On June 25, 2015, the Boys and Girls club of Sacramento headed out to Yolo Land and Cattle Co. for a day filled with fun, laughter, and sunshine courtesy of Raley’s. When we first arrived, the kids clambered out of the bus the second they were allowed, gathering around the tables, eyes wide as they took in the ranch headquarters. After a quick introduction, each kid was given a sheet of paper with pictures of objects such as black Angus cows, solar panels and water troughs to identify on a scavenger hunt. Armed with water, we all loaded into a flatbed truck covered in hay bales.
Each time we passed a new item on their list, Karen Stone would stand up and explain why each item was imperative to the smooth operation of the ranch. Questions about snakes, birds, and fences surfaced, but my personal favorite was “Do farmers actually eat hay like they do in the movies?” When we stopped at a pond, the kids left to go explore after they were reassured several times about a lack of snakes in the area. One little boy refused to leave the truck for a good ten minutes, absolutely terrified. He, like almost all of his companions had never been camping before or even hiking. After their scavenger hunt adventure, we headed back to headquarters for a wonderful lunch provided by Raley’s, whose crew volunteers had also accompanied us. Several kids ventured over to the nearest horse, tentatively petting him. One boy shut his eyes and presented the horse an apple slice, his hand slightly shaking. But a few seconds after, he began to giggle at the sensation and urge his friends to try.
Next, the group was shown how a horse was shod. Many were slightly horrified by the concept at first, but after one kid summed it up perfectly, telling her sister, “I guess the horse just got a manicure and new shoes.” Scott Stone and his son worked several cattle through the chute, showing the kids things such as the smooth and slightly curved sides that calmed the cattle. When one of the cows struggled slightly in the squeeze, one girl screamed and ran to a counselor, about to cry. After she was reassured that both she and the cow were safe, she ventured back, and started asking more questions than any other kid while Scott administered medicine. Kids that had been too shy to ask questions earlier became more and more talkative as the day went on, asking questions such as why the cows didn’t have horns, why they were only black and why Scott gave the cow a shot in the neck and not the thigh.
The last activity on the ranch was branding boards with the Yolo Land and Cattle Co. brand, adding a horseshoe, and decorating the boards to their fancy. One young boy was extremely proud of his work, telling me “I’m going to take this home to my mom and tell her how I did this all by myself!”
After a big thank you and goofy group photo, they all loaded up on the bus to go the nearest Raley’s grocery store. There, they got the full tour to truly understand how their food goes from the ranch to the grocery store shelves to their tables at home. I’ve seen how the ranch affects many people before, but watching these kids was different than anything I’ve ever seen. Their eyes lit up with every new opportunity. Many told me they had never pet a horse, or even seen a cow.Looking into their eyes on the ride home, not only was I convinced they would never forget their experience, but there was also an extra little sparkle, a sure sign of the infamous “Ranch Bug”. Personally, I will now never underestimate the impact one cow can make on a life. Our communications director Anna-Lisa Laca later said that in all of her time working at CRT, this was one of her most rewarding experiences. Not only were these kids’ lives impacted, but our lives were too. And if that not proof that ranches really are magical, I’m not sure what is.