I’m in D.C. this week. My husband has work meetings and I came along to visit a friend and see the sights. It’s a couple of two-plus hour flights to get here, so I entertained myself by watching some of the free movies Southwest offers. One of them, the inspiring story of the two women whose investigative journalism was the catalyst for the MeToo movement, had me asking the question, “Have I really made any difference in the world? Did I waste my life doing what I did? ”
I ask myself this question every year as the weeds start growing in pastures, knowing that my little invention, a simple method for teaching livestock to eat weeds, is still mostly sitting on the shelf, unused. Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the first time cows were trained to eat Canada thistle, leafy spurge and spotted knapweed. It marked the beginning of a decade of travel for projects and to workshops and conferences to share the steps making it possible for graziers to take advantage of a free, very nutritious forage. It also ensured that, ten years later, On Pasture would be born.
It was never my goal to get rich off this invention. And I’ve certainly accomplished that. I still cringe at the fact that my hourly rate for one project was $2.50/hour. No, money wasn’t the goal. Making life better for farmers and ranchers, that was what I was hoping for. It all seemed so obvious to me: livestock eating weeds, working on controlling them 24-7, while growing fat and making money for producers. What more could anyone want?
I can’t answer that question. But I can tell you that, despite my best efforts, despite giving away all the information I had, very few graziers have adopted the practice.
As we waited for our luggage I told my husband what I was thinking about having wasted my life. He looked at me and smiled. “You are such a goofball!” he said. Then I remembered all the fun I had with the cows, the fine feeling of coming home exhilarated, manure on my pants marking where I’d dropped to my knees to capture video of a cow trying a new weed, and I decided that maybe that was enough. I did love all my time with the cows, and I met some pretty fine people too.
Still, I wouldn’t mind if suddenly the idea of weed-eating livestock made it big. Maybe this will be the year.
Thanks for reading!