.....A view from "down the lane" ....

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bonanza - 50 years of cowboys, farming and ranching!

Although I wasn't raised on a cattle ranch, even as a youngster I adored the lifestyle. Can't believe that this year, 2009, is the 50th anniversary of one of my favorite TV series -- BONANZA. The Cartwright family seemed to me to be a real family and each week was another exciting episode in the lives of these cattlemen. Of course, Little Joe was the heartthrob, but who didn't love Hoss? Adam was the responsible big brother and Father Ben was full of wonderful wisdom. At nine years old, the series became one of my strongest childhood memories of family and television; I can still hear the theme song as it filled the house and we all gathered around the old black/white set. I can't believe it lasted 14 years!

I think the years spent watching BONANZA primed me for moving onto a family ranch -- with a family heritage that dates over 120 years. Led by a patriarch, this family operation is now moving into the fifth generation, with sixth generation children growing up all around us. Time spent as a family, working cows, riding horses, doing chores, is a heritage that is unparalleled now in our urban, fast-paced society. And our lifestyle has changed, too, with the impact of technology and the rising level of governmental controls and regulations that seem to be coming at us from every quarter.

Being agriculturalists these days is not easy. It's almost amazing to have sons and daughters returning to the farm or ranch. Why, when the return on time and money is so low; even our accountant wonders how we "make it work!" Cattle prices are lower than ever, but costs keep rising. The anti-beef people seem to have the ear of the liberal media and misrepresent our product, our lifestyle, and our impact on the environment. As one friend put it, it's like trying to push a 3-wheeled vehicle up a hill and say you're driving it!

The consumers are missing the boat when they attack U.S. farmers and ranchers. Even without the deluge of regulations, agriculturalists themselves do more for the environment than most U.S. citizens are even aware of. Cattlemen and Cattlewomen work hard to produce a product that is healthy and nutritious. OLD myths STILL fill the internet with their biased and poorly researched propaganda. If only people realized the impact this negative press will have on their own future as consumers! Farmers and ranchers are struggling to make ends meet and the future is looking bleaker for many.

Beef IS a healthy option and has much to recommend it. More than that, cattle producers CARE deeply about their animals and work to protect them and ensure their good health. For one thing, the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program was initiated in 1987 to "provide cattle producers with the tools and training necessary to assure animal health and well-being as well as provide a safe, quality product." BQA provides guidelines for beef cattle production and works to increase consumer confidence. In addition, the GUIDELINES FOR CARE AND HANDLING OF BEEF CATTLE, have been endorsed by the Academy of Veterinary Consultants and the American Assoc. of Bovine Practitioners, plus the Food Marketing Institute and National Council of Chain Restaurants. It hurts EVERYONE when animals are mistreated, whether in the pasture or in the feedlot, and ranchers expect that their cattle will leave their farms and be treated humanely. It is NOT just the consumer who expects this quality treatment of animals!

Truly, if Americans don't learn to appreciate the life of the rancher or farmer soon, their pocketbooks will feel the loss. Sadly, as mentioned earlier, agriculturalists do NOT get a fair hearing from most media or from television in general. We've come a long way from the days of heralding the lifestyle of historic farms and ranches, and most people have lost touch with their own agricultural roots.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Guest post: from Jeff Fowle at

I have included the blog from friend Jeff Fowle, with his permission;

Jeff wrote in response to the ridiculously biased and unfounded article recently published in TIME magazine, "Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food." The article has created quite a buzz in agriculture circles and for good reason: Mr. Walsh's article was not based on sound science and it did not include the wide range of views/information from agricultural experts. It is a sad commentary on the way people can be so easily swept up by what's hot/what's not and a sad commentary on media bias. If only Mr. Walsh had gone beyond the superficial and sought out experts in agricultural science and production....truly, farmers are not the enemy, ranchers are not the enemy. Farmers and ranchers, particularly family farmers and family-owned ranches work very hard to produce a quality product that is safe for consumers. Food quality is of the utmost importance to farmers and ranchers. Food safety and animal health, particularly the appropriate use of antibiotics, etc., are also of paramount importance. These issues are not incidental to any farmer or rancher. gj

Letter to Time Magazine on Bryan Walsh Food Article

The following was sent to the editor of Time Magazine at:

To Time Magazine,

The recent article by Bryan Walsh, “Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food,” August 20th, was a poor choice to serve as the cover article. Covers should be objective, factually based and lead to an educated and productive discussion to solve an issue or inform in an unbiased manner. Bryan Walsh’s article was none of these.

His attempt at journalism was obviously slanted, utilized biased science, and lacked truthful, well researched information. If he was attempting to mislead the public through misinformation and scare tactics, he was successful.

As it was written, it served no productive purpose in aiding in the growing and successful dialogue between family farmers and ranchers and the consumers taking place in social media. Attempts by Walsh and others sharing his agenda and motives to paint American Agriculture with wide brush strokes of assumptions and accusations only hinder a productive outcome.

Family farmers and ranchers across the country encourage honest dialogue to educate the public and have them share in the process of solving challenges with an end objective being able to continue to provide the world with the safest and healthiest food supply.

I look forward to seeing another article by Mr. Walsh that points out, item by item, the misinformation that was printed and enlightens the public as to the facts and returns responsibility to the individual. If he needs help locating unbiased, real-life, real farm & ranch conditions and information, I would encourage him to contact one of the family famers and ranchers from across the nation on this list: We will tell it as it is, what works and what does not. We utilize science and modern technology every day to provide you with an affordable, safe and wholesome product. Our only motive is to keep the environment clean and healthy, enhance wildlife habitat, encourage conservation, provide for future generations and feed people.

Jeffrey N. Fowle
Family Farmer & Rancher from CA

Friday, July 31, 2009

Agriculture and the Future: It's Later Than You Think!

This is more than a blog....this is a plea. I'm sharing a letter from a rancher in CA. Since our governor has recently vetoed the Williamson Act, farmers and ranchers all over the state are STUNNED. The Act was created to preserve farmland and to preserve agricultural freedom. Without it, farmers and ranchers have to pay taxes at the same rate as homeowners, etc., rather than based on what the land produces.....which means farmland all over the state may well fall to development and apportionment. That would be a loss to agriculture, but also to wildlife and Californians in general.

Please, please forward this letter to everyone you can.......I cannot tell you what abolishing the Williamson Act will do to everyone in agriculture in is too devastating to even imagine. If you think food quality has been compromised before, this is the door that will open the floodgates to importing MORE and more and driving more and more farmers/ranchers out of the business.

Right now, it's nearly impossible to make ends meet and yet, people STILL do not understand that agriculture is the PRIMARY contributor to ANY positive TRADE balance in the U.S. economy and CALIFORNIA cannot survive without its agriculture. So much negative press has impacted us that people don't really give a sh--- anymore, but this is an ominous turn of events. Beware....and NO MATTER what your political leanings at the moment, this crisis is LOOMING and it's HUGE......but the truth is, NO ONE is paying attention to the outcome of the recent activities and its impact on agriculture, which, for the uninformed, DOES NOT BLEED this country; it provides products and goods that bring wealth and success to everyone else, from the GROUND of the few industries that does so......and we are not asking for a handout, but merely the opportunity to keep working.

Subject: "Here in the real world, Arnold's shuttin' agriculture down"
Date: Wed, 29 Jul 2009 11:47:05 -0700

To whoever will listen:

We all know that the Governor of my home state of California, Arnold Swartzenegger has finally signed a budget for this year. What is getting no attention in the press is what he is doing to agriculture in our state.
California is the 7th largest economy in the world, and agriculture makes up the greatest GDP in the state. Detroit has been hit hard in recent months as the media often points out (of course, they have the unions and the ear of Washington), but thanks to so many blind liberals and ignorant consumers in San Francisco and Los Angeles regions (the largest voting block in the state), as well as corrupt politicians, California could be the next to fall. When it goes, believe me, it's going to up-end the nation.

I am from "far" Northern California outside of Redding and married into a cattle ranching family. My wife and her family have been running cows since the late 1800's. Over the past several years California has become a place that is very Ag unfriendly (unless of course you grow wine grapes). Taxes, fees, and regulations make it next to impossible to make a living, while the price of everything else has sky-rocketed -- and certainly no 'stimulus' help for people like us to try and hang in there.
Property taxes in California have always been difficult to pay, but last night Arnold line-item-vetoed a section of the budget that will make them impossble to pay for ranchers and farmers. In the early 20th century the Williamson Act was instituted which protected ranch and farm lands from being taxed at the same rate that commercial or residential property would be taxed at. Generally ranchers and farmers need larger pieces of land in order to produce the food the entire nation eats, and in order to keep food costs down and open land from readily being developed this Act has always been in place. Not anymore! It signals the beginning of the END for ranchers and farmers all over this state. Believe me, people need to hear this and respond, but do most consumers/Californians REALLY care about agriculture??? Believe it or not, they do not and their callous disregard for the industry will ultimately affect everyone as 1 out of every 4 jobs in CA is related to agriculture. No, people in this state care far more about more liberal projects than about people like us.

The end result will likely be hundreds of farms and ranches going out of business, and since the real estate market is in the tank, many of them may just be seized by the governement for back taxes. We have always known that our way of life is politically incorrect and under attack by Washington and Sacramento, but it goes deeper than that. Once the economy of California collapses and we are no longer the largest food producer in the nation, where will the food come from? Mexico, Argentina, even China? Once prices of food skyrocket and quality and safety plummet people may start to pay attention, but it will then be too late. By the way, that also means that wildlife and protecting open spaces in CA will be next to impossible as well, since landowners protect more than 75% of the migrating wildlife in this state.

And by the way, as I mentioned I married into ranching. When I'm not helping my wife and two daughters on the ranch, I teach high school science in the California Public School system. We need people all over to sit up and listen.
Thank you,

Matt Fowler
Ono, CA

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fascinating Facts that Shatter the Beef is Bad Bunch.....

Scanning the latest news clips about nutrition in this country, I found an article that gave some interesting history about WHY this country moved in the direction it did some 30 years ago, that is, to begin to throw out beef and meat and substitute the all-powerful carbs diets! I am including a couple paragraphs from the article, but recommend that people read the entire article, including the video clip provided by author Carol Bardelli. Just click on the title above and it will take you to the full article......I commend Bardelli for her research.

And I quote:
"The US government's recommendations to eat a diet rich in carbohydrates is based on a 1970s panel on nutrition chaired by then Senator George McGovern. McGovern was a fan of the Pritikin diet and believed vegetarianism was healthy. An aid to McGovern, who wrote the guidelines our government ultimately adopted, was a vegan with no nutrition or medical background. Although nearly all of the nutrition scientists who testified before this panel disagreed with McGovern's dietary guidelines, McGovern prevailed. See video below.

We were told as a nation to eat less meat and animal fat, and to eat more carbohydrates. This included eating plenty of government subsidized crops like corn, wheat, soy, beet and cane sugars . Unfortunately, most Americans eat too many processed, high calorie carbohydrates, and not enough unrefined low calorie carbohydrates. We also don't eat enough proteins and fats. We choose potato chips, French fries, and pasta, over beef, bacon, and broccoli. The first group is high in carbohydrates and raises blood sugar and insulin. The second group that we tend to avoid does not. These two eating habits have driven the current obesity epidemic. Dr. Al Sears says this trend, which started around 1957, also precipitated the steep rise in heart disease. Foods that raise blood sugar are a guilty culprit in heart disease, not cholesterol. Read Nutrition 101: What is cholesterol?

While animal fats are essential for human health, and are vital to our bodies abilities to make hormones, repair, and fuel our bodies, our government told us to avoid them. Simply put, junk science gave us a fear of eating fat, and government backed agricultural subsidies of carbohydrate crops like corn, soy, and wheat caused an overabundance of high carb foods. Changing our diets from the animal based diet of our ancestors and eating a lot of carbohydrates caused sharp rises in obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome."


In truth, we should RETURN to our grandparents' notions of what constitutes a good diet, namely "eating real food," for one, along with eating appropriate amounts vs. over-eating (a trap Americans fall into easily). Avoiding processed foods and "non" or "low-fat" choices that actually contain far more carbs than basic, real food, only aggravates our weight problems in this country. In addition, people shouldn't skip meals as that often leads us to overeat later when our hunger flies off the charts. We all need to read food labels to figure out what's really IN our food. Again, eating real food, including lean beef, is far superior to throwing hamburger into "hamburger helper" boxed food. Of course, we all do it occasionally, but patterning our daily diet in this manner is deadly.

If we would only pursue these 3 simple ideas, perhaps we'd begin to get a handle on this battle of the bulge. Beef is NOT the culprit. Beef is nutrition dense and provides all manner of minerals, in addition to protein and iron, zinc and potassium -- all elements children and adults need for good health. The fear that has been poured out over this country about fat has led us down the wrong path, unfortunately.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

California Agriculture Ranks First in the NATION.....

It's quite interesting to study statistics. They reveal a lot about what is going on in an industry or population, and in agriculture, this is especially true.

Most Americans have no idea about the world of agriculture or what farmers face in terms of challenges or obstacles. Nor does the average American understand or appreciate the contribution agriculture makes to balanced trade (one of the few industries to post a POSITIVE net affect on trade in the U.S.). Yet many agriculturalists make hardly a minimum wage, while working as independents and trying to combat the rising costs of everything -- including the cost of increased regulations and fees, taxes and prices for all supplies, etc.

In addition, farmers and ranchers have little control over their income as their products have only a narrow window during which they can be sold. Their livelihood is entirely dependent on the market and fluctuates dramatically.

Here are some statistics that come from two separate reports on agriculture in California:

California has been the number one food and agricultural producer in the United States for more than 50 consecutive years.

More than half the nation's fruit, nuts, and vegetables come from California.

California is the nation's number one dairy state. California's leading commodity is milk and cream. California produced 22 percent of the milk in the U.S., with most of it used to make cheese and butter.

Grapes are California's second leading agricultural commodity. There are more than 300,000 tons of grapes grown in California annually which in turn produces 17 million gallons of wine each year.

California's leading export crop is almonds. The world's largest almond processing plant, doing twelve million pounds per day in high season, is the Blue Diamond in Sacramento.

Nationally, products grown EXCLUSIVELY or up to 99% or more in California include: almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, kiwi fruit, olives, persimmons, pistachios, prunes, raisins, clovers, and walnuts.

From 70 to 80% of all ripe olives are grown in California.

California is the nation's leading producer of strawberries, averaging 1.4 billion pounds of strawberries or 83% of the country's total fresh and frozen strawberry production. Approximately 12% of the crop is exported to Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Japan primarily. In 1997 enough strawberries were grown in California to circle the earth 15 times. The value of the California strawberry crop is approximately $700 million with related employment of more than 48,000 people.

California produces 25% of the nation's onions and 43% of the nation's green onions.

Gilroy, California, "Garlic Capitol of the World," has hosted 2 million at the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival.

More turkeys are raised in California than in any other state in America.

Here are some other intriguing statistics about California's agriculture:

  • The Central Valley, a flat plain 75 miles (120 km) wide and 430 miles (688 km) long has become the richest farming region in the history of the world.
  • California is the largest producer of goods of all the states and the largest agricultural state in America.
  • In 2002 cattle and calves ranked as the state's No. 4 crop or commodity in terms of value, behind only milk, grapes and nursery products.
  • California 's 22,000 beef producers care for more than 5 million head of cattle and about 37 million acres of rangeland. Many California cattle ranches have been owned by the same family for four or five generations and most ranches are family-owned and operated.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Gail Jenner, novelist and educator

What's the Beef? From soup to nuts.....: Getting Up to Speed.....

Getting Up to Speed.....

It's been a long spring and now already summer......and I've been so busy with a new book and family, including grandchildren, and the ranch and the work that I've neglected keeping up with any of my journaling or blogging.....

So, for today, perhaps just a reference to what makes summer a busy time for ranchers and farmers. The old adage, "gotta make hay while the sun shines" is an apt description of life during this incredibly important time of year. The summer is what makes the rest of the year possible. So, while so many people think of summer as relaxing and a vacation time, a time for barbeques and friends, traveling and kicking back, for us it is a harried and hopefully profitable time of year. It starts EARLY and goes LATE, each day, every day. No real Sundays off.....even holidays like the Fourth of July are just days with perhaps a late afternoon picnic or barbeque, fireworks and maybe some homemade ice cream and a potluck with family or friends.

Which is a great time, but certainly not one that is cloaked in a sense of summer haze! But still, the warmth and the beauty surround us and time spent in the garden in early morning, or with my husband and kids or grandkids, and even a little time spent with the horses or moving through the cows is a gift.

The cows graze and move about. The grain fields and the hay fields move slightly in late afternoon breezes and when lightning strikes, the sky crackles and pops, sending shivers down the dogs' backs and across the kids' faces!

Ah, summer........

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cattle and Their Care: Stewardship of Cattle by Cattle Ranchers

aThe notion that ranchers and farmers either do not care about their livestock or do not abide by moral and humane methods in their care is as abhorrent to livestock producers as it is to consumers. In the first place, animals are the heartbeat of their livelihood. In addition, it is part of the reason agriculturalists stay IN the business, especially when their lifestyle has come under such vehement and thoughtless attack. My ranching farmer husband puts animals FIRST -- at all times. We do not have Christmas morning, for example, until the animals are first tended to.....I know of few as dedicated to the life and care of animals as do farmers/ranchers.

Secondly, it would be a ridiculous thing if farmers/ranchers were not careful and attentive to their livestock. Much has been done to insure that good care is given animals, too. One program that perhaps consumers know little about is the BQA, or "Beef Quality Assurance" program.

According to its website, "The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program was initiated in 1987 to provide cattle producers with the tools and training necessary to assure animal health and well-being as well as provide a safe, quality product. BQA principals influence the management practices of more than 90 percent of cattle."

BQA provides guidelines for beef cattle production.  Producers recognize that providing proper care, handling and nutrition is the right thing to do and makes strong business sense, as well. Farmers and ranchers across the United States oppose any form of animal abuse or cruelty.

The program hopes to raise consumer confidence through the assurance that proper management techniques and commitment to quality does, in fact, exist within every part of the beef industry. 

Another assurance, the “Producer Code for Cattle Care,” was first developed in 1996. It, too, reinforces the industry’s strong stand against animal neglect and/or cruelty. It outlines a set of production practices; the code states that “persons who willfully mistreat animals will not be tolerated.”

Moreover, to insure it dealt with all aspects of beef production, producers worked with animal health and well-being animal experts to develop the “Guidelines for Care and Handling of Beef Cattle.” These guidelines have been endorsed by the Academy of Veterinary Consultants and the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, plus the Food Marketing Institute and National Council of Chain Restaurants.

Just as do consumers, farmers and ranchers expect that as cattle leave their farms, ranches and feedlots across the country, that animals will be treated humanely and that every step will be taken to produce safe beef. It hurts ALL of us when abuses occur anywhere within the industry and agriculturatists are as unhappy as consumers when the trust and/or expectation for fair and humane treatment is compromised.

The Code of Cattle Care lists general recommendations for care and handling of cattle, and include the following: Farmers and ranchers will......

* Provide necessary food, water and care to protect the health and well-being of animals.
* Provide disease prevention practices to protect herd health, including access to veterinary care.
* Provide facilities that allow safe, humane, and efficient movement and/or restraint of cattle.
* Use appropriate methods to humanly euthanize terminally sick or injured livestock and dispose of them properly.
* Provide personnel with training/experience to properly handle and care for cattle.
* Make timely observations of cattle to ensure basic needs are being met.
* Minimize stress when transporting cattle.
* Keep updated on advancements and changes in the industry to make decisions based upon sound production practices and consideration for animal well-being.

FINALLY, the Code states that:
* Persons who willfully mistreat animals will not be tolerated.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Public Land Use: how it impacts citizens and communities

Chance Gowan, a senior acquatic biologist and riparian ecologist for the USFS in Eastern Oregon, wrote in an article on public lands in the West (2006), that "the big-ticket items that have acutely damaged or caused long-term and wide-spread alteration of riparian communities" include:
1. Roads that "confine and straighten stream courses." These roads funnel sediment directly into streams.
2. Old mining practices, that, although they have been improved in recent years, have left a "legacy" of environmental damage.
3. Channelizing or restraining and controlling streams, which damage riparian areas.
4. The LOSS of FAMILY FARMS and RANCHES, as a result of so many factors, which "invariably wind up being partitioned, with minin-ranchettes sitting next to streams." These lovely and many second home investments, "almost always result in the permanent alteration of the landscape and often result in the near complete destruction of riparian fuctionality--not to mention water pollution, [and] loss of important wildlife habitat."

This last item is so critical in the rural areas of the West, where family farmers and ranchers are now competing for land and the right to maintain open areas. Unfortunately, many of those who OPPOSE grazing or are anti-beef and anti-cattle do not understand the devastation the LOSS of OPEN space will create in the future. Sadly, many of these same people are the very ones who are intent on purchasing a second home -- a home in the country or near nature -- but at the price of what????? Wildlife, especially waterfowl and land animals, require wider spaces upon which to graze and where they can fly or roam without fences or broken up spaces. Sub-divided land becomes land that is less than useful for wildlife.

Thus, the destruction and the movement against open grazing or family ranches flies in the face of REAL conservation efforts. Family farms and ranches play a huge part in maintaining a healthy open space and ecosystem. When these outfits and operations are forced out of business by the careless rhetoric and political agenda being pushed by many 'extreme environmentalists' toting 'facts' that are not facts at all, but propoganda, WE ALL LOSE.

Compared to this loss of habitat by the sub-division and destruction of family ranches and private lands -- which support more than 75% of wildlife in the United States -- the effect of livestock on the environment or riparian areas is minute, almost, in fact, immeasurable.

So-called "reports" by many of these politically far-left and extreme thinkers is "flawed and inaccurate", but their malicious and calculated effort to brainwash moderate-thinking and those very concerned with conservation to be is dangerous and will become disastrous if effective.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Next Anti-Aging Brain Agent is found in BEEF.....

Check out the latest on the research related to Acetyl-L-Carnitine, the "NEXT" Anti-aging Brain nutrient. It occurs naturally in beef and is so important, it should not be ignored. Because the information is fascinating I am including here the link to the article:

Check it out!!! Yes, BEEF provides more than just the essential blocks of protein and zinc and iron and B vitamins, it also contains ALC (Alpha lipoic acid).....

Read all about it! Beef is BACK and it's health-related benefits far outweigh any negative press it has received in the last few years. Again, get the facts.