You Can Always Come Back

Amber Morin was raised on her family’s cattle ranch in Southeastern, AZ. This experience sparked her interest and career path in natural resource management, agricultural policy, and agriculture communications. She has worked with the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association, Arizona’s Natural Resource Conservation Districts, and continues to promote agriculture through her current position at the Arizona Farm Bureau. Whenever time permits, she is back at the ranch helping her family run their beef business, running trails in preparation for “fun runs,” or writing.

Here are her thoughts on the urban agriculture divide and why we are all more alike than different.  

Agriculture has been taking place for the last 10,000 years, and yet, ranchers and farmers are now the minority? What the heck happened?

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With agriculture, humans traded the harsh uncertainty of nomadic life for the somewhat more predictable and controllable agrarian lifestyle. An improvement, for sure. In exchange for their time and dedication to caring for plants and animals, humans were afforded more abundant food supplies, health, wealth, leisure, and the ability to trade for goods that could not be grown in their home climates. In short, agricultural abundance improved lives. It still does.

All of this happened because humans are smart, they experiment, they adapt, and find answers to questions, sometimes out of curiosity and most of the time out of necessity. Agriculture changed the way humans live and it wasn’t long before humans all over the world were adapting to agriculture methods on some level. This took place for 10,000 years, and yet, in a mere two centuries, the same curiosity and/or necessity also brought about another rapid change, the movement away from agrarian lifestyles to industrial lifestyles, and now to what pessimists call virtual lifestyles and optimists call entrepreneurial lifestyles.

 

To break the rapid change down for the readers who love numbers, in 1790, about 90% of the American workforce was related to agriculture. In 1890, that number had dropped to about 43%. In 1990 about 2.6% of the population’s workforce was related to agriculture. Now that number has dropped to about 2%. As people moved out of rural America to pursue an improved lifestyle in urban areas, agricultural advancements have made it possible for 2% of the population to feed the masses.

Why is this important? While about 2% of the population clothes and feeds us, we can do other things with our lives and pursue other careers, and not worry about where our next meal is going to come from. If it were not for ranchers and farmers, most of us would be struggling like the unfortunate souls on the show Naked and Afraid! Although I must admit, there are some very tough people that participate! But, would anyone really want to live that way? Or, go hungry because their backyard garden failed due to a pest infestation? I know what my answer is: an emphatic, no!

Thanks to the ingenuity of agriculturalists, technological advancements and improvements in the industry, and the dedication and care that agriculturalists have for their businesses, we live great lives without a lot of worries. The few feed the many. And, it takes an insurmountable amount of dedication to thrive in the agricultural industry when things like global markets, local markets, weather, genetics, natural resources, financial constraints, and the unpredictability of caring for crops and livestock are just a few of the challenges. Being an agriculturalist requires a high degree of intelligence, resilience, and faith in oneself, in the future, and in the process.

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Mr. Morin showing off some serious dedication which is required for success in the agriculture field.

My own dad knew this when he said to both my sister and me, “You can always come back, but you can’t always leave.” This was a gentle but very blatant way of telling us, this path takes grit and serious dedication, so go and experience life before you make the commitment to come back and manage the ranch. And, when you come back, bring what you have learned to make it better. Like all parents, ours wanted the best for my sister and me. They encouraged us to grow, learn, and improve.

So, when I asked the question, what the heck happened? How did Americans get so far removed from agriculture? It’s simple and it’s practical. Like the nomadic lifestyle, the agrarian lifestyle was not easy. It is still not easy, so Americans changed, and the industrial revolution which made promises of wealth and lifestyle improvements spurred that change. It was the anticipation of an improved future that moved most people out of rural America and into urban centers. At the end of the day, no one can be blamed for trying to improve one’s life or that of their loved ones.

Today’s “entrepreneurial revolution” coined by Seth Godin promises an even better future for Americans, as the ability to market goods, build wealth, and have more control of our lives is at our fingertips via smartphones.

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The Morin Family – Working for a better future!

This same optimism has spurred the technological advancements and environmental improvements in agriculture. We want to improve, be more precise, waste less and have more controlled data-driven outcomes. In the case of food production, doing our best is a necessity because we are not just feeding our families, and yours, with less labor and inputs, we are also feeding the world. Doing less than our best, with so many people who trust us for a safe and reliable food supply, is simply not an option.

Just as the public has always been looking to improve, agriculturalists have too!

The reality is, we are all working toward the same goal – to do our best!

– Amber MorinMorning Sun Selfie (002)

Tools of the Cowboy

Cowboys and cowgirls, alike, spend long days outside in the elements, working hard to raise healthy cattle. But we can’t do this job alone. It takes a whole slew of tools to ensure we get the job done correctly.

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Photo by Kathy McCraine

Horse
One of the most important tools is our horse. Our horse is our partner, mobile office, and catch-all for every other tool we’ll need. A horse gets us around the ranch more efficiently than if we were to go on foot and is often the brawn behind the brain when calves need to be doctored and there aren’t cattle handling setup for miles around.

 

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Photo courtesy of Braymere Custom Saddlery

Saddle
The saddle is where we sit while riding our horse. It provides much-needed comfort for both horse and rider and is also a handy place to tie on ropes, jackets, bedrolls and other tools needed through a day on the range.

Saddle Blanket
This important piece of equipment is a layer of protection between the stiff leather on the saddle and the horse’s back. Think of this as a cushy seat cover over a hard wood chair.

Stirrups
The stirrups are attached to the saddle and are where we put our feet to help with stability in the saddle on a long day’s ride.

Cinch
This important piece of equipment runs from one side of the saddle to the other and ensures it stays on the horse while riding. The cinch is one item you want to make sure is in good shape every time you ride; otherwise, your saddle can roll right off your horse!

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Photo courtesy of The Equinest

Bridle
Reins
The reins connect to the bit acting as a steering wheel and a braking system. They allow us to communicate with our horse to tell them which direction we need to travel and when we want to stop.

Bit
The bit is like an air traffic controller. It takes the signals from our hands and transmits that information to our horse. The bit sits in our horse’s mouth between their teeth.

Headstall
The headstall holds the bit on your horse’s head. Without the headstall, the bit and the reins wouldn’t work!

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Rope
Most cowboys have a rope tied to their saddle when they head out to work each day. The rope allows us to catch a cow that might be sick and needs treatment or a calf that is brand-new and needs identification.

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Photo by Dan Bell

Dog
Some folks use a dog to help gather and move cattle from pasture to pasture. A well-trained dog can be directed by voice signals to move from one side of the herd to the other, allowing the dogs to push the cattle towards the destination we have in mind. Dogs are also very helpful for flushing cattle out of hard-to-reach places, like under low-hanging trees or narrow creek beds.

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Photo by Dave Schafer

Clothing
Fashion isn’t the first thing we have in mind when deciding our clothing for the day. We need to ensure the utmost comfort and flexibly in our attire because you never know what might come around on that day.

Hat
Here in Arizona, a good hat is essential. Ideally, we want something that has a wide brim all the way around the head so we can keep the sun off our face and shoulders.

Bandana
A bandana is also helpful in keeping the sun off our faces, but can also be used if there is a lot of dust being kicked up by our cattle.

Thick shirt
Just like the chaps help to protect our legs, a long-sleeved shirt made of a thick material is essential to help keep the prickly plants off our skin. The material choice is also important because it gets hot here in Arizona. A cotton shirt is ideal because it helps us to keep cool through evaporation from sweat while also protecting our skin from the sun.

 

 

Chaps
Chaps are made of sturdy leather and cover our legs. These are extra important in places like Arizona where cactus and pointy plants tend to reign. The leather of the chaps keeps our legs from being scratched.

In Pursuit of a Beefy Passion

This week’s blog post was previously published on Tiffany’s personal blog, Tiffany Nicole and Co as a brainstorm during the development of a presentation she gave to the Veterinary Science Careers course at the University of Arizona.


Looking back, I now realize that I (sort of) had a cushioned and extremely lucky landing into my job at the Arizona Beef Council. I fully recognize this can be a rare phenomenon for most college graduates, but I’m so grateful for the good fortune that came my way. I prefaced my statement with “sort of” because I worked hard during my college career to make the connections and built relationships which offered me the opportunity to obtain my current position with the Arizona Beef Council. Today, I’m so extremely grateful to have been placed on this path because this job has led me to discover a passion I would never have known without it.

I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and open spaces and Arizona has no shortage of those things. Growing up, an affinity for the outdoors    started while I worked at a horse training barn in exchange for riding lessons. I found myself counting down the days, hours, and minutes until I was released from the classroom and would be back outside, breathing in the scent of horses and fresh air. Caring for and riding horses is a love I began to develop as a youngster from my mother’s tales of her youth spent in the saddle, so when the time came for me to be afforded this opportunity, I was willing to put in the long hours required. In a horse barn is where I learned how to work hard, get the job done, and do it all with a pleasant attitude. I can further credit the University of Arizona and a great club, which was part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, for encouraging my love for the open spaces of Arizona and for converting my love into a real passion for Arizona agriculture.

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Pictured is Kris Harris on the Quarter Circle U Ranch. She is a great example of the many friends I’ve been fortunate to make in this community.

As many young college students do, I set my sites on vet school after completing my undergraduate career. Working outdoors was one major factor in my future path, so small animal medicine just wasn’t in the cards. As a result, livestock and a large animal practice is what I wanted to pursue. I did not have much large animal experience outside of horses, so I decided to join the Collegiate Cattle Growers Association. The group owned and managed a herd of cattle and hogs, which were bred each year with the end goal of raising show quality livestock that could be sold to 4H and FFA students. We also used the animals for judging practice for the University of Arizona’s Livestock Judging Team and offered hands-on animal husbandry experiences for students. As luck would have it, this was the perfect environment to pursue the path my heart called for and I so badly wanted to follow. Ultimately, I ended up learning, by and through the people I met and the experiences I obtained, is that what the universe had in store for me, actually far exceeded the original goal and expectations I had set for myself.

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Pictured with the famous Baxter Black, cowboy poet extraordinaire, and Lauren Scheller, fellow passionate Beef Council colleague.

It has been an honor to be a part of this community  and through various internships, meetings, and activities, I discovered that Arizona ranchers are some of the hardest working, most passionate, not to mention friendliest people on this planet. I also learned that agriculture was so much more than just the science, which, at first, was the personal interest I had focused on in college. It was about so much more…the land, the people, and the animals, and how they and it all worked together. Moreover, I learned caring for livestock requires more than just a focus on the animal, but a synergy with the land, the policies, the families, the neighbors, and the public. Finally, I understand that raising cattle wasn’t just a pretty photo of a grassy pasture, but a way of life and tradition, which requires all that you have to give.

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I stand by beef with pride!

Although representing Arizona beef farmers and ranchers is the technical description of what I do for the Arizona Beef Council, what I am really doing is helping secure, alongside the many other organizations, ranchers and supporters of the beef community, that there is ranching far into the future. It is my goal and our goal to ensure that beef is still at the center of your great-great-great grandchildren’s plate. For me, this isn’t just a job, it’s about ensuring the open spaces stay open and the steaks keep sizzling.