Colorado Women in Ranching: A Spirit of Nurturing, Sustainability is Alive at San Juan Ranch

Check out the video imbedded in the story or on Youtube here

This is a story by Liz Forster of the Colorado Springs Gazette. The comments are also interesting and bring more historic context. Ranchers often get a bad rap in both public lands and climate change debates- will this change with increasing numbers of women in the field (or in the truck)? The whole article is worth reading.

Defying convention is standard at San Juan Ranch. And with the mounting pressures from prolonged drought, climate change and unsustainably low crop prices, Sullivan and her partner George Whitten’s idiosyncratic take on what it means to be a rancher in the West might save their operation, and also help others inevitably facing the same challenges.

“The idea that people that are raising animals for food can’t care about them, or have to harden their hearts is opposite of what it should be,” Sullivan said. “The more compassion and empathy that we can have for them – those are the people who should be raising animals.”

Along the way, San Juan Ranch has joined a broader movement to connect female ranchers, mentor young women and pioneer a new ethos behind ranching in the West

Some of these women perhaps bring different attitudes:

She also helps draft policy recommendations on behalf of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union to mail to the U.S. Capitol.

“I really want to bridge that gap between the urban and rural communities because I feel like that was the most fortunate part of my upbringing: I had the best of both worlds,” she said. “So, if I work my way into having a voice in policy, I can have empathy for both worlds, which I think is lacking and leading to some of the extreme polarization that we’re seeing.”

At a time when the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ narrative pervades in the United States, Fancher prefers to extend a hand across the table.

“If we shun men and say, “Well, you’ve always had the upper hand,’ that’s a way to close off the conversation, which doesn’t do any good,” she said. “Instead, (we should) foster how can we all be on the same page and how can we support each other.”

It’s interesting that these folks do not use feedlots:

Sullivan and Whitten cut ties with the feedlots after they married, opting to keep their cows in their pastures on a grass diet for the duration of their lives. It is a slower process but produces beef with less fat and calories per ounce of meat, more healthy fatty acids and, according to the couple, happier cows.

Many of the studies of the impacts of cattle grazing on the environment assume (1) that cattle raising practices include feedlots, and (2) that the land could be used to grow other human food crops. In many areas of the west (2) is not true, due to dryness or cold or both. IMHO, eating local and grassfed and finished may be better for the environment than other options- it’s all in the assumptions and the particularities of place.

4 thoughts on “Colorado Women in Ranching: A Spirit of Nurturing, Sustainability is Alive at San Juan Ranch”

  1. The last sentence is certainly correct; It’s all in the assumptions and peculiarities of the area. But, I have never seen a “study” of environmental effects of livestock use – on the public land – that assumed anything about where the livestock went (to a feedlot) after they left the local area.

  2. Cow calf per acre in the East, cow calf per what (?) 10 acres out there. What an inefficient waste. Eastern producers should be royally miffed that these people are unfairly subsidized to help them compete in the marketplace. That’s the real story.

  3. In 2018, global CO2 levels again increased rather than declining as needed to reverse global warming. Coal burning is primarily responsible, but greenhouse gasses need to be considered collectively and methane from beef production is a chief contributor. Grass-fed beef may be less harmful to the climate than grain-finished but it is estimated we have around 12 years to reverse global warming. Beef in human diets needs to go.

  4. “The ecological costs of this nearly ubiquitous form of land use can be dramatic. Examples of such costs include loss of biodiversity; lowering of population densities for a wide variety of taxa; disruption of ecosystem functions, including nutrient cycling and succession; change
    in community organization; and change in the physical characteristics of both terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Because livestock congregate in riparian ecosystems, which are among the biologically richest habitats in arid and semiarid regions, the ecological costs of grazing are magnified in these sites.”

    Livestock is clearly not a good option for public lands. It is a good question what “other options” would be for private lands (including those that may depend on public land grazing).


Leave a Comment

Discover more from The Smokey Wire : National Forest News and Views

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading