Tag Archives: future

Cry Me A River

I spend my summers in Indian Valley, California. It’s a beautiful valley nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, located in Northern California. This valley is perfect for cattle and hay, since the growing season is too short for most food crops. It’s a great symbiotic relationship, we make hay, then turn the cattle out. The cattle poo, fertilizing the ground, then we make more hay for the cattle to eat. Rinse and repeat.

On the left used to be a ditch, we changed it to a buried pipe to conserve water. On the right is our laser leveled field.

On the left used to be a ditch, we changed it to a buried pipe to conserve water. On the right is our laser leveled field.

This is the one ranch where we have irrigation. Many of the ranches in this valley have water shares from the local river. We use the water to irrigate the hay and water our cattle. Over the years, we’ve gotten rather high tech when it comes to our water share. Since we only get a limited amount of water, we know we must be as efficient as we can with it. This has led us to bury our ditches in underground pipes so we can limit evaporation and waste. We have laser leveled our fields so we don’t waste water in holes or on poor grades. My point is, we understand what a precious and rare resource water has become, because our life depends on it.

California is in the middle of a major drought. This is terrifying for a number of reasons, but mainly because California produces more than half the nation’s fruit, nuts, and vegetables and we can’t grow these things without water. This drought is directly impacting people like me: farmers and ranchers. Let me remind you that 98% of farms and ranches are family owned.

My family has been working extra hard this summer. We’ve practically lived in our fields, watching our water. Because it is so precious and rare to us, we have to use it as wisely as we can, in order to survive, we simply must. Imagine my shock and awe, as I was sitting in a field, waiting for the exact instant the water was ready to be changed, I saw a local environmental group post on their social media page:

It’s hard to stomach the giant agribusinesses whine about lack of water when they have made the poor business decision to grow luxury orchard crops (pistachios, etc) in a dessert (sic). Cry me a river about your dust bowl.”

 

This is a pretty tough thing for agriculture to read when we are drying up.

This is a pretty tough thing for agriculture to read when we are drying up.

I started crying, right there in the field. I may not be in the central valley of California (where that vile comment was referring to), but I certainly understand the anxiety and fear this drought is causing. Our neighbor’s well had just dried up the that very morning, our water share is the lowest we have ever seen it, our fields are starting to brown and die. How could a group that claims to be “devoted to environmental education and information referral services, and advocacy” say that about the very people that work for a better environment everyday of our lives?

I couldn’t sleep that night, I was so upset over that comment. Giant agribusinesses? Luxury crops? Dessert (sic)? This is how many of the misconceptions and fallacies that plague agriculture start. By people that, I think, do have their heart in the right place, but don’t have enough understanding of a topic to fully communicate both sides. Beyond that fact, I was hurt that the writer chose to take such an inflammatory and hurtful tone – “Cry me a river about your dust bowl”. Ouch. That is a hurtful and horrible thing to say when farmers and ranchers are literally crying over the loss of our way of life.

I decided that I needed to join this group and I needed to say my peace about their comment. As someone that lives to advocate for my life, I would be a hypocrite to not take the 10 minutes to have a conversation. As soon as Dad could spare me, I jumped in my truck with my cowdogs, drove the hour and half to Chico.

 

A felfie. I was on my way to Butte Environmental Council's office. I haven't showered in two day, I had no make up on, the same pants I wore the day before (saving water!), I had both my dogs and our neighbors well just went dry. I wanted to show them the face of giant agribusiness crying them a river in my dust bowl.

A felfie. I was on my way to Butte Environmental Council’s office. I haven’t showered in two days, I had no make up on, the same pants I wore the day before (saving water!), I had both my dogs and our neighbors well just went dry. I wanted to show them the face of giant agribusiness crying them a river in my dust bowl.

Because of the heat, I was forced to take my cowdogs in the office with me. I can only imagine the sight and smell of me as I walked down the streets of downtown Chico with two dogs on a leash made of bailing twine. I arrived at their office, introduced myself, and proceeded to cry them a river. All the anxiety, emotion and fear I’d been feeling lately about our water situation boiled over. Their office was so nice and cool, such a change from the heat and dust I’d been working in. The women in the office seemed very nice, concerned, and thanked me for coming in and talking to them. They said they would speak to the people that had administrative access to their page. I urged them to remove the comment and maybe issue an apology because alienating your active environmentalists (farmers and ranchers), is not a good way to foster communication.

My dirty, smelly self, crying in BEC's office.

My dirty, smelly self, crying in BEC’s office.

I also paid my $20’s and became a member. As I said, I want my voice to matter, so I felt like paying my dues, would prove I am serious about working together for the greater good. I left their office feeling hopeful. Hopeful that their comment would be removed, perhaps an apology given and hopeful that a new partnership could blossom.

I walk the walk. I am serious about my love for our environment and agriculture and making those things better for everyone.

I walk the walk. I am serious about my love for our environment and agriculture and making those things better for everyone.

 

When I checked their page the next day, I was dismayed to find they had not removed the offending post. In fact, they edited it to reflect a spelling change. I realize that the women in that office do not have the same experience as I have with water or our environment.  Their income, their very way of life, all they have ever known isn’t on a cattle ranch that five generations before them worked so hard for. Their friends, family and peers aren’t facing uncertain futures like mine are. As a new member with these insights, perhaps I need to show and tell, so this council can start to fathom what we are facing.

My comments on the initial post and the day after I went in, paid for my membership and cried.

My comments on the initial post and the day after I went in, paid for my membership and cried.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to share more about how this drought is affecting agriculture. I’ve reached out to some other advocates in hopes that their stories can help put a face to what people think are “giant agribusinesses”.  They plan on sharing about their farms and ranchers and the “luxury” crops they produce. I sincerely hope that with this new information and ability to communicate with agriculture, the Butte Environmental Council will re-think how they talk about farmers and ranchers. Perhaps this would be an excellent time for everyone to start over again, and work together for the great good. All of our futures depend in it.

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, animals, Field Trip, food, Know a California Farmer, Media, photos, Ranch life, Rants, Uncategorized

Taylor MacKay: 8th Grade Project

A couple weeks ago, I got an e-mail from a college friend of mine. Her daughter was doing her 8th grade project on Dr. Temple Grandin, and my friend had noticed I talk a lot about Dr. Grandin. My friend, Stacie, asked if it would be ok for her daughter to contact me about doing an interview about my experience with Dr. Grandin.

 Our ag ambassador officer team. Stacie is the blonde with short hair. Also if you ever see John, buy him a beer and give him a hug. He was on the executive committee with me, and I poked him with a stick unmercifully.

Our ag ambassador officer team. Stacie is the blonde with short hair. Also if you ever see John, buy him a beer and give him a hug. He was on the executive committee with me, and I poked him with a stick unmercifully.


Now a little back-story here. Stacie’s daughter, Taylor, is attending the same middle school as I did and doing the same project I had to do. Of course Taylor is brilliant and is doing her project on Dr. Grandin instead of massage therapy, like I did mine on (ok, to be fair they wouldn’t let me do it on cows or horses (they wanted us to be exposed to something new, the nerve!) and my Mom was attending massage therapy school at the time).
Go 4-H!

Go 4-H!


Taylor has some of the same teachers I had at her age (I feel old). She is also a member of one of the 4-H groups I was a member of! And in addition to knowing her Mom since 2000, I know her Dad from when we were little kids! Needless to say I was really excited to help her any way I could! We e-mailed back and forth for a few days, I shared some links with her, and we decided on a time and place to meet for the interview.
Because I am anti-social and cook at home, I had never been to Applebee’s happy hour. It’s my new jam, that pretzel cheese thing was fabulous and the beer was cheap!

Because I am anti-social and cook at home, I had never been to Applebee’s happy hour. It’s my new jam, that pretzel cheese thing was fabulous and the beer was cheap!


We met at Applebee’s in Oroville, during happy hour (a very happy coincidence). I arrived a little early to stake out a good table and buy myself a beer. I get a little nervous when I do adult things like this. It means a lot to me when people seek my opinion out, especially peers.
The future, right here.

The future, right here.


Now I hadn’t actually seen or spoken face to face with Taylor since circa 2004. It was a surprise when she walked over and sat down, she’s all grown up! Before we started the interview I got to chat with Taylor and Stacie. Most of my friends I interact with on a day to day basis are not directly involved with agriculture. It’s always refreshing for me to have a conversation with people that share my lifestyle. Taylor hunts, shoots guns and gets dirty, she is glorious.
Taylor then proceeded to tell me that Dr. Grandin called her! I love everything about that. I love that Dr. Grandin is so supportive and I love that Taylor got to speak to her. When I met Dr. Grandin, she inspired me to keep doing what I am doing. I think Taylor felt that too.
Taylor had a great set of questions to ask me. I found her engaging, funny and very confident. I don’t want to talk too much about what we spoke about because I’m hoping that maybe Taylor would be willing to share some of her project here or on the Tumblr she started after we met (yeah, she started a Tumblr, I’m so proud).
She's a hard working, smart, young lady. And she is going to go far!

She’s a hard working, smart, young lady. And she is going to go far!


Taylor impressed me so much. She is the future of our local agriculture industry and let me tell you folks, the future is bright. She sent me a thank you e-mail before I even had gotten home from our interview.
My new plan is to make myself as available as I can to this next generation of agriculturalist. Then in about 10 years we are going to run Butte County agriculture and it will be transparent, educational and awesome. Who is with me?!

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, food, Humor, photos, Ranch life, Uncategorized