Saturday, August 15, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
First of all: Congratulations to my sister Lindsey and her new husband Clayton! What a beautiful wedding ceremony and party out at the ranch! Everyone I talked to had such a great time and its going to be a memorable experience for many to come.
I'm so proud of you two and I know good things are going to keep coming from your relationship! I'm very proud of you Lindsey. You picked a great life mate. I still might be a little flustered about seeing an OK State Flag flying above the hanger in Cornhusker Country, but all things pass 8D I think more than anything I realized I'll be missing a great deal of Big 12 football action [at least live]. Oh well.
Its been a nice little break being back in the states for my sister's wedding. I've been able to visit a few good friends, see nearly all of my family [both sides], catch up with family friends and neighbors, and of course spend good time on Gracie Creek Ranch and the farm. At the same time I have huge anticipation to go back to Namibia and start my economic surveys!
Everyone is so thrilled to hear my Namibia stories and wonder if I'll ever want to come back to the states again, but there are a few little things I've missed over in Namibia and its nice to have experienced so many while I've been back.
I've been able to eat sweet corn that was picked 10 minutes prior to eating, indulge with my grandma's dumplings, hang out with the beagles, stand in aw under the shop's roof watching a huge thunderstorm drop an inch of rain in 15 minutes on GCR, drink good homebrew looking out at the lush Gracie Creek flats listening to live classic country music, wade around in the Middle Loup River, spend time with the horses, catch up with family and friends, share my photos and stories, and take many photographs.
I LOVE my new ultra wide lens. Dustin, thank-you so much for the recommendation! It will do me wonders for years to come.
I also enjoy giving tours on the ranch and farms and had many good moments with my friend Mackenzie, my Aunt Marie and her two children Terry and Joe, and Dan's friend Tom. Its encouraging to see people just awe inspired about the Sand Hills when they've been living in larger Great Plains cities and traveling to other places to receive their nature fix. Please if you're reading this and you have kids -get them outside! One needs to experience the natural world directly!
Namibia Reflection Meeting With Calamus Outfitters:
Our neighbors, the Switzers [Calamus Outfitters and Switzer Ranch], invited my dad and I to come over and talk about integrated natural resource management plans between the ranches. Some of you might already know that the Switzers recently came over to Namibia with WWF Northern Great Plains to learn about the conservancy systems in Southern Africa and how things could apply back home in the Great Plains. The ranches are already working together with leasing hunts and housing university research concerning the threatened prairie chickens and grassland birds in the Great Plains.
Basically, without this eco tourism integrated within daily Switzer Ranch operations, it would not be possible for two of the families out there to continue their ranching heritage. So tourism can make a huge difference in rural America.
My family ranch is looking to diversify income, and make some land purchases from my step mother using additional funds from conservation easements and tourism revenues, and the resource goals of the Switzer's fits in nicely with our Holistic Management -so why not work together?
Sitting down with everyone and talking about conservation and ranching, I couldn't help but think, "Geez, we're really onto to something that's pretty dang cool and progressive." All of my cousins and Tom who are Chicago business majors and internet marketing professionals signed off literally with a group vote of two thumbs up in the air about the idea and grant.
When my dad and I were driving to St. Paul, to drop me off a few days before I fly back to Jo'berg, we talked about how the Holistic training he received as a younger man and how it states its not only important to think about the environment in the big picture, but also extend it over to your neighbors. What a great opportunity.
Besides the wedding, friends, and family stuff, this was another huge highlight for me. Things are moving so quickly it was nice to be brought up to speed.
Everyone at this meeting is hoping to take private land conservation to a new level, while keeping the ranch practices live and well, but have a new "twist" we call it with using cattle as tools to manage for larger ecosystem goals. Remember: this is all landowner driven and we still call the shots about everything while networking with many diverse groups in the process. No one would be having these conversations if we wouldn't have total control.
We talked about forming a committee with members from the community and the ranches who would sit down and figure out details and constitutions to help integrate the natural resource and tourism plans into the ranch's current cattle plans. Then why not form our own landowner NGO in the future to help channel funds, support, and a marketable name?
This meeting excited me on many different levels but there is one theme that really made me smile that night.
No one can question the success our ranch GCR, has been able to accomplish with selling yearlings the last 5 years. Actually, its been unmatched in its own respects.
Many people say we set the national market prices' pace for yearlings. Ranchers and cattle buyers at my sister's wedding party told me everyone bases their cattle prices off of what ours are sold for. What amazing complements and recognition!
We're fortunate to be in this position [in the market and with our neighbors], because I think it can start to help dis-spell myths about ag and environment working against each other, while generating a new rural development idea that's landowner driven.
So in the long-run, I'd like to be able and showcase that one can still keep a strong cattle business, while creatively thinking about diversifying income with our neighbors in eco-tourism projects.
I think its so exciting that there are ranches in Loup County willing to work together to reach larger environmental goals while still keeping strong cattle programs and diversifying income for future generations. I don't know if there are similar or possibly any ranches doing what we're talking about.
GCR also signed off on exploring the idea of placing little yerts around our ranch and having people start at Switzers and trailing on up and market the experience with a large private land conservation area that still operates as a ranch. It will be exciting to explore these possibilities.
One other thing we talked about too was the development around the lake and what it could do the landscape and land values in the area. One would think its a good idea to have large million dollar homes come into the county and generate tax revenue, but we're all concerned about the homes increasing land values, then naturally raising land prices around the area close to our neighbors, thus increasing the taxes local ranchers have to pay -making it more difficult to make a living. This kinda sucks. You want to see small towns grow and attract people, but this form is almost counterproductive.
My cousins David, Daniel, and their friend Tom [from Chicago] also joined in on the meeting. It was a beautiful evening and both ranches sat down on the front porch of Switzer's outfitting operation and talked business about applying for grants to help initiate integrated cross boundary natural resource management plans, and started talking seriously about cross property nature trails.
As things develop, I'll be sure to inform the readers of this blog about the ranches' progress.
It was a nice time to reflect about my Namibia experiences and talk with my neighbors.
Thank-you to all who made my week back in the states so memorable and inspiring.
I'll leave everyone with some of my favorite pictures I took. Take care of yourselves and be well. Thank-you for reading.
Morning Tour with Mackenzie:
Bar-B and Bo:
On the way to a fishing hole on the ranch with Dave, Dan, and Tom:
We call this the Big Meadow. The rain this year has sure made some nice scenery:
The Big Meadow again, but a few minutes after taking the shot above:
A site from finishing up a tour with Joe, Terry, Marie, and Mackenzie:
The Middle Loup River on my Grandparents farm:
Websites of Interest!
- Conservancies Association of Namibia
- Namibia Nature Foundation
- Okatumba Wildlife Research
- UN Mil. Devl. Goals
- National Geographic
- Government Site Describing Conservancy System
- Ministry of Environment and Tourism
- National Planning Commission [Lots of Stats]
- Calamus Outfitters [Ranch Neighbors in Loup County, NE]
- NE Audubon Important Bird Areas
- NamibRand Nature Reserve
- World Wildlife Fund
- IRDNC [WWF's partner in crime]
- Grassland Foundation
- Larkin Powell's Blog [Fulbright Scholar]
- Tristan Powell [Larkin and Kelly's son's Namibia Blog]
- Wildheart Journeys [Helge Denker]
- Erica's Zambia Blog
- The Namibian