What qualifies us to ranch?

Perhaps I should answer with fact: My husband has degrees in animal science and agricultural business, as well as a Masters degree. He has twenty two years of experience in various states. Together, not one moment of our married life has separated us from agriculture. We’ve made money in cattle sales. We constantly read: new studies, stats, economic projections…

A plaintiff could argue: You grew up in town. Your family name isn’t present in generational agricultural heritage. No one gave you land or cattle. Start-up funds are minimal in comparison. You’ve lost money in cattle sales.

Both perspectives are true.

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.”Abraham Maslow

What fuels a musician, an artist, or a poet fuels us.


Many think we’re crazy. Hard work, fencing, manure, gain/loss, time, money, effort…it all adds up. Last year was our hardest year ranching. We’d done well in years prior, but last August we sold short-term pairs the day the stock market crashed. At that point, we berated ourselves for our stupidity, questioned our sanity, and at the very best, doubted our hopes. We considered selling everything and never buying another cow or horse. Our pendulum swung in opposition to our desire.

It took time before we saw the light again. As we imagined life without cows, urban sunrises, and our children growing up without any ranching, the thought crushed us more than the blow of loss

We didn’t feel like continuing. We lost steam. Yet passion kept us from quitting.

Feeding, first calves 2016 026

The first baby this year.


Right now, our small little herd is calving. (To read why we chose spring calving, click here.) Spring brings the gift of life. In the morning, we head to the window to watch the calves bopping through the field. Do we get irritated? Yes. Do we grump? Sometimes. However, we desire to grow in thankfulness and keep fueling our passion.

How do you fuel passion?

Sometimes you don’t have to, it just naturally flows and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Lately though, in my personal goals, I’ve let a voice slip in: You’re never going to make it. Others will do it better than you. What are you thinking?

 It’s very difficult to press on listening to the ugliness of doubt. Doubt steals my energy, my hopes, and my dreams.

Thus I’m convinced: to fuel passion, I must ignore doubt. In addition, I must give myself permission.

I know that sounds basic. Give myself permission. How many of us, though, feel like we need permission just to live? How many people long to know their intrinsic worth outside of performance? This is a bigger topic than today’s blog, but allowing myself to have permission to breathe, to live, to love, to dance, to dream, and the freedom to pursue what I enjoy… Well, it’s added a few logs to the fire of my passion.

Here in our cyber connection, I am unaware of the challenges each of you face. Just know something: You are worth it. Your passions are needed in the world, just as ours are needed in the pasture.


I’d love to hear your comments on how you keep passion alive. Or your current challenges.









Out to Summer Pasture
Photo by Janice Cartwright

Yesterday I was able to attend a class about Growing Food Businesses sponsored by AERO. The day circulated around produce and Farmer’s Market opportunities. I’ve not been one to delve into Farmer’s Markets yet, but with our homegrown beef it is something we wanted to know more about. Additional information is almost always helpful for obvious reasons, but it also triggers new thoughts.

There’s something about being in certain groups of people that get your wheels turning. I didn’t know any of these folks and I won’t be seeing them regularly, but the energy present from a group of entrepreneurs certainly was fun. Being with others who want to create something new or use things they have to produce a product that will benefit others reminds me of the fact that we too are entrepreneurs.

I realize that as beef producers we aren’t classically seen as entrepreneurs, but really we are. The definition of entrepreneur is “someone who initiates or finances new commercial enterprises.” (Encarta Dictionary) Some don’t think of ranching as a commercial enterprise, but cattle are bought and sold as a business, so it classifies. Thinking about things in this way makes me want to mull over new ideas, see new perspectives, and dialogue about what’s been working and what hasn’t.

Since we are small scale, the idea we currently have implemented is selling beef directly to consumers. While this isn’t a new idea, what we finish them on isn’t average feed. Our beef are finished on natural forage. Last year they grazed on a cover crop of radishes, turnips, triticale, and sunflowers. When we do grain the steers, we give oats and barley. The cattle that grazed on the cover crop alone (without grain supplementation) gained an average of three pounds a day.

We love seeing things from different angles. It seems imperative to make it in our day and age. What about you? How would a new perspective shift your day? What new ideas can you implement?

Let’s not be afraid to try new things!