Meet Your Rancher: Cassie Lyman

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography

Name and Ranch Name: Cassie Lyman, Lyman Ranches

Where are you located: Gisela and Roosevelt Lake, Arizona

Q. Tell us about yourself, your family and about your ranch:

A. I am a first-generation agriculturalist (in other words, I am the first in my family to be a farmer or rancher). I grew up a city kid even though my family had what most would consider a hobby farm. We raised typical backyard farm animals and participated in 4-H and FFA. I showed rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, sheep, steers, and horses. I have been riding horses since my mom was pregnant with me, so I like to say before I was born. Growing up, I loved competing with my horses in breed association horse shows, 4-H competitions, and high school rodeos. I always wanted to be a real cowgirl and dreamt of one day marrying a real cowboy.

My dream came true just after high school when I married my husband Jared, a sixth-generation cattle rancher. We have been married for 18 years and have four boys: Elias 14, Haskin 11, Tate 8, and Pratt 5. They all love to ride horses and help at the ranch, and we hope they will carry on our family legacy as 7th generation cattle ranchers. Of course, I started out all my boys on horses the same way my mom did (while they were in my belly), then hanging on behind me, and as soon as my kids can reach the stirrup of a kids saddle, they take the reins and ride their horse all by themselves.

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography

A little more about our ranch: We have a cow-calf cattle ranch on the north shore of Roosevelt Lake in Arizona and co-own and operate an additional ranch with my husband’s parents in Gisela, Arizona. Between the two ranches (Hat Ranch and Bar L Bar Ranch), we run just over 300 head of cattle on over 50,000 acres of public land. We raise commercial Angus-cross cattle (Angus breed because that is what the market desires and a touch of Brahman breed because of its adaptability to the Arizona desert environment our cattle forage in). We sell our calves to the commercial market, which means the beef you buy in the grocery store or eat at your favorite fast-food restaurant starts at a ranch like mine. We also direct-sell beef to consumers by the individual cut or by whole, half, and/or quarter beef. With an increase in people wanting to know where their food comes from (how it was raised and making the connection to their food), we too are growing in the number of beef we raise for consumers from start to finish right on our ranch.

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography

Q. What is the best part about ranch life? What are the struggles?

A. I really have a hard time picking favorite things and best parts, so I will narrow it down to my top favorites. Family makes the top. Getting to be with and work alongside my family every day is one of the best parts. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say there are “those days.” There is a saying in the cattle community, “Sorry for what I said, we were working cattle.” So yes, there are days when you may need to go to town for “groceries,” aka “a minute away,” but we all have those days in every profession. It truly is a blessing to get to help each other out every day, to depend on one another, knowing the inside and out of the work stress of your spouse. The opportunity to be a team in your home life and work life, as one and the same, is irreplaceable. The whole family, kids, and parents, working together toward the same goal and learning together along the way is priceless.

Another favorite of ranch life is the opportunity it provides to teach my children to have a strong work ethic. Animals are depending on us, come rain or shine, school activities, or sports to provide for them. My kids know that even when we have a late-night or a holiday, chores still need to be done. They are taught to work and work hard until the job is done no matter what, something our society is missing these days.

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography

Another great thing about ranch life is the time spent outdoors. Our whole family loves the outdoors, and yes, ranch life offers a lot of that. A long day riding my horse under the big blue sky, as large fluffy clouds dance across the horizon, with my four boys horseback following me, while we gather cattle from the mountain range, is sometimes surreal. I often pinch myself to remember I’m not dreaming. I consider myself so very lucky. I love the opportunity we have to be outdoors, caring for the land and for God’s creations. To watch a calf be born and trying to take his first steps, their cute noses, and soft coat. These top my “best part of ranch life” list too.

Though struggles, there are many. The top would be government regulations and consumer misinformation. As time goes on, these two struggles are getting harder and harder and are forcing many production agriculture operations out of business.

Q. In addition to ranch and mom life, in what other things are you involved?

A. I wear many hats, and I am not just an ordinary mom, I guess (even though I really think I am). Not only do I do routine household chores, but also bake from scratch, garden, and do canning or home food preservation. From my ranch Facebook page, many know I am completely involved in the day to day operations of the ranch from fixing fence and helping calve to being horseback gathering cattle and even hauling calves.

Other activities I give a lot of time to include:

  • PTO
  • 4-H project leader
  • Volunteer to help youth with projects including livestock, horse, working ranch horse, cooking, sewing, canning, robotics, photography, public speaking, S.T.E.A.M., shooting sports, leadership and more
  • Cattle community organizations such as my county and state cattle growers’ associations. I’ve served as Gila County Farm Bureau President and served on the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation State board.
  • Volunteer with the Arizona Farm Bureau Agriculture in the Classroom
  • Serve on the Northern Gila County Fair board
  • Young Women’s President of the Tonto Basin Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Q. Why do you commit so many hours to volunteer in your community?

A. I have thought about this question time and time again, and I never feel I have a right answer. I always say, “I don’t know, I just do.” As I have really taken the time to ponder, it is because serving makes me happy! Putting someone else’s needs before my own, helping to make a difference, seeing the joy of others because of the time I was willing to give are the reasons why! As a selfish reason, maybe validation. I absolutely love inspiring youth and advocating for agriculture. The warm fuzzy I get inside when someone says thank you, couldn’t have done this without you, is a fantastic feeling. When someone asks me where I find the time to do what I do, I tell them you make time for the things you love. Investing your time in people is time well spent. And anything worth having takes hard work!

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography

Q. What would you like to share with someone who is not familiar with raising cattle?

A. As cattle ranchers, my family and I truly care for the land and natural resources. John James Audubon once said, “A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his father but borrowed from his children.” We want to pass our ranch(es) and our ranching legacy down to future generations, to see our grandchildren and even great-grandchildren and on, productively and sustainably raising cattle on the same land we raised cattle on. We study the land in cooperation with the University of Arizona and the U.S. Forest Service collecting data and analyzing forage trends. We provide water for wildlife. There are significant misconceptions around western cattle ranching and grazing on public lands. It is essential that if people have questions, they ask a real rancher, visit the ranch and get first-hand information. It seems agriculture is always under attack, but don’t fall for the latest headline getting media attention or the product labeling jargon. Know your farmers or ranchers, and you’ll know your food. Stop fighting against agriculture and start making friends in agriculture because without them, who will feed you and your family?

Q. If you could describe in one word the life of a rancher, what would it be?

A. I don’t do good with picking just one, and as I weigh the good days with the stressful days, the words I come up with seem to cross each other out. Things I considered are the beauty of riding under an indescribable Arizona summer sunset and still cattle ranching like the old-time western movies (wide open spaces, riding horseback to gather cattle, working as a family, and homemade meals together at the table). This is then compared to the fall of the cattle market prices, drought-stricken parched land or losing your best mother cow because she was torn to pieces by a reintroduced protected species called a Mexican Gray Wolf (this is reality for many of our ranching family friends Northeast of us). The hard work, blood sweat and tears and, the joy of summer rains, and a good calf crop. The highs are high, but the lows are low, so my one word would be: ineffable!

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography

Q. Lastly and of course, most importantly, what is your favorite cut of beef, and how do you like to prepare it?

A. I am going to pick Lyman Ranches #ranchraisedbeef Rib Steak. Bring steak to room temperature. Heat BBQ grill to high heat, liberally apply (course ground) salt and pepper each side of steak, sear each side, reduce heat to low and cook till internal temp is at least 130⁰ but no more than 145⁰ (needs to be pink still). Garlic butter sauce or melting blue cheese crumble on top to serve! 

This blog post is made possible by the generous support of the Arizona Cattle Industry Research and Education Foundation.