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.