Thursday, June 13, 2024
HomeGrazing ManagementHow to Get City Folks to Understand and Support Farmers and Ranchers

How to Get City Folks to Understand and Support Farmers and Ranchers

It’s a common complaint among ag producers: “Those city folk don’t understand us and they don’t even know where their food comes from!” We all talk about it, but, what are we doing about it?

In this week’s article collection I have an example of someone doing something about it by running his own “City Folk Pasture Walk.” Then I add some suggestions for how you can get started.

In a somewhat related vein, the reprinted piece from High Country News gives you an idea of some of the information that’s getting out there about grazing, and I add a little perspective to it with my piece as an example of the behind the scenes information that folks don’t always get.


John Marble’s City Folk Pasture walk.

Not only is his effort at being a “vector of change” a great first step at bridging the divide between farm and city, it’s also a lot of fun. This year’s pasture walk will be held in June with “Thousand Friends of Oregon” staff visiting to learn more about ranching and cattle.

Walking the Walk, Talking the Talk: Our 2018 Ranch Walk-About

What John is doing is what worked for me for years when I was at the Bureau of Land Management helping folks talk through controversial issues: Invite a wide assortment of people with different backgrounds and points of view, walk around outdoors, see the land through each others eyes, and most importantly EAT together.

Here are some ways you can get started:

Put together a list of folks to invite.
Like John, you can find these folks at events you attend. You can add folks to the list that have shown interest. You can ask friends, or local organizations that are looking for something interesting for their membership to do. When you send out your invite, let them know what to expect. (Here’s John’s invite as an example.)

Start small to grow big.
You don’t have to have a huge number of people. You want a group that’s large enough to be diverse in opinions and experiences, yet small enough that you can interact with each of them at some point along the way.

Listen and ask questions.
This is a little like a date. Help your visitors to share their own expertise and to see themselves as part of the place that they’re visiting. Help the inner-farmer/rancher/child that lives in all of us to step out and have fun.

Think ahead about logistics.
Where will they go to the bathroom? What will they drink? Do they have sunscreen and snacks? (People forgot water, sunscreen and snacks on so many of the BLM outings I took them on that I always carried a too heavy pack full of these things. Ultimately I got myself a pack-goat to carry the supplies for me. But that’s another story.)

What will they eat?
It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just being outdoors and eating with each other is what you’re looking for. It gives people time to sit and consider, laugh, and ask questions. Eating together, more than anything else I’ve done in this area, is what brings people together.

Here’s my set up for a lunch with ranchers thinking about teaching their cows to eat weeds. A deli chicken meal, some cupcakes made up to look like cows, and a shade structure made with old sheets, some t-posts and my truck completed the party.

33% of Federal Rangelands Are in Failing Health Due to Livestock Grazing

This week High Country News reported on results from a report showing that rangelands in the West are not all meeting health standards. I offer some perspective to add to the story.

Federal grazing lands fail their checkup

It’s Not Easy Being a BLM Range Conservationist

And the Funnies!

This Kind of Mud Season Pugging Is OK

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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.


  1. We’ve got a small farm store and are open on weekends. To get from the parking area to the store is a short walk past the winter corrals, we can see the sheep grazing in their cells out on the pasture and we also go past where I keep chickens when we raise birds. The short trip gives me a chance to ask and answer questions. We also arrange for larger tour groups in coordination with our local , orchards, vineyards, B&Bs and Wineries. Several of us team up so that visitors can tour the valley gathering food for their dinner and then cook at the B&Bs that have kitchen facilities with each group of rooms. We have several open house days where anyone can stop by get samples of our meat, shop for meat or wool products and also a more detailed farm tour.

    Our farm has 5 different solar systems in addition to the main one of the grass feeding the sheep so we are also a tour stop for Solar Energy International for their classes. We have 3 separate solar PV systems and are a net power producer of electricity. We have also reduced our need for propane for heat by using solar hot air and solar hot water in the shop building and main house respectively.

    Being open for farm tours can be draining when radical vegan or vegetarian people come and harass us but there are also the upsides when folks who formerly were vegetarians decide to start eating a bit of our meat because they know about it and can see what we are doing to be both humane and environmentally responsible.

    It’s hard work to be open on a regular basis but is critical to our farm success.

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