Rebecca Krinsky of Slack Farms in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin has been raising sheep for almost 30 years. It’s not an easy job. It requires a mix of physical labor, a vast knowledge of genetics and breeding, and a big heart. This is a profession that calls for many sleepless nights. There will be hard times. Not all lambs make it to adulthood, and that can be heart-wrenching.
But like every farmer has uttered at one time or another, “maybe next year” rings with resilience and dedication to your flock.
“I wish everyone knew just how enjoyable and rewarding it is to see the results after you put in all the hard work. There is no way to explain the joy you get when you work hard to put the right genetics together to raise a better animal than what you currently have and actually succeed. Many people can buy a champion quality animal, but few can raise one.” -Rebecca Krinsky of Slack Farms
All the experience Rebecca has acquired over the years has come with many awards and recognition.
From 4-H and FFA, she’s won several of the following:
state and national champions
showmanship championships on state and national levels
states and national FFA degrees
Rebecca’s won state fair championships in the following states:
Rebecca has also won many National Breed Champions and has been the groomer/handler for 2 National Supreme Champions at the North American International Livestock Expo.
Now Rebecca runs workshops in several states to coach youth on their sheep projects. In these clinics, she covers basic maintenance, grooming techniques, feeding, breeding and showmanship. She’ll often work on individual levels to further their personal skills as they navigate farming at a young age.
Rebecca is passionate about helping beginners, with no prior experience, get to state and national competitions.
“I like to help families who think that they can’t afford to have champion quality sheep by creating a plan so that they can find a way with the right guidance.” -Rebecca Krinsky of Slack Farms
If you purchase any lambs from Slack Farm, Rebecca is now offering a free clinic to ensure every customer has the information and skills they need to successfully raise sheep.
“First time sheep owners should seek out information from current breeders to help find the right breed for them. Different breeds require different housing, grooming, and feeding routines. No two breeds are exactly the same. If you do your research, there will be one breed that will fit your personality, needs, and wants better than the others. If you pick the right one to start out with, you will be hooked and possibly find other breeds to connect with over time.” -Rebecca Krinsky of Slack Farms
At just 7 years old, Rebecca began her work with the Suffolk breed. Over the years her herd has expanded to also include Hampshire, Dorper and Oxford breeds.
“Raising sheep can be a great experience for so many reasons. The memories and the time you spend together is something very special and will last a lifetime. Sheep are very reasonable in price to raise and maintain compared to many other animals. Their temperaments are great and they all have their own personalities. Sheep are very smart and easy to train through repetition.” -Rebecca Krinsky of Slack Farms
The epicenter of Rankin Ranch lies in a valley of Walker’s Basin, just outside the tiny town of Caliente, California. The cattle ranch has been in operation for over 155 years—and remained in the Rankin family the entirety of its existence. Six generations have sweat over the vast acreage they call home (31,000 acres to be exact).
In 1863, Walker Rankin established the property. Years prior, the Pittsburgh native felt called to the West, and luckily enough, found success in the California gold fields. All the hard work and dedication he and his wife, Lavinia, poured into the land left a lasting impression that would extend from their children, to their grandchildren, and so on. Walker is even credited with being the first to bring purebred Hereford cattle to the region.
After his passing, Lavinia continued to run the ranch.
“Her family came across the plains by covered wagon to settle in California when she was a young girl. This pioneering spirit carried through her long life of 100 years and 4 months. During this time, she saw so many changes with transportation transitioning from horse and buggy to seeing planes fly. She was a very progressive woman and owned one of the first cars in the area. My great-great grandfather, had little interest in traveling by car and preferred to ride his horse. But Nana would travel to her grandsons’ football games and take a car full of kids with her to cheer on the team…Her longevity and adaptation to the many changes that she experienced are admirable.” -Amanda Barrett
The expanse of all that has been accomplished on Rankin Ranch piles high. Many have been involved with the Kern County Cattlemen and Cattlewomen’s orgainzations. The honor of Cattlewoman of The Year has been bestowed on Helen Rankin in 1988, Glenda Rankin in 2008, and Amanda Rankin in 2013. Amanda was also selected to be a National Beef Ambassador is 2007, allowing her to travel around the US and speak about the beef they raise.
Rankin Ranch also serves as a Dude Ranch, with mountain cabins and the opportunity to experience the cowpoke lifestyle. A wide range of activities from horseback riding to fishing to feeding farm animals to square dancing are on the agenda each day. It was developed by Helen Rankin in 1965 as a way to diversify the family business and take the edge off their dependence on the ever volatile cattle market.
“My grandfather, Leroy (grandson of Walker and Lavinia), had passed away unexpectedly in 1954 and my grandmother, Helen, found herself with a difficult decision to make, should she keep the ranch or sell it? Many people advised her to sell, as there were not many cattle ranches run by women at that time. She chose to honor our family’s legacy and learn how to manage the cattle ranch. Less than 10 years later she began building our guest ranch facilities. She was ahead of her time in the field of agritourism and inviting ‘city slickers’ to experience life on the ranch. Through her hard work and determination, she established our guest ranch which has been in operation for over 50 years. We now have 3rd generation Rankin Ranch guests. One family celebrated their 50th year visiting the ranch in 2018.” -Amanda Barrett
Shelby Newman started full time at Rankin Ranch in 2017 after graduating from the University of Montana Western with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Natural Horsemanship. Before that, she spent her summers working with the Rankins.
“I would say that my job title is a secretary…but not the kind of ‘secretary’ that everyone thinks of. My job varies greatly from day to day and you never know what you might end up doing. In the case of Rankin Ranch, titles don’t mean much and no title is more or less important than another.” -Shelby Newman
On any given day, Shelby may have responsibilities to manage in the office like answering emails or helping guests. On other occasions should could be out in the pastures wrangling horses or being a camp counselor to the visiting children, many of whom are experiencing ranch life for the first time.
Marie Myllyla has spent the past few summers working at Rankin Ranch. Earlier this year, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls with a BS in Animal Science and an emphasis in Equine Science.
“The best part of working on a ranch are the horses. I wouldn’t have had a job if it weren’t for those horses. They work hard day in and day out. They don’t complain. You’ll find one you get along with well and that really makes for a good day working with them 10+ hours. You get to know what they want, they get to know what you want.” -Marie Myllayla
“After graduating from Cal Poly in 2008 and returning home, I had an interest in selling our own beef. My time as a National Beef Ambassador had opened my eyes more to the ‘beef’ side of our business. This idea was not something new, as the family had considered it over the years. My father and I had many conversations about it before taking the leap in March 2014.
It has been an exciting adventure, with lots of learning along the way. We sell our beef here at the ranch to guests and the local community. We also travel to neighboring communities for Farmers’ Markets. We have earned a loyal following of repeat customers who love Rankin Ranch beef. Our beef is all natural, grass fed and grain finished. The beef is aged at the butcher shop for 21 days before cutting up into delicious steaks, roasts, and more. We are very proud of the quality of our beef with everything grading high choice to prime.” -Amanda Barrett
“The best part about my job, that is an easy one… the people! The Rankin family is one in a million. From Bill and Glenda Rankin (Nana and Papa, as I know them) to all eight cousins in the 6th generation and everyone in between. Everyone is kind, genuine, knowledgeable, inviting, and so much more.” -Shelby Newman
“Growing up on the ranch I learned the value of a positive work ethic and teamwork at a very young age. As children, we were always included in the day’s work and learned what it takes to keep the ranch running. My parents also emphasized the value of respect. You respect others, the land, and the livestock. When you give respect, you will often get it in return.” -Amanda Barrett (pictured below with her father, Bill)
Horse Etiquette to Remember from Marie Myllayla
Your horse dictates what you’re going to work on for that day. If you start your day thinking, “we’re going to work on leads,” you and your horse are going to struggle.
Recognize the slightest response and reward it.
Consistency is key with training – present a cue the same way every time. I think a horse’s best quality is their try. You find a way to get desire and try out of your horse and you really can’t ask for anything more.
Shelby and Marie herding cattle with the modern-day help of a helicopter.
Meet Elizabeth Henric. She’s farmed all over the world. Now she works at Amalthea Dairy Farm in Montana.
“There are so many things I love about working at Amaltheia—seeing my friends every day, greeting the animals, early mornings with snow capped mountain sunrises. I think most of all I love working outside and getting my hands dirty.” -Farmer Elizabeth Henric
“I feel so blessed to have a job that I can have her with me. That being said, it was also very challenging. I could not have any expectations for the day. Some days we’d work one hour and it would be really stressful. Other days we’d work 5 and it would be a breeze. I had to time my tasks to meet her needs. Some things were only possible once she was napping on my back. Sometimes she would fall asleep easily without a fuss. Other times we had to go out for a long walk before she’d relax enough to close her eyes. There were days when we’d be at the farm for four hours but only get a couple hours of work done. I’d get frustrated but remind myself that spending time with her is just as important as my work.” -Elizabeth Henric
Elizabeth’s advice to others interested in farming,
“Don’t wait! Don’t wait till you live in the perfect place or you’re able to buy land or you have enough money or whatever excuse! Find ways to be in nature and work with plants and animals, whether it be volunteering at a local farm, putting a few plants in the ground or in a pot at your house, or like I did—make a list of some of the things you want to learn and work seasonally, traveling to different farms to learn those things.” -Elizabeth Henric
“We have had our farm for over 20 years. We love the Bozeman area and our goats get to enjoy beautiful scenery and seasons we have here. It’s beautiful every day.The best thing about what we do is to provide nutritious, delicious organic goat cheeses, pork, and vegetables to people. Those people appreciate being able to get great food and are thankful. It is a symbiotic relationship.
We have been making cheese for 17 years, certified organic for 12 years. We are sustainable farmers and try to utilize all of our resources and byproducts responsibly. We use the whey from the cheese to feed organic hogs and compost and use all of our manure for fields and gardens.
We sell our cheese in Montana, Western states, and on the east and west coasts to stores and restaurants.” -Sue Brown, Owner of Amaltheia Dairy Farm
“To be raised in a barn is the most fulfilling childhood I could possibly imagine. Yes, it’s a lot of hard work; but you develop a close-knit relationship with animals and nature. And my parents’ ideals of organic, home grown food for their children has definitely been instilled in my brother and myself. We are blessed to be able to continue to develop and hone-in our farming and cheese making skills into the future. My brother and I hope to take the reigns and continue to provide our community with farm-fresh, organic products.
It is a challenge everyday to balance work and home life. But, it is truly fulfilling at the end of the day to know everything that you do impacts your family and their well-being. We are beyond blessed to have a family that is capable of finding that balance with one another.
I love working with my family. My mom is the hardest working person I know, so to be able to keep up with her is a challenge in itself. My parents are incredibly thoughtful, hard-working and intelligent. I look up to them in so many ways, and they are the reason I love what I do.” -Sarah Brown
“My favorite part of this farm is how recycled the resources and byproducts are. The manure is collected from the pens and spread in the fields to nourish the soil which grows the vegetables as well as hay and straw for the animals. The whey from the cheese is fed to the pigs and they go crazy for it. The outcome being the food we produce, which we eat to nourish our bodies so we can continue to work the land. It is a pretty great cycle. And the piglets. I love watching them!” -Karen Page
“I wish everyone knew how involved it is to grow organically and how closely we interact with each and every plant. I have thought often about tracking how many times we touch each plant, from seeding to weeding to harvest and packing for sale. Our personal farming techniques involve a fair amount of time crawling around in the soil and making sure our little plants are thriving. Small scale organic vegetable production is ultimately a labor of love, and everyone should be a little more involved with where their food is coming from, and be supportive of organic and local agriculture in your community.” -Karen Page
Hey y’all. I’m Jennifer Martinez, a native Texan and a Kansas City resident. Carhartt sponsors this blog in all its girl powered goodness, enabling me to travel around the US searching for women with awesome jobs that are tough and dirty. I get to know them, photograph them as they work, and share their stories with you. Let’s defy stereotypes, show what us girls are capable of doing, and we’ll do our best to get crafty along the way.
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