Elena Miller-ter Kuile – Cultural Legacy on a Colorado Sheep Ranch

Shepherdess, mother, and generational farmer Elena Miller- ter Kuile tells us more about the history of her family’s operation, Cactus Hill Farm in La Jara, CO. She explains how she revived the sheep operation and developed a fiber business, with eyes on a direct-market lamb enterprise. Her family also helps run the farm operation with alfalfa, grains, and vegetables. Motherhood on the ranch has presented challenges, as well as sexism and racism, but Elena encourages other young people in regenerative agriculture to keep pursuing their dreams, and ignore the haters.

Content Warning: We get a little graphic in our conversation regarding animal and human birthing processes. (But it really gave us a good laugh!)

Find Elena and Cactus Hill Farm on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo credit to Christi Bode


Music attribution:
Wanderlust by Scott Buckley | www.scottbuckley.com.au

Show Notes:

00:45 Taylor Muglia introduces the episode with Elena Miller-ter Kuile, a rancher, a mother, and a generational farmer at Cactus Hill Farm in La Jara, Colorado, and an overview of what is raised and sold on the farm.
1:37 Elena’s introduction
3:06 Her experience growing up on family ranch, land acknowledgements, land history and family history
5:31 What her business looks like today, future plans, products sold, Cactus Hill Farm’s website, Instagram, and Facebook page
7:55 What breeds were historically raised and what breeds are chosen today
12:28 The benefits of raising a variety of sheep breeds
13:12 The history of the farm’s name, the vision behind it, their management philosophy and future goals, and working through succession planning
17:12 Advocating for the environment and farm management decisions for climate change
18:55 Education and working with young people, fostering the next generation of stewards
21:10 Her process of fiber production and management challenges and successes
25:36 Her process from shearing to sellable product and her partnership Yampa Valley Fiber Works 
28:43 How her organic grains enterprise is developing and her future plans for that enterprise
30:47 Her suggested resources, books, and training programs
35:00 The importance of learning from other producers and building connections
40:55 Developing confidence as a producer and creating a web of support
43:20 The reality versus perception of agriculture and the importance of developing tangible relationships with food producers
45:35 What it’s like to be a mother while ranching
48:11 Her balance of work and ranch life with motherhood
52:44 A story about parenting on a farm and multitasking
56:05 Her advice for BIPOC beginning farmers and ranchers and guidance on finding and owning your spot in agriculture
1:04.55 How to learn more about her farm at Cactus Hill Farm
1:05.16 Job announcements: applications are open for Rogue Farm Corps’ sustainable farms internships and apprenticeships www.roguefarmcorps.org, Cabarton Ranch is looking for a ranch hand, for more information email monica.gokey@gmail.com, sign up for our newsletter at newagrarian@quiviracoalition.org 
1:07.35 A tidbit with Zach Withers at  Polk’s Folly 


If you’d like to support this podcast, visit quiviracoalition.org/podcasts to become a sponsor or patreon supporter.

More Ways to Listen


More Episodes

Episode 10 – Geoffrey Van Wants You To Run the Numbers

Episode 10 – Geoffrey Van Wants You To Run the Numbers

Geoffrey Van Wants You To Run the Numbers Quivira Coalition's Taylor Muglia sits down with Geoffrey Van, Program Director of the Changing Hands Program at Rogue Farm Corps. Geoffrey talks about a childhood surrounded by concrete in Hong Kong, then moving to the US and...

read more