Mid-September is a gorgeous time on Cañada de la Virgen; fruits and vegetables are coming into full maturation, the days are a bit cooler and ending a bit earlier, insects are moulting into their next carnation, and the full Harvest Moon put on a grand show in the clear dark skies of Central Mexico. I love spending time on the farm and enjoying the fruits of the season, so incredibly special.
I’m re-posting my explanation of how and why I became a Modern Farmer, and will ignore the desire to make changes like omitting a person, and will allow the excitement of my new found passion, purpose, clarity and gratitude remain the focus of the story.
In 2013, I was hit with a powerful waterfall of emotions and tears as I blurted out I wanted to be a Modern Farmer, in the last hour of the last day of a Sonia Choquette six-sensory workshop. A Modern Farmer, what the heck does that mean?!! Aside from the magazine of the same name, I was very unclear about where this explosion of feelings came from, and laughed and scoffed the entire way home, no way could I be a modern farmer, oh the audacity!
Truth be told, once I uttered those words, I felt as if I had been hit by lightning; the spark had been lit but I had no idea what to do with it. A modern farmer, you say!? Oh stop.
I did spend the first few years of my life on a dairy farm in Huntley, Illinois, although I have little-to-no-memory of it. But now that both my parents were dead, the pull to be in the country was strong, much to my chagrin. I fought it, dug my heels in, as I really believed I was supposed to be in Chicago. I was a Big City Gal, in fact, I was afraid of the country and all its creatures that go boo in the night; the wide open spaces made me terribly nervous. Give me a deserted city street at midnight any time over a quiet country, star-lit night. Once while house-sitting for my brother and his wife in Hebron, Illinois, I called 911 because I heard noises and was certain I was about to be terrorized. After a brief inspection, the policemen said to me, “do you realize that’s the wind?”
I called the cops on the wind.
There had been such tremendous and rapid loss at this point in my life; jobs, addresses, jewelry, my truck — my mom — and through all this I could feel the magnetic pull back to the country. Or maybe it was fear? Or, I know, it was shame, because how embarrassing to lose my everything, so why not run to the country with my tail between my legs? And what was I supposed to do, pray tell, become a tomato farmer? Can I support myself on tomatoes? Maybe a sprout farmer? My track record with plants has never been great and now I think I can be a sprout farmer? Fat Chance. I may have been sitting squarely in the farmlands of Northern Illinois-Southern Wisconsin, but I had a snowball’s chance in hell to become a farmer, modern or old-timey, at this point.
I filed the day dream away and continued my desperate search of WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE?!
Days after Sonia’s workshop, it was Thanksgiving, and thanks to a wonderful invite from my generous ex-husband, Reed, I made my way back to San Miguel de Allende and then to Austin, which I now call home. I quickly forgot all about my farming declaration and moved on to the task of cleaning up the wreckage from my past. I was a fairly miserable girl when I was married to Reed and had felt terribly guilty about how our marriage ended. It ended badly. Certainly not the worst divorce in the world, but I never got over the guilt for my bad behavior and selfish ways. The years I lived in Illinois after the divorce were one big alcohol-fueled guilt trip. This was my opportunity to make amends for my harmful behavior.
Whether he would agree or not, I believe I have made amends to the best of my abilities, first and foremost by being kind to the deserving Reed, and then by trying to be there in ways I had not been in the past. Not everyone gets a shot at this, nor would many want one, and even though it’s been messy and painful all over again, I am super-grateful I had this opportunity to make right a few of my wrongs. This has helped me to grow up. I like growing up, it feels good.
In early August of this year, after returning once again to San Miguel, I overheard Reed on the phone making a deal to sell his Mexican cows to a factory farm in Northern Mexico. Wait, wait, whoa, whoa WHAT?! I said as he hung up the phone.
Reed purchased his ranch in Dolores Hidalgo after we married in 2005; there were little or few cattle when he purchased it, and he spent the past 10 years adding to and cleaning up the breed of Limousin cattle to create a fine, handsome, beautiful breed of cattle; in addition to drilling for water and creating a majestic, sprawling, lush, 250-hectare Guanajuato rancho. The sound of the wind is amazing out here; I would never call the cops on it.
Given my recent experience with a thyroid condition and the need to eat paleo, yet finding little-to-no resources for grass-fed beef in San Miguel de Allende, I chimed in with, “we need grass-fed beef right here in San Miguel and that’s what you have. Why don’t we make meat right here instead of shipping them off to a feed lot, where the cows are mostly wanted only for their arrachera?” Reed responded, “If you can find someone to process the cows, you can have some cows.”
The next day I was at Via Organica, aka, Central Mexico’s Whole Foods, and within two weeks, the team was assembled to produce grass-fed beef.
And so began Rancho Santo Niño.
I had spent the past year living with the cows at Reed’s ranch in Texas; I practiced reiki on them, played crystal bowls for them, and especially loved watching the Texas sunsets with them within an earshot. I loved those cows and had (have) great regard for them. Reed says, “cows are dumb.” I say no they are not! They are amazing mothers and any creature that is a wonderful mother is not dumb.
While I have great respect for the cows and their place in the world, I do know why these cows are here. They are fuel for the people. Oh but how to get them to the people?!
I think factory farming is an unspeakable, horrible injustice to all the animals churned out through them, in turn turning out sick food; to which some people have responded, yeah but you kill the cows too! This is true, but how the cows are treated until it is their time to become fuel for the people is where I want to do it different. I see the hidden videos of how animals are slaughtered; it bothers me tremendously as well. Have you see the Temple Grandin’s movie? She understood this on an entirely different level.
The hard-working cattle ranchers out there producing responsibly raised grass-fed beef are my inspiration, and I don’t pretend for one moment to be a fraction of a rancher, nor skilled tradesperson that they are, but I have learned amazing things through them and with my own experience of working with the ranchers and butchers of Dolores Hidalgo. I have thrown my hat in the ring of producing responsibly-raised grass-fed beef and this makes me incredibly proud and I am excited as I forge ahead and learn new things everyday. I am in on every step of this process and believe it has made me a kinder person, a more mindful person and the gratitude I feel each day when I drink my bone broth is a feeling I don’t want to shake anytime soon.
Producing grass-fed beef been a profound experience thus far.
Cattle ranching done right can save the world’s global warming demise, so says Allan Savory; his TED Talk is extremely moving and inspiring.
Oh and that declaration I made two years ago? I suppose it came true…