Ranching Ain't Special.

I added the ain't in the title, for good measure, it makes me seem ranchier, I think .  But in all seriousness, ranching isn't special and yet somehow living and working on a ranch gathers all sorts of  attention.  I often ask myself why?  

I'm not talking about the great attention - the kind where people respect a profession and talk about all the great things it does for our society.  That's not the kind of attention ranching gets, I've come to notice it draws two different crowds:  those that don't understand the industry and think it's about misuse of resources and animals or those that don't understand the world we live in and think agriculture in general isn't needed anymore.  I'm calling both viewpoints out, I'm about to tell it like it is, and I ask you to join up in the cause. 

Ranching is not special (and for good measure neither is farming).  It's not some new fad our society adopted on a whim, it's not a urban oasis dream (although we use technology and we do give a darned about efficiencies), and it's certainly not on most celebrity's wish list (well, the idea of ranching is, but let's face it they didn't get into it for the money).  Nope.  Ranching is not special.  It's the work of a person and many times a family, day in and day out, to provide for animals and plants (yes, ranchers often also grow the feed they give to livestock) that would otherwise not care for or cultivate themselves.  There aren't vacation days, FMLA doesn't exist, sick days never pan out and retirement is usually only uttered when you've got a rouge cow that keeps jumping the fence. No suits, no ties, and certainly no fluff - it's not special.  And because it's not special, fun, exciting or sexy to the mainstream public, it's often over looked and frankly taken for granted.  

That leads us to the two different crowds and how they view ranching.  One side says we don't care for animals, that we are not good caretakers of the land and resources.  That it's not natural to tend livestock.  To each their own, I don't profess to change any ideals here, but I will take a moment to say, if given the choice between a hunter/gather life, where I don't know day to day if my family will eat, drink or sleep.  Where I wonder what shelter we might have, and I question if I will have medications and daily living needs to keep my babies healthy.  A choice between that life and one that is built on sustainable agricultural practices, like farming and ranching, that have been developed through scientific methods and best practices, and allow for food security, along with many industrial materials and medications that we enjoy every day in this country, I am going to choose the sustainability, security and science every time.  And this leads us into the second group of folks, the ones that think agriculture has run it's course.  That we are beyond needing it for society to prosper.  To this I say:  What are you thinking?  I only ask this because we are talking about agriculture here folks, the building block to developed countries as we know them today.  You don't have food, you don't get to be technologically advanced, heck, you don't even get to have much for clothing and shelter.  It's really that simple.  If you don't have a reliable, trustworthy food source that is sustainable, I assure you, you will not have time to research, engineer, develop educational processes, and move into higher thinking models.  It's not gonna happen, because all you will be doing is managing your individual food needs.  If you don't believe me, take a look at our global landscape, how many 3rd world countries out there are worried about what Taylor Swift wore or which iPhone Apple just released?  I do not even have to reach far on this point, head to your nearest philosophy 101 class, they cover the topic nicely, all be it they may want to move back towards hunting and gathering. 

With all that in mind, the industry finds itself on it's heels, defending it's practices and frankly the very core of it's existence.  Each year pressures mount more and more, questioning why agriculture is around.  Why we have to have modern day livestock and farming operations.  As we struggle to feed 7.5 billion people, I ask how could you even question it?  We need farming and ranching now more than ever.  We need to support agriculture to solve world hunger, advance land and environmental stewardship and push production agriculture to levels beyond our highest of expectations.  Our future world is at stake, and if you cannot come around a common theme to improve the lives of others, then shame on you.  I'm not talking about choosing organic or going gluten free.  Your daily choices on a micro level are not the issue at hand here.  Eat all organic, go antibiotic free.  Niche markets are important too.  I am talking about taking a moment to truly understand how your food is grown, why it's grown the way it is and the demand that 7.5 billion people put on food production.  My backyard garden and the great things I love to grow in it, does not even touch the issue - and I have bad news - neither does yours.  Biotechnology, strong understanding of food production and increased technology in that production must be part of the wide scale equation, or we are doomed to fail.  And failing in this industry does not mean we get to sit back and try again, or go belly up and disappoint the board.  Nope.  We fail in agriculture and we all get to go hungry.  How's that for not being anything too special?

Erica Peterson