Cattlewomen Work To Preserve A Treasured Way Of Life
By Debra Hasbrouck
Photos Courtesy of Plumas-Sierra Cattlewomen
March is National Women’s History Month, which makes it the perfect time to recognize a rarely acknowledged group of ladies, ranching women. The vital role that these women played in American History doesn’t usually get much attention. Whether they were juggling the never-ending list of household chores and demands of motherhood, or working side by side with the men in their family…they were, and still are, an integral part of American ranch life.
Throughout history these women typically possessed a deep understanding of that special bond between ranchers, the animals entrusted to them and the land that sustained them all. Preserving that exceptional relationship and treasured way of life has become more challenging in modern times.
One local organization dedicated to maintaining that ranching lifestyle, is the Plumas-Sierra Cattlewomen. According to Pat Ramelli, a vibrant Sierra Valley cattle- woman and member since 1972, “the group was formed in 1966 by forty-four rancher’s wives who wanted to be more involved in the cattle industry.” Originally called the CowBelles, they changed their name to Plumas-Sierra Cattlewomen (PSCW) in 1988.
Pat stated that since 1966 their membership has more than doubled – with women who share a basic objective to “preserve ranching, promote the welfare of the livestock industry and to stimulate the growth of agriculture and allied fields.” Over the years, members have created several programs to help achieve their goals through communication and education.
In our current culture, many people, especially children, have become out of touch with the basic concept of where their food comes from. PSCW members are determined to keep “Ag in the Classroom” by visiting schools to help future generations understand and appreciate agriculture. They do many activities including crafting “water cycle” brace- lets, making butter and cooking healthy beef recipes. A favorite with children is when a member reads ranching books while dressed up as Annie Oakley, a Western woman who made her mark in history as a master sharp shooter.
One of the most popular events for students is the PSCW annual “Ranch Day,” which has been held at the Goss Ranch in Sierra Valley for the past thirty years. Local schoolchildren have an opportunity to experience “hands on” activities at a working ranch. There are five stations: a hay ride emphasizing the history of the ranch while viewing livestock, a chicken and egg cycle demonstration, a sheepdog exhibition, a brand station and a “beef by-products board” where kids are often amazed at how many common, everyday items come from cattle and learn that “99% of every beef animal is put to use.”
The group’s commitment to education doesn’t stop there. In 1977 they made their first hand-embroidered “Brand Quilt” to raise money for agri- cultural student scholarships. That first year they gave $200 to a Greenville student and in 2014 the program was able to award a total of $7,000 in scholarships. PSCW members make the quilt, portraying the Cowbelle logo in the center square, with local brands filling the remaining seventy-nine squares. Raffle tickets for the quilt are sold through- out the year and the drawing is held in November. Tickets can be purchased by contacting PSCW through their website or from their booth at the Plumas County Fair in Quincy.
In 1973, as a way to help fund their projects, the group started selling unique napkins depicting local, registered brands. Due to immense popularity and demand, they have added placemats, mugs, and wine glasses over the years. These are available for purchase on their website along with many other items including their “Brands of the West” book, aprons and cloth shopping bags.
For almost fifty years the Plumas-Sierra CattleWomen have found creative ways of educating and encouraging our youth, so that they might appreciate the importance of agriculture and perhaps consider a future in this rewarding way of life. Through communication with the general public, they continue to develop a better under- standing about the value of ranching and an awareness of the tremendous responsibility that ranchers embrace, as caring stewards of this precious land that sustains us.
For more information about PSCW,
visit their website at www.plumassierracattlewomen.org.
More beef recipes can be found on the California CattleWomen’s website at www.cattlewomen.org.