Ryan is back to school and the Agriculture Proud Banditas are back to hijacking this blog! Today’s post is by Megan Brown a commercial cattle rancher from California. Meg loves agriculture, food and cooking and in addition to the ranch works a job as a paralegal. You can read more about Megan and her ranch on her blog. TheBeefJar.com
I am a commercial cattle rancher in Northern California. When most people think of California, they tend to think of beaches and movie stars instead of food and fiber. However, California is the biggest, in terms of cash farm receipts, and most diversified agricultural state in our union.
Despite living in a rural area of a state that producers nearly half of our countries fruit, vegetables and nuts, I have found most of my peers have no experience with commercial ranching or farming. Many people in this area had grandparents or parents that spent time living or working on a farm, but have since sold the family farm and moved to town.
This has created a generation who grew up listening to extraordinary stories of farm life from older generations. As a result, many young people are hungry to have the same hands-on experiences that member of their family previously had. Those feelings are creating opportunity for those of us in production agriculture, if we choose to see it that way.
Unless you are a child with access to 4-H, FFA or other agricultural related group, a checkbook seems to be the best way to get hands-on knowledge about agriculture, and some specialized farmers are capitalizing on this opportunity. Workshops and classes are popping up, charging anywhere from several hundred to several thousands of dollars to live and work on a farm.
Since we all eat, I think we all should have access and knowledge about our food supply, and it should not be an exclusive or expensive lesson. Since I am in the unique position of living on a commercial cattle ranch, I’ve made a huge effort to open my barn door to anyone who wants to learn about what I do. This has paid huge dividends, not necessarily financially, but in arguably more satisfying ways.
From adults to children, the look on people’s faces when they first see a calf nursing from its mother, or a chicken eat a bug, or when they touch a pig for the first time, is priceless to me. Often they share memories that have been passed down from when their family farmed, and in that instant, they get to walk a mile in my shoes. I am grateful for the opportunity.
By giving the public the access to their food as I have, I take away the fear of the unknown. I take away their trust in animal activists that claim our animals are mistreated. I reconnect them to part of their heritage and sometimes inspire them to start a garden or enroll their kids in 4-H. In turn they share their experience on my commercial ranch with their urban friends, often on their social media profiles or, like my most recent visitor Jenny, on their own blogs
I urge other farmers and ranchers to take some time out of your busy schedule and offer to take your urban and non-ag friends around your ranch. For those of you not in production agriculture, I urge you to visit some farms and ranches. In my experience, opening up not just our barns, but our way of life to the people who ultimately consume the food we grow, benefits both agriculture and society as a whole.