Thursday, September 16, 2010

Field Trips and Fairs

Last week, our kids exhibited animals at the Gold Country Fair in Auburn.  Emma, our youngest, showed her rabbit and one of our dogs (Taff).  Lara showed two market lambs and her dog, Popcorn.  They both had successful fairs - Lara's lamb was the 4-H grand champion, and she received a whopping $21 per pound at the junior livestock auction.  So much for learning about the realities of the sheep business!

On Sunday, we hosted to classes taught by our friend Susan Marshall at Humboldt State University.  The classes, one in ranch planning and development and the other in range improvements, were on a field trip to central California.  Our landlord, George Nolte, talked about the development of the Elster Ranch - he's installing new fencing, planting new pastures, and putting in new irrigation systems.  I talked about our sheep business, about conservation easements, and about the California Agricultural Leadership Program.

The common theme in these two activities, obviously, was education.  Our girls are learning about animal husbandry and livestock production.  While the fair offers a somewhat artificial view of livestock production, our girls do learn responsibility and teamwork.  We are especially grateful to our friend Ann Vassar for helping Lara become a better showman and stock handler.  The college students, I hope, got a realistic picture of the challenges and rewards of ranching in California.  While our operation is not typical of most sheep operations, I think it does provide a model for new producers to consider.  I hope there are future sheep producers in both groups - the kids at the fair and the students at Humboldt!

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