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Telling the Ag Story

Written by Christy Hemken
    “My name is Ree. I’m a desperate housewife, and I live in the country.”
    That’s how Ree Drummond describes herself on her blog, thepioneerwoman.com. After growing up in town, living in California and dreaming of Chicago, Drummond married a cattle rancher from Oklahoma’s grasslands.
   In the last few years the concept of “telling agriculture’s story” has come up more frequently in response to increasing attacks on the industry. It’s inspired conference themes like “Lead out Loud: Voices of the Livestock Industry” and “The Faces of Agriculture,” to name a couple.
    The main point of this push is to put reality out there for the American public. We all know the negative viewpoint of animal rights groups. They spread one side of information to people who don’t know a second side exists.
    I don’t think it was Drummond’s goal when she started the blog, but the city-girl-turned-ranch-wife behind the Pioneer Woman is putting family ranch life and production agriculture into a very popular public spotlight, and she’s doing it through casual stories of everyday ranch life, brilliant photography and simple cooking.
    Daily she shows the reality of life on a ranch, and that her family’s cattle graze in green open pastures, the cowboys start early and finish late but love their job and her four kids have a blast growing up with horses, cattle, dogs and hay bales.
    For starters, she summarizes five basic things found on a working cattle ranch: prolapse – “If you’ve never seen one, consider yourself lucky;” cows and calves – “The cutest part of our ranching operation;” chopping ice – “We have to do it throughout the winter or the animals will have no water;” prairie fires – “Some are intentional, some aren’t;” and fighting bulls – “Always an effective study in male behavior.”
    I didn’t realize how popular her blog was until I noticed that some of her giveaways draw thousands of entries, and every bookstore she visited on her recent cookbook tour had long lines waiting to meet her.
    I think what’s even more important than the number is the demographic she attracts, which is mostly young married women with small children – those who are and will be making choices about what their family will eat for many years to come.
    I had a chance to browse a copy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks this week, and it’s filled with colorful photos of her kids climbing fences, her husband and his crew sorting cattle and “plenty of cows,” as she says. And beef.
    And, as of mid-December, it’s second on the New York Times Best-Seller List in the “Hardcover Advice” category. Imagine how many copies will distribute as Christmas gifts by the first of the New Year.
    I don’t think the ag industry could ask for any more in positive publicity. It’s coming from an unlikely city girl, but one who’s passionate about life on a ranch and readily shares all that she loves about living where she does.
    Also, many thanks to those of you who have offered kind congratulations to me as Jennifer moves on from the Roundup. I look forward to seeing you all around as Heather and I settle into our new jobs here at the paper.
Christy