By far and away the most common question I get in my DMs is some variation of “How did you get into ranching and how I can I do it too?”
The short answer: work hard and make connections.
The long answer: is long. This is the story all about how my life got flipped turned upside down. And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there. I’ll tell you how I moved from the city to the middle of nowhere.
If you know what that’s from, you’re my people.
The long answer and my story: in college at CU Boulder, I worked for the Business Research Division (a job I got while enrolled in the business school before I realized I should be nowhere near a career that required knowledge of accounting or finance) and we were conducting an economic impact survey of the National Western Stock Show in Denver.
This means we carried around clipboards and harassed people with survey questions. Sorry if that was you but also please chime in because that’s a Meet Cute if I ever heard one.
While there, the smell of the horses reminded me of my days horseback riding on my godmother’s friend’s ranch near Aspen when I was little and oh, the memories. I decided right then that I wanted more of that smell and also needed a thesis topic and being the two-birds-with-one-stone-er that I am, I found a way: I wrote my honor’s thesis about ranching, specifically why ranchers and environmentalists should collaborate more than fight because they are often fighting for the same end result: more nature.
Because I had no ag advisor for this project and kinda needed one, I cold-emailed some folks at Colorado State and one crazy person (thanks, Jason) emailed me back and said “Come on up, let’s meet, and let’s introduce you to some bovines.”
(Very) long story short, he ended up advising me for my paper and was a guest at our wedding because he also introduced me to my husband which is a different story but not as cute.
[Note: Bert (my husband) also did not grow up on a ranch. We’re two first-generation ranchers from suburbs of Denver. I mostly enjoy it.]
Back to the story.
I also needed some ranch experience, so my mom (a landman at the time) called one of her lessors in ranch country and said “Hi hello my 21-year-old city-born-and-bred daughter who has never lived more than a mile from Starbucks is writing a paper about something she knows nothing about so can she come live with you for a while this summer?”
Spoiler: they said yes, those crazy people, and what was supposed to be a three-week research thingy turned into me staying the whole summer, learning how to do Ranch Things and drive a tractor, and joining the hay crew to drive the rake tractor to put up 4500 tons of beautiful North Park hay.
I was hooked.
I went back to CU for the fall semester (my last before graduation), learned about what advocating for beef to one of the toughest crowds was like, successfully defended my thesis, graduated early with honors, and moved up to the ranch to work full-time for that same crazy couple. Bert showed up to help us calve, and that was the beginning of what has now been twelve years of Ranching Togetherness.
Later that year, Bert and I (now engaged) moved to Montana to work for Sitz Angus, a large registed Black Angus breeder. There, I learned about registred cattle, what it’s like to have 200 heifers AI-ed to calve the same day, and how much of a pain in the rear ear tattoos are. After that, we went to the Kiowa Creek Division of the Silver Spur for a long time where Bert managed a camp, I managed and that’s where two of our boys were born. After that (oh, the life of a working cowboy), we moved to New Mexico where Bert worked for some large commercial operations, I started leaning way in to advocacy to help preserve my sanity, and Kirby was born. In August of 2020, we moved to our current location in the mountains of southern Colorado where Bert manages a large commercial herd and two ranch locations.
We’ve worked for some of the biggest operations in the country, worked, branded, calved, doctored a lot of cows, experienced both commercial and registered feedstock operations, put on production sales, and managed grass in many different environments. It hasn’t been easy. We’ve given up a lot by choosing to both do the ranching thing and choosing to work on some pretty rural places. But, we’ve gained a lot too!
If you want to get involved in ranching, two things are super handy: a work ethic and a mentor. This industry is small and very connected, and all it takes is for one person to give you a chance (and you to work hard and show them you’re worth it) and you’re off and running.
If you have specific questions, just get in touch! I like to visit but be warned I talk a lot.