When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers [and ranchers], therefore, are the founders of human civilization. -Daniel Webster
I grew up in ranching, on a small family-run commercial cow-calf operation in southern Colorado. I grew up checking heifers before the school bus pulled to the end of the driveway, I learned to drive standing on the front seat of the feed truck with the steering wheel tied to the door, I watched the weather change people’s personalities (for better and for worse), and had the chance to be raised by some of the hardest working humans I will ever know.
I grew up in a family that prioritized concepts like engagement, stewardship, and conservation. Even beyond the livestock, these concepts consume us in the way we interact in the community, the ways in which we manage family relationships, the desire to understand the system at large, from the soil and grass, to water and wildlife, systems that support our work. I have always appreciated this lifestyle, despite the cold, hot, dry, or windy weather, the early mornings or late nights, the ups and the downs. I thought this was how people grew up.
Emy Hanna (4) and Kirk Hanna.
It was not until recently that this life reached a new profound level of appreciation and understanding, when I had the opportunity to complete the Texas Christian University Ranch Management Program, in Fort Worth, Texas. The program prepares professionals to manage a broad range of global resources on an ecologically and economically sound basis while conserving and improving resources. The program forces you, as a ranch manager, to see as much of the picture as possible. It is not just a game for cowpokes, this is work that incorporates legislation, consumer demands, rural economies, and a drive to stay current. Along with 26 classmates from around the country, I studied the production of meat proteins, the impact of production on the environment, market forces driving the industry, and the delicate yet necessary management of business and family as one.