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2011 Amy Wright

2011 Apprentice
My start in agriculture began in the rural ranching community of North Park, CO. I spent my childhood riding my horse and constantly jumping off to look at a new plant or interesting rock. I may have spent more time at the barn than in my house and raised horses, goats, pigs, and rabbits through the local 4-H program. As a kid, North Park was a thriving region, and its people were connected to the land by making their livelihood from it. Spending my days surrounded by nature and the closeness of this rural community started a love and passion in me for the way of life that is only achieved through working and living off the land. Over the years, I have seen first hand the decline of family run ranches in the area, resulting in the disintegration of economic and social conditions in my community. It has been heart wrenching to see a livelihood I greatly value be replaced by large corporations.
I earned a degree in Geography from the University of Colorado at Boulder. I spent summers hiking through the woods to collect data on forest diversity for the U.S Forest Service, riding up above 8,000 feet to gather cattle from their summer grazing pastures, and living in a mountain cabin with no running water or electricity. After graduation, I started work as a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) intern for a software company in Boulder and was eventually promoted into an office manager position. Although I enjoyed many aspects of my job, I longed to return to a life in agriculture and the outdoors.
I made the jump and moved to Australia to work on a cattle station in the Outback. During this experience I was introduced to many sustainable methods of ranching and living off the land. The cattle were 100% grass fed, as Western Australia did not have the industrial and marketing infrastructure to send cattle to feedlots within the region. We produced our own electricity, collected rainwater to drink and lit fires to heat water for showers. Being a part of these practices led me to think more about the progressive opportunities sustainable ranching may provide to people. I found myself returning to the U.S. rethinking the importance of family agricultural enterprises and rural communities, and I realized sustainable agriculture is a solution for preserving America's Western heritage and land.
I love the creativity and resourcefulness, the fortitude and realism that go hand-in-hand with ranching. A challenge is always presenting itself and you never stop learning. A life in agriculture is character building, you develop strength and independence. I aspire to be this type of person, who develops these traits cultivated by a life connected to the land. It fosters qualities that society should value, and the world needs people who have this sort of balance, practicality and dedication.
The story of what has happened in my home community of North Park is hardly unique. I see the CARLY ranch apprenticeship as an innovative solution to help address this problem seen throughout our country. From the moment I read about the program on the Quivira Coalition's website, I knew it was the opportunity I have been seeking. Quivira's collaboration with apprentices and mentors creates a unique learning environment to not only develop hands on skills and leadership abilities but to also pass on agricultural wisdom and traditions. For there to be learning opportunities for young people that include more than just chores or "cowboying " lays a foundation for our future generations to create a professional life in agriculture. Learning the ideas, business concepts, financial planning, and knowledge behind sustainable management decisions is an essential part of successful ranching and a key component of why CARLY is the next best step for someone like me.
I am continually drawn to hard work on the land, and the unique connection it enables one to have with the earth and the animals that societies depend on for their livelihood. One of my favorite jobs is sorting cows. My mentor and friend, Larry Davis always told me, "It is like a dance, you and the cow always move off each other." It is a beautiful and graceful act, to work off the cow's shoulder makes such a difference in the ease of how cattle are handled. These and other sharp images are ingrained in my memory, like watching a bull stir up dust while the sun sets or bottle feeding a calf as it tries to suck on my knee cap, fingers, and everything else it can find. The emotions I feel when so close to nature, life, death, and livelihood, make me want to continue doing `this', forever.