You’re sitting in the middle of a pasture, and you can’t see a fence for miles. What you do see is belly deep, green grass, waving softly in the breeze. You see a big, wide, river-turned lake, that contrasts its pretty blue waters with the green of the grass in a most enticing way. There’s black-hided cows and newborn calves surrounding you. You feel sunshine on your back, a good horse underneath you, the sound of nothing but cattle munching on grass, the occasional bawl of a baby as it looks for mama, or the cry of a hawk as it hunts above you. No cars, no airplanes, no trucks, no trains, no boats; no motorized vehicles of any kind.
More often than not, that’s my office. I get to play cowgirl everyday, here, on a third-generation run, cow/calf operation.
People ask me why I am glad to be involved in agriculture and I tell them- it’s in my blood. After all, daddy did grow up a Kansas farm boy. To love the land is in my soul. It’s who I was meant to be. I was born to be astride a horse, taking care of the land, making the most of each animal that is given to our care.
And that, my friends is really the nuts and bolts of ranching, after all. Our job is to take the best care we can of each cow, of each calf, of our misfit yearlings, of each mare, of each foal until which time they leave our care.
Come snow, rain, wind or sunshine, our job is to make sure they’ve access to water, and grass, or hay if it’s snowy and cold. That they can live the life that any cow or horse would die to live. And I mean that in the best possible way- they desire to be free, just like we do. To graze freely, water when they want, and kick up their heels when the first norther blows through. There’s really so much in the world of agriculture that is intangible- it’s hard to capture in writing.
I find gratification in caring for the animals and the grass that feeds them. Seeing a content cow or horse is something that you can’t really grasp unless you have been there. There’s nothing so amazing in the world as to move a herd of pairs to a river pasture, watch mama run to the river to water (because river water is their first choice around here!), see the baby lie down and witness mamas coming back to find them and when they do put their heads down and go to happily grazing away while baby sleeps.
Grateful doesn’t begin to describe how fortunate I know I am to live this life. Until you’ve made a living off the land, it’s a hard thing to comprehend. But if you’ve raised a garden, or chickens for meat or eggs, you have a good place to start. Satisfaction of a job well-done at the end of the day is a great reason to be Ag-proud and thankful for the life we get to live.
I can sleep each night knowing that in the fall, when we send our calves off to grow up at either a feed-lot or a wheat pasture, that they’ve lived a happy, drug-free life and that they’re going to make a yummy steak or burger for someone someday. That if someone were to buy them and want to finish them as organic or grass-fed beef, that they’ve had the best possible start in their lives. And it’s because we do our best to operate in harmony with Mother Nature.
For the animals, the land, and the history that goes with it, I am eternally grateful.
Jenn Zeller is a professional horseman and lives with her cowboy, who is a third generation rancher, on his family’s ranch in South Dakota (http://thedxranch.com) where they raise black angus cattle and registered quarter horses. You can find her on Twitter @thesdcowgirl, or read about her adventures on the ranch at her personal blog http://thesouthdakotacowgirl.com
Want to share your reasons for being thankful for Agriculture? Send me an email with your thought (firstname.lastname@example.org). Stay tuned during the month of November for more great guest posts from those who are Ag-Thankful!