Earlier this year, I found myself in a difficult situation where I could no longer support the values and culture of my employer and chose to leave and take a stand for diversity and inclusion. This provided me with a predicament of a career pivot in the middle of a pandemic. However, this was also an opportunity to take a deep reflection on where I want my career to go. Ultimately, I chose to return to the ranch, which caught several people by surprise considering my recent work in communications.
For those of you who have followed my blogging adventures since 2008, you should be familiar with my roots in the ranching industry.
I grew up on a large-scale cow-calf and stocker cattle operation in Arkansas, have worked on ranches in several states from the Southeast to the northern Rockies, and have even worked for the two largest cattle feeding companies in the country.
Through my high school years, my family operated a buying station from our ranch and I’ve always been a regular attendee at several auction barns. And I even gave it a go with a start-up cattle marketing firm a few years ago. Of course, as start-ups often do, that venture didn’t pan out as the investors had hoped. (still a good learning experience.
As I’ve said many times, I love feeding and breeding cattle. My college studies in ruminant nutrition and reproductive physiology supported that goal. It’s always been a dream of mine to retire on my own ranch, but career paths are never straight forward.
Advocacy and Communications
Many people have asked how I got into communications and advocacy work considering my hands-on experience in cattle ranching.
While in grad school – I was several years into blogging at this point – I came upon an opportunity to write for CNN’s food page and share the stories of farmers and ranchers with this new, international audience. As I wrote several articles and received harsh, often negative criticism from readers who disagreed, the positive feedback from readers learning new things became an inspiration for me to pursue an advocacy journey.
In somewhat of a lightbulb moment, I realized I could have a far greater impact helping others in our farming and ranching community better understand the need for and skills to be able to share their stories with consumers who want to learn more about where our food comes from.
This pursuit led to an opportunity of a lifetime to move to Montana working with ranchers across the state and eventually the PNW region leading communication efforts for the Montana Stockgrowers Association.
This provided the networking opportunities and needed skills training that led me to leading national beef advocacy efforts at NCBA in Denver.
Return to the Ranch
Everyone told me to enjoy the frequent travel lifestyle while I could because burnout would be on the horizon.
While I’m not sure I was approaching burnout status, COVID has really brought things to a halt in 2020 for business travel and shoved us into the virtual meeting realm.
After some reflection on my goals, knowing that advocacy training opportunities still exist via Zoom and other virtual resources, I realized pursuing a return to the ranch at this stage of my career was a viable and reasonable option. Likely something I hadn’t anticipated until I was at least in my 40s.
I’ve always said that good networking skills are more important than knowing how to write an excellent resume, and once again that has proven true.
Thanks to an awesome friend and professional connection, I’ve been blessed with an opportunity to land a new home as a herdsman for a Red Angus seedstock and feedlot ranching operation in northern Colorado. It feels more like southern Wyoming (we’re closer to Cheyenne than Denver) and I’m far removed from the hustle of daily commutes and air travel.
I now have an employer who respects my values, supports my passion for advocacy in the industry and asks for my opinion even though we may not always agree.
This change has been a great one for the first three months. Even though I’m very familiar with how ranching works, I love the challenge of adapting to a new operation in a new landscape. Even though we’re all raising cattle, no two ranch operations are the same.
If you’re not already, follow along with my adventures on Instagram as I share daily ranch life insights. And please reach out with a comment or direct message any time you have questions.
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