It’s share with the urbanites agenda right now.
This last week has been filled with pure craziness, along with the normal ranch work such as finishing up haying, getting clients’ calves shipped, moving cattle, and getting the tenant house ready for our new teammates that will be here the beginning of October. Along with that, I was having some members of the Humanities Nebraska Board stopping in for a tour.
The Home Place has hosted tours off and on over the years. We’ve had some international tours, some ag tours, and some open houses where we’ve celebrated certain milestones. This was the first tour we hosted that was made up of individuals that did not have an ag production background.
I’ve told people time after time, that we are an open book – what you see is what you get, and I’m comfortable enough with our practices and explanations of why we do things that I’m more than willing to share that with others.
Saturday morning, the board members convoyed out of Alliance to the Home Place. We met before the sun came up in our valley as the Lakeside Methodist Church ladies provided coffee and hot chocolate. Once everyone arrived, they loaded on the flatbed trailer covered with little square bales, and with the Boss Man driving, I attempted to lead them up to our tower hill on the ATV.
It was a beautiful, clear morning and the sunrise, while not as spectacle as some, still had plenty of pizzazz.
After spending time on the hillside, the crew loaded back up and headed to the shop, which I will admit we had finished cleaning at 5 that morning. I arrived at the shop before the tour and conversed with the Business Partner and my banker and his wife. They were waiting with ATVs and a dirtbike to go push a herd of cows to a location we could easily access with the hayrack. While they did that, I walked back into the shop and stopped dead in my tracks.
I had asked the church ladies to serve the meal. I had joked around when setting up the menu that I wished my grandmother was still around because she made the absolute most phenomenal donuts ever and I would have tried to convince her to bring down a couple dozen.
On the breakfast table that morning was a container full of homemade donuts, and the container just happened to have my grandmother’s name on it. Nothing like having the waterworks start just before a group of people walked in.
During breakfast I talked about the legacy of the operation and how we function. Once the plates were clean and seconds were had, we loaded the group back onto the flatbed and headed north. The crew had pushed a group of pairs over the hills that we were able to drive through.
Great conversation occurred throughout the entire tour. Topics covered antibiotic use, technology, economics, added hormones, factory farming, employment issues, insurance challenges, property tax struggles, and of course – one of my favorites – informing people about my utter dislike for balloons.
It’s easier for people to relate when they hear how we spend over six figures in property taxes when they see the disaster our road is in and how far we must travel to get to the closest public school.
At the end of the tour, everyone thanked us profusely. Some asked to spend extra time on the ranch exploring, while two asked if we’d mind if they hung around for the day. Considering my workweek had been a little out of control, I was more than willing to agree.
After picking up the shop, we headed out for a day of exploring all the greatness this part of the state has to offer. We started in Ellsworth where we visited a refurbished country school house as well as the schoolhouse where the Boss Man spent his kindergarten year. Then we ventured to Morgan’s to look at the western wear and gun store and throw dice for the chance to win some fudgsicles.
Next, we headed to Alliance where we took in potato harvest. Not only did we get to ride in the diggers, we followed the potatoes from the field into storage. I don’t think any of us will look at a potato chip the same way again.
The potato experience was followed by a trip to the North Place for a quick tour and an excellent evening of prime rib and beverages.
The week was work. Throughout, I constantly questioned why I had made the commitment to ranching. But after the tour, my heart was happy. I had some amazing new friends that I can’t wait to spend more time. I am already planning to visit them. Most importantly, I think we all took something home with us. All it takes is a little time, a little effort, a clean shop, and a pile of bales and maybe one can make a little difference.
Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Neb. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at email@example.com