My name is Jessica Anderson, wife to the Cow Boss, Spencer Anderson, blogger, and lover of calf brandings. We have been married 10 years, together 13. Together we operate Anderson Cattle Company. We are primarily a cow-calf operation and we run age and source verified cattle that are part of the Non Hormone Treated and Antibiotic free program. We are planning to GAP certify our herd as well. The newest growth for us has been the addition of our 2A Beef, a boxed beef program that I am launching this spring. This has been a dream of mine for about the last 5 or 6 years, and it has finally come true.
My day job includes being a program educator for the Cooperative Extension which consists of outreach education for the extension so I am usually traveling to school sites around the state or hosting beginning farmers and ranchers workshops. I am also still very passionate about high school ag education, so I work with the state ag education folks and help out with various events and projects there as well. We currently live in Smith Valley, and run cattle in California and Nevada. Town is about 30 miles away and I joined Nevada CattleWomen’s in 2015 when we transplanted here from Northern California. Prior to moving I was a High School Agriculture Teacher and fell in love with ag education of any kind. I believe we need to share our stories about ranching and agriculture to keep it alive. My motto is “Never have I met a stranger.” With an unshakeable belief in the future of agriculture, I hope to inspire and encourage everyone I meet to learn more about ranching and farming.
As for the ranch wife duties, it is definitely early mornings, late nights, and weekends! Depending on the season, I help out with feeding cows, calving, gathering, processing, and shipping with blogging and business duties wedged in the cracks. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
As much as it seems that to be in this industry, you had to be born in it, I was most definitely not. I grew up with horses and 4-H, but no cattle. For whatever reason, when I entered college, I just knew that I needed to marry a cowboy, raise cattle, and live on a ranch. Seems cliché, I know. Call it divine intervention, a whispering of purpose, a calling… Not really sure, but I can remember the day, like it was yesterday when I knew that was what I was meant to do. The road to this lifestyle definitely has come with its twists and turns, but here we are.
My husband on the other hand, knew it from the moment he was born. Although he didn’t grow up in a ranching family, he has cowboyed for the last 20 years. When we met, we always talked about owning our own. They say timing has everything to do with the outcome of a rain dance, and that has definitely been the case for us. After we left family, friends, and all we knew in California, the dream of owning our own cattle became a reality for us in fall 2016. Our proudest moment was when we bought our first load of cows. There is no feeling quite like it; Pride, excitement, anxiousness, nervousness, overwhelm, humbled, blessed… I could go on forever. Nothing has ever been quite like watching that truck roll in and back up to the loading chute and watching those ladies unload. The loads thereafter were exciting too, but nothing quite like the first one. Honestly, call me crazy, but I LOVE working cattle with my husband. There is no place I’d rather be. Now that doesn’t mean I haven’t walked off and left him mid gather, or locked the keys in the pick-up, or run cattle through the fence to be followed by a hind-end rearrangement, or slipped the clutch while feeding and thrown him off the feed wagon, or that he hasn’t made me wade through waist deep water to take a rope off a huffy cow, or…. You get where I am going…... Honestly it makes for great stories and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My advice for these tense situations- don’t take yourself or any of it too seriously. Grow an extra layer of skin, and if all else fails, just laugh. Ranching, cattle, and being married to a Cow Boss isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is darn sure worth it. Enjoy the little moments; those deep conversations while calving heifers, or long drives to pick up bulls, or eating at the sale yard on a Tuesday. Rather than focusing on the negative, shift your perspective and focus on all that are your blessings. Not very many women get the pleasure of working beside their spouse. I am sure some wives would rather not! If it is something you long for, then just enjoy it. I know it is something I can’t wait to solely do, but for now, I appreciate the town job and relish every minute I get to do the ranch wife’n.
Sometimes, I say it with trepidation that we are first generation ranchers. As new “owners” in the industry, it hasn’t always been the way we imagined. What I can say is those who have stood alongside us in this journey are the true heroes of the sport. Their encouragement, love, and support are what keep the industry alive. With more and more families leaving ranching, who is going to step up and do it for the future generations? We will! We will do it with passion, because we love it; every aspect of it. What I do know, is since our story is somewhat different than most in this industry, I think embracing and sharing just that, is part of our purpose. I want to encourage every person I meet, to chase that dream. Chase it without caution. I want to never meet a stranger and tell our story with conviction. I want to encourage new comers with the same grace that has been shown to us while we have been starting out. Rather than hiding in embarrassment of not being born into ranching, I want to embrace it and share it with others, so they will chase their dreams too. Once I let go of the “image” I created for myself of what it looked like to be a rancher, and started living the story I was meant to, great things have happened. In a few short years, we have bought cattle, grown our operation, have included the boxed beef venture, learned, grown, researched, networked, and plan to keep growing.
My most favorite thing about ranch life is the life style; it’s the long days and short nights, it’s the cold weather and heat, it’s the long hours and the smell of the early morning or dew on the sage brush. It’s seeing the hard work you put in pay off. It’s believing in something that built this country. It’s raising a family in a way that instills hard work, perseverance, and kindness. Branding Season is by far my favorite time of year, but I equally love calving season too. You gotta have calving season in order to enjoy branding season. I love branding season mostly for the camaraderie; Helping your neighbors out and visiting with people, laughing, storytelling and good times. It makes the long lonesomeness of winter worth it come spring time. And of course the roping! Roping is so fun! It’s a place to show off your skill and passion. Those fancy shots you work on all year in the doctoring pasture, now get to be brought to town. Branding time is fun time.
The hardest thing about ranch life is all the unknowns. Weather, disease, predators, leases etc. It’s knowing that you have to be flexible and willing to go with the flow. Remember, I was a teacher, planning is what I do. I have come to learn that no amount of planning or preparation can really prepare you for what can and will happen. You can “think” all your duck’s are in a row, and then BAM, one just flies off. So for me, that has been the biggest challenge. Although it has been a challenge, I have learned to trust it because even in the face of hardship, lies opportunity. They are these beautiful gifts wrapped up in work clothes. Sometimes at the moment, it seems like the end of the world, but a year later you look back and think “man, I am actually glad that happened”. It makes you work harder, it makes you keep trying and pushing for more. It’s what I have come to learn is a part of ranching.
In my honest, humble opinion and being relatively new to all of this, I don’t think you can ever be prepared 100%. You can think you are and do everything in your being to be prepared, but at the end of the day you gotta just go with the flow. Roll with the punches, and trust the Big Man has a better plan. I’ve adopted the motto, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape!”
To say our stresses are more burdensome than someone who lives in an urban setting, is probably not fair. I would say they are just different. I know I couldn’t survive in the city, and I am sure a city dweller would say the same for ranch life. I don’t think one is more stressful than the other, just different. Though they be different lifestyles, stress is stress. It just depends if you prefer it wrapped in cow poop or fast moving taxis.
We have to share our story. People want to know where their food comes from and how it is raised, now more than ever. I think this is a good thing. It is a way to show what we do and the love and pride that goes into it. It helps people who are removed from the ranch and farm life have a better understanding of and compassion for the challenges we face.
If I could leave you with just one parting though it would be- Just do it. If the desire was placed in your heart to be in the ag industry, go for it. It was put there for a reason. Trust your heart! God wouldn’t allow it, if it wasn’t meant to be. Do your homework, research, learn, intern, read, and never stop learning. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and for help.
Quiet all the background noise, whether it be from your own doubts or from those who do not understand why you are wanting to start ranching. Don’t let someone tell you, YOU CAN’T, who doesn’t have the power to tell you, YOU CAN. Be kind to yourself and have grace. You will make mistakes, it’s inevitable. Mistakes and failures are how we grow. Like Winston Churchill says, “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”. To make it, you just gotta keep getting back up. Nothing will be harder than the first few years. Be firm in your goals but flexible in your path to reaching them. It’s better to have risked it all and give it your best, then to have gotten to the end of your life and wish you would have tried.