It’s no secret that the agriculture world is changing. What was once predominantly considered a male occupation is quickly becoming a women’s world. As of 2012, there were close to 970,000 female farmers and ranchers in the United States. That means that over 30% of all agriculture producers across the country are women! Another statistic that might throw you for a loop; the majority of that group resides in either Texas OR Arizona. While Texas has the highest actual number of female farmers and ranchers, Arizona has the highest national proportion of female to male producers. Meaning, out of all farming operations in the state, female participation accounts for about 45% of that. This is compared to the national average of only about 27%. Go Arizona!
Cheslea Duree Brown is one of those Arizona females that plans on carrying on her family’s tradition of ranching for many more years to come. Not only does she love cattle, but she is a huge supporter of educating others about where their food comes from. Meet Chelsea!
I grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona working summers on my grandparent’s cattle ranch. My grandparents, Jim and Duree Shiew, are first generation ranchers so to speak. They started leasing the Chambers Ranch just northeast of Flagstaff in the late 1970’s from Ed and Rita Gannon. Originally, the land was just open country but they eventually fenced it in for ranch land in the early 1980’s. My mom, Jada Brown, and my Uncle Travis both grew up on the ranch and helped form it in the operation it is now. Today, we also have a forest permit for land east of Flagstaff as well as a ranch west of Wickenburg, which is primarily used during the winter months. All in all, we run about 500 mama cows depending on the year.
While ranching has always been in my blood, I didn’t originally intend on choosing agriculture as a career. Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher but my senior year of high school I decided to major in something agriculture related instead. Four years down the road, I’m a proud alumni of the University of Arizona with a degree in Animal Sciences and an emphasis in business and production. In a way, I still am the teacher that I thought I was going to be. I came to college and chose the specific major that I did because I wanted to learn things that would be useful on the ranch and so that I could understand more of the business side of things as well. I learned a lot during my time at school, but I am a firm believer in the phrase “you can never learn too much.” What’s more, you have to be able to teach and share that knowledge with others.
I love being able to apply what I was taught in school to life on the ranch. I take opportunities and use them as teaching moments for my grandparents. Just a couple weeks ago, I was able to explain to them why a particular heifer, which seemed completely healthy otherwise, had never been able to reproduce; she had been a twin to a bull calf and was actually a free martin heifer. Free martin heifers are infertile due to the male hormones it is exposed to during gestation. Teaching my family about what I’ve learned is the easy part, however. They come from an agriculture background and understand what I’m trying to tell them. The more difficult side of things is educating the general public. While my passion for the cattle industry comes from growing up around it, my passion for “AG-VOCATING” came after spending time in Tucson. That is when my eyes were opened to all the issues going on in the ag-world and how little people knew about the things they were eating!
You’d be surprised how many people have absolutely no idea where their food comes from. They honestly believe it just comes from the grocery store and that it just magically shows up there. Even supplying people with fun little facts and tidbits goes a long way. For example, the label “ANTIBIOTIC FREE” on poultry products is 100% true. However, by law, chickens are not allowed to receive any antibiotics. Yes, that chicken breast is indeed free of any antibiotics but so is everything else. People don’t understand some things are just used as a marketing gimmick!
Agriculture is not meant for the faint of heart; it truly is a way of life. It’s not like other jobs where you can leave the office, go home, and really be done for the day. Ask just about anyone, the work always comes home with you. Yes, a huge portion of that work is directly farm or ranch related BUT another big part is being able to educate others on where exactly their food comes from and all of the hard work that goes into supplying the world with healthy, nutritious, and safe meat. As agriculturalist, we not only wear the “producer cap” but the “teacher cap” as well. It’s so important to learn as much as you can and use that knowledge to teach others.
We couldn’t agree with you more on that one, Chelsea!
Blog post by Michelle Allen, Arizona Beef Council and Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association 2016 Summer Intern