Heather Hamilton

Heather Hamilton

We are pleased to feature Heather Hamilton a Wyoming Rancher and passionate agvocate for agriculture! 

I am a rancher from Eastern Wyoming who is also a journalist and photographer. I grew up on a cattle and sheep operation, and enjoy living and working on the operation today with my parents and siblings. I feel very blessed to have cohesively blended my personal interests into a career and lifestyle I love! 

I am originally from the Black Hills in Northeastern Wyoming, where my family has ranched since the 1930?s, but grew up in northern Niobrara County in Eastern Wyoming, located about 35 miles into Wyoming from where the South Dakota/Nebraska line meets the state. This area is semi-arid, and grows short, hard grasses that are very nutrient dense. Total annual precipitation is less than 12 inches, and it takes between 30 and 50 acres to run a cow for a year here.

My family operates a cow/calf and yearling operation. My dad and brother also have a hay and livestock hauling business, and my mom has a mobile record and document destruction business. I work on the ranch daily, and as a freelance writer for multiple regional, national and international ag publications, plus I?m a photographer. I am the only family member who can complete my second job from home most of the time. Consequently, I end up doing a lot of the daily ranch tasks, which I love!

My family also believes strongly in being involved and actively serving your community, and I currently serve on the Wyoming Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee (YF&R) and involved in the U.S. Cattlemen?s Association (USCA). Through both organizations I have lobbied for agriculture in both Wyoming and Washington D.C., and through the YF&R Committee am able to go into elementary school classrooms to educate youth about agriculture face to face. I feel one of the biggest threats facing agriculture today is a heavy handed over empowered federal government with no practical understanding of agriculture, or numerous other critically important industries and jobs, in our country.

Ranching is in my blood. My earliest memories involve working cattle and haying with my family. I bought my first cow at 8 years old from my grandfather, and fell in love with raising cattle. I?m the sixth generation of my family to choose ranching as my primary profession, after going to college and trying my hand at an 8-5 job. I love the lifestyle, and the worst day ranching beats the best day at a desk for me. I believe that God chose agriculture for me, and I?m very grateful for his thoughtfulness.

Our typical day on the ranch varies by season. In the winter my typical day revolves around feeding and checking water for our cattle. Then I fill out the remainder of my day with writing projects or other odd jobs around the ranch. My father and brother are gone a lot hauling hay in the winter months, so my mom and I coordinate our schedules to make sure the livestock are cared for every day.

In March we start calving and say goodbye to having a set schedule of any kind except for making sure to check heifers every four hours. Each family member takes a night shift, and I spend a lot of time each day tagging calves, sorting pairs out of the calving lot, writing ear tags, and other calving related jobs.

In late spring we are busy branding, sorting and shipping to summer pasture. Furthermore, we also haul a lot of other people?s livestock this time of year. Then we have to get the bulls turned out on June 15.

From there we dive into summer projects, which typically involve a lot of fencing and fixing water. This year we are planning to rebuild our calving lot, rebuild a couple line fences, clean the corral and haul some gravel to various water tanks, to give you some examples of ?the list.? I also have three weddings to photograph. The writing slows down, but doesn't stop during the summer months, and I work that in too.

In the fall our cattle get a lot of attention again. We ship everything home, wean and get our calves on feed, preg check all the cows and get everything situated for winter. After weaning I will spend a lot of each day feeding calves and making sure they don?t get sick. If anyone does get sick, I am usually the head doctorer, and have a set-up that works well with just one person. It also works great when I have a family member to help me : )
My favorite thing about living on a ranch is the all-encompassing set of experiences it allows me to live. It?s that I get to spend my day doing something I love with my family; working hard and seeing the fruits of our labor. I love the feeling of being physically drained after a hard day?s work, but having had so much fun doing the tasks that it didn?t feel like work at all. Furthermore, I love animals. Caring for animals in ways most people don?t realize or understand, let alone experience, is something I get to enjoy daily, and I don?t take that lightly. 

I wish people outside of agriculture would understand what it really means when we say, ?the cattle come first.? That would eliminate so many issues we face in agriculture today by consumers who are multiple generations removed from the farm or ranch, and who simply do not understand our means or methods.

Also, it?s not a job, it?s a lifestyle. We don?t do it for money, or for something to fill our days. It goes much deeper than that.

I am driven by the entire scope of what I get to do, which is difficult to put into words. There?s the fact that it?s constantly changing, that I have a job that is satisfying and rewarding and challenging, that it?s easy to see the wonders of God when you make your living off his land, that my co-workers are my family, and that we have worked together to create everything we have today. I also get to see the results of over 100 years of my forefathers working toward what my immediate and extended family has today, and that is incredibly inspiring. I can trace my ranching heritage back numerous decades, across multiple states, and through various breeds of cattle. It?s a history of honest, hardworking, faith-based people who I am honored to call my family. 

I am also very driven by the lack of understanding by the general public in regard to agriculture, and want to show them how wonderful and important our industry is in an accurate manner. I work to do my part in this through my blog, lobbying and speaking endeavors. In my opinion, most people want to know the truth, but when all they read online or in the paper, or hear on TV, is negative, pretty soon they believe that?s how it is. I have the ability to show the real story, and a lot of great people support and back my efforts to make it happen. That?s also why I think this Faces of Agriculture blog is such a great idea; it shows people who we really are and what we?re really all about. A big thank you to Elizabeth for including me in the Faces of Agriculture blog, I really appreciate it!

Thanks Heather for the great feature! You can read more about Heather's ranch life, views on agricultural issues and photography on her blog, Double H Photography and on Facebook.

Do you have a passion for agriculture? We need to hear from folks who love their way of life! Share your story on Faces of Agriculture!! If you would like to be a featured farmer leave a comment below - or check out our contact page. To learn more about the Faces of Agriculture Project click here.

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