Category Archives: Ranch life
I March for Agriculture
Agriculture loves to put an opinionated woman in her place. My friend Abbi said it best, “the Goldilocks mentality… be strong but not too strong. Be smart but not too smart”. If we step outside our allotted roles we become fair game for attacks and put downs. This does serve a purpose though, it keeps us in our place, it keeps us subservient and quiet.
Gender roles, patriarchy and sexism are still very much alive and well within agriculture. We still perpetuate them, we still are guided by them, we still adhere to them. I was reminded of this when I was tagged in the comments section of a status update from the California CattleWomen’s Facebook page. The post was a variation of the “Why We Don’t March” status update that floats around rural Facebook every time a women’s march is organized (fun fact: women were not even allowed in FFA until 1969).
Before I delve into why this is an issue, I’d like to post the groups mission statement. I believe it’s important to know the mission of a group. It is as follows: “Because California is the world leader in food production, the most productive agriculture region on earth and because; the production of Beef Cattle is California’s fifth largest commodity, we, the California CattleWomen will focus on promoting a better understanding to consumers as to where their food originates; the quality controls used towards its safety; the impact the Beef Industry has on the economy of California; and the overall, far-reaching contributions the Beef Industry has to society as a whole.”
This is problematic when a public group representing agriculture would post such a divisive, tone-deaf and antiquated status update. Obviously, it’s an attempt to silence consumers who speak up when something is wrong, by women who often have a family name or land that affords them some protection from the wrongs. It also perpetuates the rural/urban divide, which is something agriculture has been struggling with for a long time.
I know many agriculture groups are struggling with membership. This is perhaps a major reason why. All women in agriculture are not going to have the same experiences. A greenhand young woman will not be treated the same as the fifth generation rancher. Women who are brave enough to point out how we can be better by marching, or protesting are not our enemy. Offering support to the younger, more progressive generation will encourage us to join these groups. It will bring new life blood. Alienating us will only continue to spell the inevitable, slow, death march of these groups.
The cattle industry desperately needs some good PR. We really need consumers to see cattlepeople in a better light. We have lab meat, environmental issues and a whole slew of other controversies where we NEED the public’s support. Posting something that attacks the dominate grocery shopper (women) is not a smart marketing tactic.
Maya Angelou said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time“. It is so easy to find farmers and rancher insulting our non agriculture peers on social media, it’s like we forget the public can see it. Then we wonder why we are not communicating well with our consumers, why they don’t listen to us. We get upset when they call us uneducated or ignorant. You know what? I think they are just listening to Ms. Angelou; we are showing the public who we are, and are being treated accordingly.
I know the women who run these accounts have attended and even been panelist and presenter at many conferences teaching us ‘to reach beyond the agriculture choir,’ just like me. I learned alienating our consumer on public accounts was a bad idea, even on personal accounts. I just feel at some point we need to admit we’re not really trying to win consumers over, we’re not trying to learn from them. No, we want them to know how much better we are because of our lifestyle. Again, not promoting betting understanding to our consumer.
The industry is at a tipping point. If our groups and leaders stepped up and lead by example, I know we could create some positive change. We either need to become serious, follow our mission statements, and stop attacking the hand the pays us or realize life as we know it, is going to change. Here is my call to action, let’s be better. Let’s stop putting down our consumers for things they are passionate about. Let’s gently remind (call out) our ranching peers to do the same. When we see industry groups setting poor examples by posting tasteless, hurtful things, let’s ask them to learn from their mistakes and stop. Our way of life simply depends on it.
Over the past two years our ranch has been involved with two fires. In 2017, the Cherokee Fire burned our ranch destroying homes, trees, barns, out buildings, water infrastructure, fences and corrals. It caused almost $4 million in damage to our home ranch. The Camp Fire happened in 2018. Although we were spared from flames damaging our property, the evacuations, water infrastructure damage, smoke damage and stress to ourselves and animals is still causing major problems.
Living through several natural disasters I’ve become accustom to answering questions about what we do, as cattle people, to mitigate damage from fire. For six generations my family has lived in this area, running cattle with little change. Fire has always been part of our plan, however the past few years it seems like it has been excessively different.
In honor of Earth Day, I’d like to show you one big benefit of grazing cattle; fire fuel load reduction.
The two photos below were taken one year apart. The top photo was our ranch un-grazed spring of 2018. The Cherokee Fire destroyed all of our fences so we were not able to run cattle on this side of the ranch during the winter of 2018 like we normally would. The result was grass that almost grew taller than I. The fuel load was massive and we were so scared we were going to burn up, again.
The second photo shows what healthy grazing looks like. The grass is managed and healthy (as are the cattle). The cattle also release nutrients back into the soil with the poo and provide us with food and fiber. Cattle play an important role in fire prevention in our area.
As we enter the 2019 fire season, I’d like you remind you, your local neighborhood cattle are working hard to mitigate potential damage around our communities. They are doing this without using pesticide, electricity, loud mowers or fossil fuel, just a four chambered stomach. Help support them by having a lovely hamburger or steak for dinner this week?
This recipe is one that has always existed for me. My Mom got the recipe from her ex boyfriend’s Mom before I was born. It was a staple growing up. It was made for every ranch work day. Quite frankly, I take this dish for granted. I didn’t realize just how deeply satisfying and delicious it was until college, when my friends would beg me to take them to my Parent’s with me for lunch. For a while we called these Todd’s beans because my friend Todd talked about them so much when we were in college.
This recipe is just a suggestion. You can add things, like jalapeños or bay leaves or not. It really depends on your personal preference. My Mom generally doesn’t put peppers in hers, whereas I go crazy and use chicken stock, bay leaves and jalapeño in mine. It’s important to not salt this dish until the end because the cured pork already has a lot of salt.
1 ham hock (or meaty ham bone or ham shank if you want a less meaty batch of beans)
1 pound cranberry beans (I think cranberry beans are a must have here, they are a really great bean!)
1 (or 2) minced jalapeños (optional)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed (optional)
1 or two bay leaves (optional)
Water or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Soak beans overnight, drain and rinse. Place beans in large stock pot or crockpot; add all ingredients and water or broth to cover. Turn heat to high, watch closely, when it starts to boil, place lid on pot and turn temperature to simmer. Simmer for several hours or until beans are cooked and meat has fallen off the ham hock. Use slotted spoon to remove bones and any undesirable parts from ham hock. Then taste, add salt if needed or more pepper, depends on your tastes.
This makes incredible leftovers too! It also freezes well. Try with it with Mexican cheese and tortillas, it’ll rock your world!
Sometimes Agriculture Has Good Intentions…
The agriculture industry is full of good intentions in terms of lessening the rural/urban divide, well, at least we think we are. Ag hosts field days, ag in the classroom, ag literacy events, all in the name of education. Farmers and ranchers are urged to share their stories with their urban counterparts. We open our barn doors and ranch gates offering our non rural peers a glimpse into our way of life. But what does agriculture do to urge farmers and ranchers to learn about our urban counterparts? What does agriculture do to educate ourselves about our urban peers? How do we glimpse into their lives? Why isn’t an effort being made to make this a two way street?
Sure, agriculture talks about consumer demand and market trends but these are faceless entities, void of any personal connection. Just as the farmer or rancher in our urban peer’s mind might be from American Gothic or a John Wayne movie, a caricature of the real thing. When agriculture talks about “consumer” we aren’t picturing actual living and working people, we see a group that needs to be taught, needs to be educated.
Agriculture loves to claim our urban peers and counterparts are out of touch with us. But perhaps, agriculture being the minority (less than 2% of our populations works in production agriculture), we are out of touch with the majority? What if agriculture is so cloistered within our own culture we forget there is a much bigger world out there? Often the only time agriculturists travel is for industry events, to talk to other industry people about industry things. Living and working in the agricultural world can be very sheltered experience.
If agriculture truly wants to connect, if we truly want to share our way of life we need to realize it is a two way street. We are not entitled to demand everyone learn about us without offering to do the same, simply because we grow food, fuel and fiber for them. We need to see value in all work done to support the society we live in.
I believe it’s time agriculture seeks out an Urban Literacy week. It’s time we take the same responsibility we demand of our consumers; learn about their way of life, form an emotional connection. It’s time we treat our urban peers with the respect and attention we demand. Perhaps it’s time for us to be educated? I urge those of you in agriculture reading this, join me in being mindful of our urban counterparts? Ask them questions about their way of life, their struggles, their concerns. Be less interested in forcing your experiences on them. Work on connecting over issues we share, not what divides us.