Sunday, October 18, 2009

People Ranching

It was in the early 1990’s while a member of Governor Richards’ task force on nature tourism that someone first spoke the words “People Ranching.” So it’s really not original with me, but we are the ones who have popularized it. Think about this ~ in early history, ranching meant raising cattle, sheep or goats. After World War II hunting was added to what ranchers did to help support themselves and this was a departure from tradition as it involved strangers being on the ranch. The addition of exotic animals and high fences meant more income, but of course more people. This was hard to accept by some of the “old timers” but generational changes, the need for income and a new breed of landowners saw the changes coming. The reality was that the economics of traditional ranching no longer made sense. It is my contention that you cannot buy any ranchland anywhere in the state of Texas and pay for it with any form of agricultural production. Why? Because land prices are now dictated by high income people who want the quality of life offered by rural land or the price is dictated by the population growth to whom the developer caters.

Now a new ethic is developing – that being an interest in preservation, conservation and species survival. So here on Selah we invited people, young and old to come, to see and to learn from our experience. We built infrastructure and developed programs and because of this new ethic people came and thus “People Ranching” became a real thing. I understand that the term has now entered college textbooks.

Each Spring and Fall we hold a series of workshops for new landowners, agency people, teachers or anyone interested in the topic. On October 10 a one day workshop affair titled “Grasses” was attended by 22.

Our Grass trail didn’t do well this year because of the very severe drought and record high temperatures. So Steven Fulton, Ranch Biologist, propagated and nurtured 30 species in containers. Photograph taken by J. David.

The containerized grasses enable everyone to see the grasses up close and some in a mature state. Each container is labeled. Here Steven is explaining details, the nomenclature of the plants. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

Colleen Gardner, Executive Director, with two of the “students.” Everyone on the staff participates in all of our workshops. Photograph taken by J. David.

Ann Baird, who deserves a Ph. D., as she has taken four of our workshops. Justin Duke, Ranch Steward, is describing Big Bluestem. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

This is were it all happens! Out on the ranch. We don’t spend any time looking at videos or virtual grasses. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

Steven and Justin are with the “students” at all times. This is true in all our workshops. Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

There’s a coffee and restroom break at the Country Store at each workshop. Photograph taken by J. David.

By mid morning we find high spirits and bonding by the “students.” Photograph taken by J. David.

Check this blog next week for more on People Ranching.

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