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June 23, 2007

From Inside the Beltway to the Big Apple

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Pat and Sharon in the big city
New York City
photo by Bridget O'Toole

Pat and I enjoyed a very interesting first week of June. Pat had been invited to address the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. He did this in his capacity as President of the Family Farm Alliance http://www.familyfarmalliance.org . an organization of Western irrigators. To read his testimony, go to the above website.

We went to Washington D.C. on the annual farmer lobbyist trip, and met with a number of persons with influence on the Farm Bill and other issues important to agriculture. One of the most interesting was with a representative of the National Restaurant Association. Even though we are all in the business of providing food to American consumers, often our paths don’t cross.

I was able to have lunch with my e-mail friend, Frances Sellers, health editor for the Washington Post. Two years ago, I had an editorial on wild horses published in the Post and Frances was the editor with whom I worked. We have kept in touch, and were finally able to meet in person. We had a great time, and talked about the trend toward natural and home-based food.

When we got to the Senate Hearing, we found the room was packed. I spotted empty chairs at the Press Table, so I sat down and pulled out paper, pencil and a camera. Who was I with? Why, Range Magazine, the High Country News, Shepherd magazine and, of course, the Western Folklife Center. They looked at me curiously, but let me stay!

Following Pat’s testimony, we rushed to Union Station, where we caught the train to New York City. We are hoping to place a conservation easement on our ranch. We are working with several organizations, including the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Land Trust. Our friend Joan Chevalier, her employer Theodore Roosevelt IV, and some other folks had organized an information session and fund raiser for these organizations and this cause.

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Pat in front of Explorer's Club Flag
Explorer's Club, New York City
cell phone photo by Bridget O'Toole

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Sharon & Pat find a sheepman at the Farmer's Market
Union Square, New York City
photo by Bridget O'Toole

Go to "Continue Reading" for more text and photos

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Out on the city with friends and family
New York City
photo by our waitress

The book, “Home Land: Ranching and a West that Works”, edited by Laura Pritchett, Rick Knight, and Jeff Lee, was a centerpiece. The book discusses issues impacting the West, with special emphasis on Old West/ New West issues. My poem, “The Seekers’ Trail: Atlantic Rim”, is included in this book.

We were very honored to be invited to participate in this program. It took place at the famed “Explorer’s Club,” an international multidisciplinary professional society dedicated to the advancement of field research and the ideal that exploration is vital. A showpiece in the meeting room was the sledge which Robert Peary took to the North Pole. The audience members were very thoughtful and interested in the issues which we, other ranchers, and scientists including Dr.Richard Knight presented. We were overwhelmed with questions and finally kicked out of the club as our chariot threatened to turn into a pumpkin.

A special treat was spending time with our New York based daughter, Bridget. Bridget and her husband Chris live and work in the Big Apple. Bridget is in the Public Relations business and Chris works for Mountain States/Rosen, the company which sells the lambs produced by Mountain States Lamb Cooperative members, including us. We spent several nights on their couch and got to meet their Shih Tzu, Ralph. It was wonderful to see them!

We spent Saturday visiting the Farmers’ Market in Union Square. Farmers, mostly from upstate New York, drive half the night in order to set up booths to sell their fresh produce, meat and other home-grown products. We, of course, were attracted to the two booths where organic lamb and other sheep-related products were sold. We enjoyed visiting with the proprietors and learning how the other half lived. They were also selling pelts, sheep milk soap, yarn and knitted caps.

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Farmer's Market sheep booth
Union Square, New York City
photo by Bridget O'Toole

We also visited with a gentleman who raises bees right in Manhattan. He has achieved recognition as “The Rooftop Beekeeper”. I was interested to learn that while Colony Collapse Disorder has devastated honeybee populations nationwide, his urban bees are thriving. So much for the theory that they are affected by cell phone signals!

Our visit took me full circle to my conversations with Frances regarding home grown foods. We are both reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” which discusses her family’s year of eating local and homegrown foods. All this is in direct contrast to the havoc being wreaked on farmers and our domestic food supply by the move to corn-based ethanol.

Our week gave us much food for thought.

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Relaxing with Ralphie
Bridget & Chris's couch
photo by Bridget O'Toole

June 17, 2007

It's six boys!

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Suzie with puppies
photo by Sharon O'Toole

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Suzie, puppies and a happy Siobhan
photo by Sharon O'Toole

Spider cocoon in front of Muddy Mountain

Greetings, faithful blog readers. We have not dropped off the face of the earth. We are crazy busy with lambing, docking, and staging to trail for the Forest. The first week in June, Pat and I left Meghan with a ton of work and traveled to Washington, D.C. and New York City. In Washington D.C., Pat testified before the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, and in New York City, we participated in a "Gathering" to promote Conservation Easements at the storied Explorer's Club. We also spent time with our beloved daughter, Bridget and her (also beloved) husband Chris and visited the NYC Farmer's Market in Union Square. More about all this later. In the meantime, here's a photo of a spider cocoon in a bush.

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Spider Web in front of Muddy Mountain
Carbon County, Wyoming
photo by Sharon O'Toole

June 3, 2007

Spring Pasture

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George surveying cows and calves
Sheep Mountain pasture, Carbon County
photo by Pat O'Toole

June 2, 2007

New lambs

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Spring lambs
Cottonwood Pasture, Carbon County
photo by Sharon O'Toole

The opinions expressed in the Western Folklife Center's Deep West online journals are those of the online journal participants and not the Western Folklife Center. The Western Folklife Center does not moderate these journals and as such does not guarantee the veracity, reliability or completeness of any information provided in the journals or in any hyperlink appearing within them.

About Pat & Sharon O'Toole

Sharon O'Toole
Pat and Sharon O’Toole are ranchers in the Little Snake River Valley near Savery, Wyoming, right on the Colorado-Wyoming border. They raise cattle, sheep, horses, dogs and children. Pat “immigrated” from Florida in 1970. He attended Colorado State University, where he met Sharon when both worked for the campus newspaper. Sharon grew up on their ranch, where they live and work with her father, their daughter, son and granddaughter (soon to be grandchildren!). Pat is a “water buffalo” and has served in the Wyoming House of Representatives (1986-1992), on the President’s Western Water Policy Review Advisory Commission, and is the current President of the Family Farm Alliance, which advocates for farmers, ranchers and irrigators. Sharon is an author, poet and journalist. She writes extensively on Western issues and is a columnist for “The Shepherd” magazine. Pat and Sharon are the parents of three children: Meghan, 27; Bridget, 26; and Eamon, 20.
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