TSLN publisher responds to NYT story
Good afternoon (New York Times) —
Thank you for sending this story along.
Thank you and the staff at the New York Times for keeping our ranching heritage in your content lineup. I commend the women in this story for their commitment and passion for agriculture. I have staff members who know several of the sources personally, and we appreciated them being spotlighted.
That said, there are some inaccuracies and underlying connotations that I can’t support, and therefore will not be interested in reprinting.
This opening statement is inaccurate, according to your writer’s own source.
Your author references the 2012 census data from USDA. https://www.nass.usda.gov/…/2014/Farm_Demographics/index.php
“The total number of farmers declined, with the percentage decline more for women than men,” in direct contradiction to “As men leave animal agriculture for less gritty work, more ranches are being led by women — with new ideas about technology, ecology and the land.”
The USDA website states, “Of the 2.1 million principal operators in the United States, 288,264 were women (Table 3). This was a 6 percent decrease since 2007, larger than the decrease in male principal operators.”
I believe most anyone in this business would agree– ranching is about partnership, not competition.
There are a lot of women who could run the ranch on their own, and plenty who do. I feel like this article makes unsubstantiated claims that are more for the benefit of a feminist agenda than objective reporting. For instance, there is no source for the statement, “Women are leading the trend of sustainable ranching and raising grass-fed breeds of cattle in humane, ecological ways.”
Men do leave ranching. Women also leave ranching.
It’s often not because of choice, but for a plethora reasons including but not limited to higher wages, health reasons, cost of expansion or entry too high, etc.
Unfortunately, in a lot of cases today, a woman’s biggest contribution is a paycheck that comes from off the ranch.
That’s not because she’s incapable of ranch work, but because someone has to have a job that pays for health insurance and groceries.
Women aren’t “reclaiming” their connection to the land; we never lost it.
We’ve always been here.
A refreshing angle to this story could have been a review of the celebrated differences between women and men operators, and how they complement and enrich an operation, instead of making this a competition.
An angle less focused on the feminist agenda may have resulted in a story that investigated why the number of ranchers in general continues to decline.
Questions about property taxes, federal land management, non-ag interests driving up the cost of land and the volatility of commodity markets would have resulted in a more challenging, but more accurate picture of today’s ag industry.
As a publisher of three livestock publications, one of them being the “best livestock newspaper in the country” (https://www.tsln.com/…/tsln-best-livestock-paper-in-the-co…/), I expect our writers to be objective. We emphasize that while a writer may start a story with one angle in mind, they have to be open to changing that angle—the story should dictate the angle, not the other way around. The article came across as anti-man, which most women in self-sustaining agriculture recognize as an attitude that is neither helpful nor based on reality.
In addition to working as a publisher, I’m also a rancher. And I’m a rancher’s wife. A rancher’s daughter. A rancher’s granddaughter. A rancher’s daughter-in-law.
I’m a mother, a horsewoman, a cowgirl, and a relentless supporter of agriculture and anyone who wants to grow food, fiber and fuel for our country and beyond.
In all my roles, I wholeheartedly support women’s abilities and believe they can fully equal, and in many cases exceed, those of men’s.
I hire journalists and sales people based on their abilities, not on their gender. We hire ranch hands in the same spirit.
The agriculture industry recognized women’s abilities long before the rest of the world caught up. Wyoming—where cows outnumber people two to one—was the first to pass women’s suffrage, more than 50 years before the rest of the nation, and elected the country’s first woman governor in 1925. As I said at the beginning of my note to you, I tip my hat to the women featured in your article, but feel like the angle undermines the fabric of agriculture, which is equality, recognizing and enhancing individuals’ strengths, not elevating one gender above the other.
If you’re interested in learning more about the women involved in self-sustaining agriculture, like the Taussig family, check out some of our stories about many of the capable women in agriculture.
https://www.tsln.com/…/a-helping-hand-project-h3lp-focuses…/ (a story about Kelsey Ducheneaux’s family)
You’ll notice that every woman profiled in our stories acknowledges and credits the men in their life, whether a father or husband, with being an important part of their life and learning. Not one tears down a man or elevates women above them. Despite the John Wayne picture of the West portrayed by Hollywood (and apparently believed by your writer), we recognize that ranching is about collaboration, not competition, and that the industry is continually improved by both men and women—most productively when we work together.
This lifestyle requires a commitment to the work, not to a role.
I applaud the women sources used in the story, as well as their efforts and commitment to our industry.
But I disagree with the data and agenda; it is inaccurate.
Sabrina “Bree” Poppe
Tri-State Livestock News // Farmer & Rancher Exchange // The Fence Post // The Stock Show // Cavvy Savvy
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