The New Mexico Cattle Raisers Association recently featured my family in an article. I thought it would be a good one to share.
For ranchers like the Dowell family, who operate Dowell Farms in Quay County, Earth Day is not a one-day event, it’s a way of life. Every day across New Mexico, ranchers care for their land and livestock – protecting and developing water, providing wildlife habitat and maintaining the wide open landscapes that our state is known for.
“Environmental stewardship is nothing new for New Mexico’s ranchers,” said Tom Sidwell, New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (NMCGA) President, Quay. “We love what we do and where we live. You would be hard pressed to find a rancher who isn’t focused on sustainability on his or her operation, because we aren’t just looking to keep our operations viable today but for several generations into the future.”
The Dowell family has raised sheep and cattle on their farm and ranch near Tucumcari in northeastern New Mexico since 1958. Located within the Arch Hurley Irrigation Project, the operation includes farmland that is irrigated with water from the Canadian River in good years. A recent five-year span in which no water could be allocated for irrigation due to an ongoing drought was a tough reminder of the value of water, which many urban residents take for granted. “Living in New Mexico, water conservation is simply a way of life,” said Denton Dowell. “We are careful not to take our access to water for granted. This was a stark reminder to our family and to all of those involved in agriculture in our area how important water conservation is.”
Wildlife like mule deer, antelope, wild turkey and quail benefit from stewardship and conservation practices on the Dowell property. Projects like a tree row wind break that was planted in 1960 on the west side of the farmland and participation in the Conservation Reserve Program help the family prevent erosion on their land and create and enhance wildlife habitat. Because of the distance to stores in town and the expense involved in making a trip, most ranchers recycle and/or re-use everything possible and the Dowells are no exception.
“Our land is our greatest resource and what allows us to keep our family farm in business,” Dowell said. “It is an important part of our operation to have a healthy ecosystem in which grazing livestock and healthy wildlife can go hand-in-hand.”
Four generations of the Dowell family have lived and worked on the ranch and farm, learning to respect and love the land, care for animals, to be stewards of their natural resources and to be proud of the work they do from their parents and grandparents, and Tiffany Dowell Lashmet puts a high value on those close family relationships. “We have all learned about ranch life by doing,” she said. “Today, because of the farm business, the family speaks on a daily basis whether it’s a heated conversation about buying a new ram, deciding best to allot our irrigation water, or chatting about the current cattle market.”
The Dowells believe that there is no better way to raise a family than being involved in production agriculture, and passing the ranch, way of life and agricultural heritage on to the next generation is their top priority. “The legacy we would most like to see passed on is a love for the land,” Dowell Lashmet said. “Of course, this operation is a business, so making a profit – or at least attempting to – is important. But if we can raise children who truly love the land and understand the blood, sweat and tears their family has put into this dirt for generations, we will have done our job well.”
The NMCGA has represented the beef industry in New Mexico and the West since 1914 and has members in all 33 of the state’s counties as well as some 14 other states. The Association participates in venues necessary to protect beef producers and private property rights including litigation, state and federal legislation and regulatory affairs. You can visit or join the NMCGA online at http://www.nmagriculture.org.