Release date: 2009 / 239 pages
Synopsis (from front cover): Ranch families in the twenty-first century face many challenges, from competition with government-subsidized agribusiness corporations to tax laws that encourage development over agriculture and prevnet the smooth transfer of land from one generation to the next. As a stablizing force in the American West, ranch families play a critical role in our country, perhaps more so today than ever before, yet theri stories have rarely been told.
First line: “Reuben Stoddart is a yearling.”
Review: A few months ago, a representative from the University of Nevada Press contacted me to see if I would be interested in reading and reviewing one of their publications. I perused the list and noticed The Family Ranch: Land, Children, and Tradition in the American West. I was intrigued for a few reasons…
As an avid reader of The Pioneer Woman‘s blog, I like to imagine what it would be like to live on a huge ranch in the expansive West. I love to live vicariously through Ree and hope that I would meet the challenges of ranching with as much pluck and fortitude. (By the way, if you are not yet familiar with Ree’s blog, check it out — it is always in the running for a Bloggy for Best Writing and deserves the award every year).
Second, my husband and I have just purchased 35 acres in Colorado and are in the process of building our own dream “ranch” (so to speak). The milder climate of Colorado appealed to us both, and I love the idea of living in the middle of “nowhere” (yet only 20 miles from Denver).
So, I requested this title and was so pleasantly surprised. What could have been a dry treatiste on a way of life long gone is instead an engaging narrative about a way of life not only very much alive, but very necessary. Six ranching families are highlighted — how they found ranching, why they embrace this way of life, how they educate their children (homeschooling is not a political choice when the nearest school is 90 miles away), how ranching has evolved, and how to secure this way of life into the future. Each vignette is quite unique, including one family who adopted six children from Haiti! While some elements of ranching are necessarily similar — large expanses of land, interdependence with nature, the constant unknown of the weather — the individuals who ensure that we have food on our tables are very different.
And this is what was impressed upon my consciousness: “There is no such thing as a post-agricultural society.” I realized very quickly that as dangerous as it is to be dependent on fossil fuels and foreign oil, it is downright suicidal to depend on foreign food. We have the ability to switch to renewable sources of fuel — and should — but without domestic agriculture we would be victims of the political whims of a world who, quite honestly, is not very pro-American right now.
Living in Minnesota, water is in abundance. Even this past summer, which was the worst drought (for the Twin Cities) in decades, I was surrounded by green grass, green trees, lakes, rivers and humidity. It is very difficult for me to fathom the increasingly volatile water-rights debates in the West. Even in Minnesota I’ve started to hear rumblings about water conservation, but this really hasn’t hit home yet. However, when we move to the foothills in Colorado, I have a feeling that my awareness of this precious resource will change very quickly.
So, for many reasons I truly enjoyed my time with this book. I realize my situation may have made me particularly interested in this subject matter, so here is an excerpt from the Preface to help you decide if it may be right for you…
The book is… about the challenges of maintaining the family ranch as viable and the ways independent ranchers meet those challenges. Although ranching protocol has not changed over time, ranching in the modern world has gotten a great deal more complex. Regulations governing grazing and water rights, taxes, and inheritance laws, as well as the challenge for providing education for children on ranches that may be a hundred miles or more from the nearest school, escalating operational costs, and markets that respond more to international politics than local supply and demand threaten their unique way of life.”
Interested? Simply drop me a comment and I’ll choose a winner this Saturday!