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