we have come home here to Chico CA. Hopefully to raise great kids, be a part of this vibrant community, raise livestock and manage this piece of land with Katie’s family in a way that inspires others to want to know how their food was raised, where it comes from and respect the farmer or rancher responsible for it all. Agriculture is so necessary, but also it’s a way of living that resonates with so many. We are excited to share it! I’m so glad it was shared with me!
You can reach the Drakes at firstname.lastname@example.org
As I mentioned before, my Mom found and gave me an old cedar box with a bunch of old newspaper clipping in it. Most of these clippings are just random ag related news stories from the 1950’s but I did find some treasures, including some obituaries and stories about the Ranch. One of the obituaries I found was for Helen May Wilson (aka Helen Lucas), my great great great grandmother.
Until I found this obituary, I had researched as far as I could go on the Wilson side of my family. I did not know her Parents’ names, or how she got to Chico, California. Helen’s obituary filled in some big holes I had in my family tree. It also created a lot more work for me! Now that I know who her Parents were and where they came from, I can continue on my crazy “where I come from” journey.
James and Julia both were born in New York State in 1832 and 1842, respectively. James served in an Illinois regiment in the Civil War. From Illinois, they found their way to Missouri. They traveled to California via a covered wagon. They had nine children, and out of those nine, seven lived. I know all the names of their seven living children, and when I have some free time (ha ha ha ha, free time), I plan on trying to plot out their family tree’s in hopes of finding more of my distant family members.
Turns out Helen’s Parents, James and Julia came to California when Helen was five years old from Missouri. From Missouri they moved to Ventura County where James ran a large dairy. From Ventura Country they moved to Chico and built and operated the Economy Store. In 1896, they bought 160 acres on the Doe Mill Ridge near Forest Ranch, California.
I’ve recently started visiting our local cemeteries to find my family members. It’s an incredible feeling to still be in the same town that my great, great, great, great grandparents helped settle and build. I’ve always felt very connected to this area, and I love my town. I guess this explains it.
I know a lot of my family intermarried with other old Chico families. There is no doubt in my mind that I have lot of family still in Chico that I have never met and don’t know about. Chances are high that I am related to some of my local friends and don’t even know it! I think because I am an only child, and I don’t have a relationship with most of my family (because of the Ranch, death, land, jealously, money, bitterness, and alcohol. Sounds fun, huh?) finding family members that don’t hate me, or want to kill me, is very important to me.
The Kennedy Ranch. Or as we call it today, Sycamore Ranch, or The Chico Ranch. This ranch is still in our family, actually all the ranches mentioned in the article below are still in production. A portion of it was sold off as an eminent domain in the 1980’s, but for the most part, this ranch is largely intact. Quite frankly, this is one of the most beautiful ranches in Northern California.
It’s a couple of miles away from downtown Chico, right over the fence from Bidwell Park, and homes have been built on the portion that was taken away. But once you enter the gate, and go over the hill, you feel like civilization and all of your problems are hundreds of miles away. When I am there I imagine what it must have been like when my great grandparents bought it. I’m just starting to uncover the history behind these ranches, but I understand why my family chose to settle, live and die here.
My Mom recently gave me a box of newspaper clippings. This box was from either my Grandfather or from my Great Aunt. It contained mainly clipping about agriculture from 1954, but it did have some gems. These gems included the article posted below and some other clippings relevant to the Family. I’ll be posting them over the next several weeks because they are really cool. This article is about the purchase of the Kennedy Ranch.
I’m having a good morning. First it started when I woke up with no fuzzy white cat ass in my face, a rare treat! For some reason, Jack decided to sleep in his own cat bed, something he rarely does. Without my hot, furry, bed stealing cat, I got enough sleep and was actually early enough to work to make a coffee and pastry run, and the coffee shop had homemade pistachio s’mores! It was like Christmas!
While I was waiting for my coffee I checked my e-mail and guess what? My day got even better!!!! I won something! A really cool book from someone cool! I’ve been enjoying westeastern.me blog for a while now, her blog is very well done and entertaining. Plus her pictures are badass. And there are horses. Go there, enjoy her story.
So Jessica inspired me to pay it forward. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a giveaway, it’s time. My Mom is sponsoring this giveaway, thanks Mom! We make old fashioned lye based soap on the Ranch, just like our great grandparents used. Its lovely soap, I’ve used it since I was a teenager and attribute the fact that I still get carded every time I attempt to buy booze or get into a bar, to that soap. Well that and lots of water and sunscreen.
Oops, sorry, I lost focus there for a moment. Back to the soap. My Mom has been making this soap for a long time. She always had a passion for soapmaking ever since she was a child. Being the youngest of 5 kids, my Mom developed a colorful vocabulary and became very well acquainted with the taste of soap at a young age. We are working on new pin up girl labels (by we, I mean me), but my limited skill with Photoshop is proving to be a hindrance (hint, crafty photo people want to come over and help?).
This giveaway is for two of bars of Table Mountain Ranch Goats milk Soap, in Lavender Breeze and Yuzu. All you have to do in comment on this blog. Next Tuesday, May 15, 2012, I will use random.org to select a winner. Good luck!
Remember back a couple months ago when I got to speak to that group of FFA kids? And they were totally awesome and I was really excited? When I ended up being on their FFA Board – which is so much fun! Unfortunately because of my crazy schedule this time of year, I haven’t been able to be that active yet. All I can do is try my best to get some donations. You see, this little charter school wants to start their own school farm!!!! During a time when most schools are shutting down their agriculture programs, this one is trying to start one!!!! So if you have some extra money or farm equipment or anything to help won’t you consider helping them out? I’m attaching the letter they sent out to local business’s so you can see I am being totally serious. Please contact Ms. Anderson or myself if you want to donate. Again, thank you, thank you, thank you!
Let me start by saying thank you for your time. The reason I am sending you this letter is to ask for your support and help. I am privileged with the opportunity to start a new FFA and Ag program at the CORE Butte Charter School in Chico. The Charter school allows students to have the opportunity to develop an education program that fits their learning style while having the time and flexibility to pursue those passions that interest them as well. With FFA and Ag being such a huge leadership and skills building opportunity, and the dynamics of the Charter school allowing student to get involved- blending the two is a phenomenal new precedent we are setting.
FFA is the Future Farmers of America. In FFA students have the opportunity to develop leadership skills which they can use for the rest of their lives no matter the career choice. Students have the opportunity to participate in events like job interview, public speaking, judging contests, and so much more. Students can also run for office, raise animals for fair, develop their own business through entrepreneurship- the possibilities are limitless. Developing a new program is exciting and challenging. Based on the nature of CORE being a charter school we do not qualify for state funding. Which is where YOU come in!
We are looking for companies and businesses to support our program and grant these students this tremendous opportunity. We have been fortunate to acquire a school farm and are now in the process of building it. Building a farm from the ground up is an exciting and huge task. We are asking for donations and support to our farm in any way possible. Whether it be gravel for our road and ag complex, drip irrigation supplies, lumber for animal houses and planter boxes, soil for the planters, floral supplies, rubber mats for stalls, hoses, animal science supplies, etc. we are appreciative for any support we can receive.
Every bit of support is much appreciated. Your support will be used to develop and grow the Ag department and provide students this unique opportunity of “learning by doing”. Students have the opportunity to not only work out at the farm but experience ag in a hands on way. It is community supporters like yourself, which make the dreams and opportunities for students a reality. With your support, in return, we will add your name to our sponsor list on all event paraphernalia, our event banners that are displayed at fairs, community events, and FFA events, as well as to our website. Thanks you for considering and supporting our future agriculturalists and leaders of tomorrow.
Jessica Anderson FFA/Ag Advisor