Aging farmers grapple with new realities when a lifelong ranching operation is transferred. In this column I reflect on what it feels like to no longer be the owner of the land, the livestock and equipment.
Someone once said that we “borrow” land and resources from the next generations. Indigenous peoples talk in terms of thinking and acting as though considering seven generations ahead.
Chief Seattle is reputed to have made a famous speech around the time of a battle between his people and the colonial authorities just after the gold rush days in the Cariboo.
“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
“We cannot simply think of our survival; each new generation is responsible to ensure the survival of the seventh generation… Seven Generations: It’s about seed, it’s about life, the Seventh Generation is about looking ahead, it’s about responsibility.”
Chief Seattle (1780-1866) was prophetic. Seven generations is about 150 years. Looking at the world today that seems like a long time and climate change does not seem to auger well for that far into the future.
As a young warrior, Chief Seattle, after whom the city of Seattle was named, was known for his courage, daring and leadership. He gained control of six of the local tribes and continued the friendly relations with the local whites that had been established by his father. His now famous speech was believed to have been given in December 1854. (Wikipedia).
Nothing in law requires “land-owners” to consider future generations on the land. But our belief system and our “culture” (beliefs and behavior) can certainly influence what we do daily which can beneficially influence following generations who may inherit land to look after.
Most ranchers take seriously and hold fiercely their “rights” to do what they will with the land: buy, sell, cultivate, usually with the objective of making a living or livelihood on that land.
To give up or transfer those perceived rights can be a difficult matter emotionally. If transition or “succession” is to be a success, then it has to feel right. One is not transferring ephemeral things. Land is a living thing with origins going back a very long time.
Which brings me to the animals that live on the land, especially those that we as humans have raised to be in our service for food and maybe for transportation.
We buy and sell animals and we buy and sell land. Hopefully we do so, thinking and acting in a caring manner.
When all is considered in stepping back from running a ranch, what feels the best is when the succeeding generations show at least the level of care we have shown over the generations (twenty years is considered a generation).
Every day that I ride or walk with children and grandchildren tending cattle and horses I think about what their children will be doing. Somehow, I feel that future is in good hands.
This approach to land “ownership” gives me peace of mind.