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Baxter Black talks women and ranching

Agriculture, Baxter Black


The ranching and farming industries of today are women’s work 

By Baxter Black

October 18, 2012

You don’t have to hang around the cattle business long to realize how many women are running their own farms or ranches. Often they are widows who have taken over the operation with the help of their children and made it work. More recently, these women-farmers are daughters who have come home after schooling and become part of the family team. And there are occasions when women decide on the occupation and buy their own place.

In today’s world nobody questions a woman’s ability to run the ranch. If your community has an FFA chapter you can see the preponderance of young women in leadership positions, fully supported by both mom and dad. These girls are taken seriously as future leaders in agriculture. Universities around the nation are filled with women majoring in agricultural fields. They are officers in the Block & Bridle, Alpha Zeta, the Young Farmers and Ranchers, and the Horseman’s Club. They are on the judging teams, getting post-graduate degrees in animal science, range science, agriculture, environmental resources and agronomy. They compete on level ground with men.

At major veterinary schools that still emphasize food animal medicine, the women out-number the men four to one. I spoke at the Pfizer Ohio State Food Animal Vet Student Symposium last spring. It was attended by vet students from California Western to Cornell, from Michigan State to Louisiana State across the country, all of them interested in livestock and 80 percent of them women.

The last census in Canada and the USA showed the number of farms and ranches owned and operated by women continues to rise. Operations in this category amount to 14 percent. One in seven outfits is managed by a woman.

As we all know, many farms and ranches are operated by a team of husband and wife, yet their outfit is listed as a partnership with the man’s name first. To the banker, loan officer, census taker and USDA, it is considered to be managed by the man. But…how many times have you heard some rancher or farmer introduce his wife by saying, “ … this is my wife, she does the books.” Which means, I can’t tell you what my electric bill is, or if the plates on my trucks are up to date, how much money we have in the bank, who insures the shop, how I’m deducting the 4-wheeler, who we still owe money to, if our kids are coming home for Thanksgiving or when I last had a dental appointment. But she can, so I don’t worry.

I have more important things to do: fix the brakes on the one-ton, change the hot-wire around the house lot, grade the gravel driveway, shoe the horses, find the missing heifer, fix the water line to the middle drinkers, get the waterer ready for winter, repair the alley gate in the corral, catch Cattlemen to Cattlemen on RFD-TV (I consider it continuing education) and find a 5/16 nut for the float arm. I’m on the job doin’ man’s work.

I remember being so busy one time that I asked my wife if we could afford a hired man. She said, “What are you talkin’ about? I’ve already got a good one!”

Baxter Black is a large animal veterinarian, cowboy poet and radio commentator. 

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This information and much more that you need to know about the ESA,
the Klamath River Basin, and private property rights can be found at The
Klamath Bucket Brigade’s web site – http://klamathbucketbrigade.org/index.html
please visit today.

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Agriculture touches all our lives

Baxter Black, TEA Party

  By Baxter Black

Not everyone has a car, owns a home, carries a cell phone, can swim, knows the 18th president and can hum “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain.”

   But everyone in this   country, rich or homeless, conservative, liberal, gray, green, black, white, brown or yellow eats what we in agriculture produce; everyone, no exceptions.

   Do those of   you who farm and ranch think about the lives you touch? Steve Jobs invented Apple computers, Oprah Winfrey had a talk show that reached 7.4 million people five days a week, J.K. Rowling sold 450 million Harry Potter books, and 111 million watched Superbowl XLV … talk about reaching out! But everyday, every person eats something you produce. Your contribution to their well-being exceeds Hollywood, the Nobel Prize or their psychiatrist. The public’s dependence on your ability to keep them fed is deeper than their   need to text, jog, work, play golf, or go to school. You are more essential to their lives than their bookie, their broker, their drug dealer, their teacher, their boss, or even … their best   friend!

   This week we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s still a real holiday, you can tell because most of the work force gets the day off! I think of it as a time when we thank   God for the blessings we have been given. Usually the Thanksgiving table is covered with food. Food, that we in agriculture produced. Even the needy in soup kitchens, home alone-bachelors, single mothers, on-duty soldiers, and orbiting astronauts will eat something we grew; a piece of ham, canned peas, a drumstick, a Happy Meal, or pumpkin pie. Regardless of what is on their plate it started in some farmer’s pasture or plowed field.

   I don’t mean to be boastful. I don’t even expect the average urban Thanksgiving diner to remember the farmer’s contribution to their day. Many praises will fall upon the one who cooked the meal. That is due, but without mentioning the farmers who grow it is like praising the painter of the bridge while the man who designed and constructed it, stands in the shadows.

   It is common to hear that farming is a “Noble Calling.” That is flattering but its importance is much more profound. I agree that what we who work the land do, is noble, but more, it is as vital to their lives as air and water.

   What they eat is the gift of our labors and somewhere down deep as they sit down to Thanksgiving dinner Thursday, they might conjure up a picture of a farmer leaning on a hoe, or a cowboy on a horse. That thought might just be the connection that helps them understand where their food comes from … real people.

   Baxter Black is a large animal veterinarian, cowboy poet and radio commentator.

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