Why love a rancher? you might ask. Good ranchers are awesome stewards of our beloved Wide Open Spaces, the places we go to on holidays and love doing road trips through.
This was the main topic for a visit by Mme Judith Guichon, Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, to our Clear Sky Retreat Center, located in southeastern BC. I live at Clear Sky, an erstwhile ranch, for part of the year, and keeping it healthy and cared for is no easy task — the land didn’t start out healthy, and grasslands restoration is a relatively new field (and we’re on it!).
In order to enjoy the fruits of our totally awesome cold-climate Food Forest, for example, we have to keep the bears and elk out of it, and fencing is expensive. With gas prices what they are, running a tractor is expensive, as is buying and maintaining one. Tools are expensive. On the other hand, food is pretty cheap right now. Our building and thus operational options are limited because we’re located in the Agricultural Land Reserve, which was designed to preserve good farmland (yay) but lags behind the demands of modern economic and development pressures. You get the idea.
So we do our best to take care of the land, enjoy its remarkable beauty, and get real creative about how to generate revenue to pay for it all. As our neighbor (a rancher) told me: “Ranching is a lifestyle choice nowadays. We get full-time jobs in town or at the mill to pay for our ranching lifestyle.”
So why do we non-ranchers care? I live in British Columbia, the “greenest” and most biodiverse of all the Canadian provinces. Native grasslands (read: conveniently fantastic cattle pasture, around the world and throughout human history) comprise less than 1 percent of the land base in BC, yet more than a third of the red-listed and blue-listed — that’s endangered and at-risk — species in BC call grasslands home. And half of all grasslands are privately owned. You guessed it, the people who own the largest parcels of those grasslands are probably ranchers.
Mme Guichon brought Holistic Management methodology to her family’s ranch in the Nicola Valley, and was one of the founders of the non-profit BC Grasslands. What a woman! While at Clear Sky she shared that Holistic Management allowed her to keep her family’s farm through hardships that would have otherwise forced her to sell. Now her children are ranching their land.
Holistic Management is like a marriage between permaculture and ranching, farming and land resource management in general. Actually it can be used to manage anything, such as your life, your company or your family. Because it’s about identifying what we’re managing, what our goals are, and how all that fits into a whole — as in, the whole ecosystem, the whole community, the whole planet. HM founder Allan Savory gives a very moving TED talk about how HM can help reverse desertification and climate change. Yeah!
Conscientious ranchers know that an intact ecosystem is good for our ranching business, our animals, wildlife, our communities, and good for the planet. And we get to enjoy the beauty of those Wide Open Spaces.