As director of the Animal Welfare Approved program, I recently had the opportunity to visit the Arapaho Ranch, in north-central Wyoming. At 580,000 acres, it is the largest USDA certified organic ranch in the U.S. - and one of the most inspiring ranches that I have ever seen. Arapaho Ranch is actually part of its environment, working in harmony with nature, rather than trying to control it. My visit began at the front of the local high school in the town of Thermopolis, where I met with David Stoner, who manages the Arapaho Ranch on behalf of the Tribal Council of the Northern Arapaho Nation. David is one of those people who can say a huge amount with very few words, and as we drove out to the first pasture it quickly became clear that the Arapaho Tribe had struck gold by appointing him to manage their ranch.
Animal Welfare Approved has an annual tradition of thanking the family farmers who work so hard, year in and year out, to produce healthy, safe, humane and environmentally responsible food for our communities. Farming is not an easy job, and we want to encourage AWA friends and followers to take this opportunity to appreciate farmers you know for their contribution to this harvest holiday of Thanksgiving, and throughout the year.
We are not only indebted to farmers for our food itself, but for their careful husbandry of our natural resources. Pasture-based farmers are truly the custodians of the countryside. This method of farming in particular requires an intimate knowledge of the land, the animals and the interaction between the two. The practice of raising animals outdoors, humanely, in pasture- and range-based systems is experiencing a resurgence as we learn about the environmental, social and welfare consequences of conventional farming — and seek an alternative.
This pasture-based alternative is not new; it is in fact the way our ancestors fed themselves for centuries. We are grateful to the farmers in the AWA program, and to all those practicing sustainable farming, for reviving and building on this traditional knowledge to the benefit of us all.
Please take this opportunity, by including a comment below, to share your appreciation for the farmers in your life. You may also comment via Facebook and Twitter (#ThankAWAfarmers). If you are a farmer, tell us about fellow farmer or mentor who has influenced your development or has helped you along the way.
Thanks for your comments and from all of us at Animal Welfare Approved, may you and your family and friends enjoy this Thanksgiving holiday!