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Like many Americans of her generation, Leslie Carter grew up in a farming family that had given up farming. Her grandparents had sold the family farm by the time she was old enough to be involved, but, as she remembers, “my values were all based on the agrarian lifestyle.” Leslie got her chance to put those values into practice when she and her husband, Jon, moved to their first farm in 1980.
| October 14, 2015
The Magruder family has stewarded the 2,400-acre Magruder Ranch in California’s Potter Valley, 130 miles north of San Francisco, since 1919. Mac Magruder, the fourth generation to live and work on the ranch, returned in the 1980s after attending art school. The ranch was producing pears intensively, but Mac wanted to produce something that he could interact with more, and wanted to do away with the pesticides and oil-burning smudge pots (used to prevent frost) that had defined the ranch’s production when he was a child.
| September 28, 2015
Eldon and Maggie Handrich established Prairie Monarch Bison Ranch outside of Laramie, Wyoming in 1992. They were inspired by the ecological and human health benefits of returning native grazers like bison to the prairie ecosystem. The core philosophy, when the ranch began raising bison was to produce the healthiest meat possible in a way that is friendly to the land, the bison and the ecosystem. Those values still hold true today. Eldon’s son, Dylan Handrich, took over ranch operations in 2006, retaining the same core philosophy: raising bison on pasture using high-welfare management techniques produces healthier, tastier and more sustainable meat.
Kelly and Abi Criswell started down the path to becoming pasture-based farmers because they wanted to eat fresh, nutrient-dense foods. After growing out of a small backyard garden, in 2010 they bought a five-acre farm in Penrose, Colorado, and began scaling up production. Judging that their pastures were best suited to cattle, they bought a dairy cow for milk and a flock of mixed breed laying hens for pastured eggs.
Although Kelly Osman’s birth family (the Furlongs) has raised sheep along the northern California coast for generations, she never expected to end up working as a farmer herself. However, as Kelly puts it, “kids drive the cart once they come along” and before they knew it, Kelly and her husband, Gary, were helping their children to raise small animals in 4-H. While returning to her ranch roots was unexpected, the Osmans embraced the way of life completely. Raising their family on a ranch has exposed Kelly and Gary’s children to an agricultural lifestyle that has been lost to many, and instills a sense of responsibility and compassion that Kelly believes is only possible through working with animals. As they built the kids’ breeding program, the Osmans would invariably have extra animals, which they began offering to local restaurants. When the children moved on to other projects, Kelly assumed the majority of the animal husbandry and began slowly growing their livestock operation to meet the demand for locally produced, high-welfare meat, and their children’s 4-H project turned into a family business.
Although Dru and Scott Ransdell each grew up in suburbia, they both learned an appreciation for nature at a young age—Dru at her grandparents’ old Connecticut farmhouse, and Scott in his Chicago backyard, where he pretended to drive an imaginary tractor and irrigated imaginary crops. From the time they met in California’s Sacramento Valley, they shared a dream of living off the land. In 2001, they acquired their own piece of land where they began to produce their own food through trial and error.
Nestled in the lush foothills of the Oregon Coast Range, Nehalem River Ranch is 100 acres of pasture and forest along the banks of the river from which it takes its name. The area is home to herds of elk and deer, as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout and salmon, which migrate through the Nehalem River. In addition to managing the ranch’s domesticated species, the ranch’s owners, Hilary Foote and Jared Gardner, see care of the river and the riparian areas between the river and their pastures as central to their work as famers and stewards of this diverse and beautiful piece of land.
While he was in school, Les Yates spent many enjoyable summers helping his grandparents on their farm in southwest Ontario, and subsequently spent most of his working career trying to figure out how to get back to the land. In 1993, Les and his wife, Chris, were finally able to purchase 327-acre Lemieux Creek Ranch in the Bulkley Valley in northwest British Columbia, named after Eric Lemieux, the first French Canadian to settle on the land in 1904.
Daniel and Patrick McDougall’s ancestors first settled in western Nevada in the 1860s after leaving the South during the Civil War, selling cattle to the Union Army and silver miners at the Comstock Lode—the first major discovery of silver ore in the country. Today, Daniel and Patrick continue their family’s ranching tradition as fourth generation cattle ranchers, headquartered in Fallon, Nevada.
Michaelene and J. Michael Griffin run Primetime Farms in Pahrump, Nevada, about 60 miles west of Las Vegas on the California-Nevada border. When they bought the property 20 years ago, they began raising thoroughbred race horses and warmblood sport horses, but expanded to other livestock after taking a course on biodynamic gardening that included the integration of animals. Now, in addition to vegetable production, Primetime Farms’ 10 acres is home to Certified AWA laying hens, meat chickens, and geese.