Ranch Raised Kids — it all started in 2016 at the Arizona Cowpunchers Reunion Association Rodeo. After traveling the world together, photographing and writing about exciting places, couple Seth Joel and Charlie Holland of Seth Joel Photography found themselves somewhat “out of place” but also inspired and welcomed by the Southwest’s ranching community.
The response when they got home to Los Angeles and shared their travels was, “Wow, I didn’t know people still did that!”
And, so Joel and Holland set out on their newest adventure — a project dedicated to informing people “who are not from ’round here” about how cattle are raised and who does that work in this day and age.
“We were invited to watch some kids compete and were amazed to find they had 200 friends, all as polite, talented, and fun as they were. They were dressed like 19th-century cowboys, but they had cell phones in their pockets,” reminisced Holland. “They lived 35 miles off the road but were well-educated. We wanted to know more about them and tell the story of contemporary ranching through their eyes — as they see themselves.”
Their work began in Arizona, moving to California, and now with a third installment, New Mexico, with a set of coffee table books with photographs, quotes, and stories of youth as diverse as the landscapes they’re raised on.
“Our goal is to capture in pictures and words the work and lifestyle of families that raise cattle. Telling that story through the eyes and the words of their kids is our way of showing our respect and faith in the future of ranching in America,” explained Holland.
Arizona Ranch Raised Kids
The first book, Arizona Ranch Raised Kids, was published in 2018 with the support of the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association and the Arizona Cattle Industry Foundation.
From photographs to the shared stories and words straight form the mouths of these ranch raised kids, the couple said they were struck by the resourcefulness of the ranchers and animals in Arizona. “We understood that cattle ranching in Arizona uses land that is not suitable for any other agricultural use. That makes for some tough cowboying.”
California Ranch Raised Kids
California Ranch Raised Kids was published in 2020 in partnership with the California Cattlemen’s Foundation and the California Cattlewomen.
“In California we were struck by how much ranch land was being lost to development and how ranchers were being squeezed by urban sprawl. Very few ranches have contiguous pastures. They haul a lot.”
New Mexico Ranch Raised Kids
New Mexico is the most recent stop in Joel and Holland’s Ranch Raised Kids journey. In partnerships with the Cattlegrowers’ Foundation, they have photographed an interviewed kids on 25 ranches in each area of New Mexico. The newest book will be published in fall 2023.
“In New Mexico, we understood how vulnerable the ranching business is to one of the great uncontrollable — the weather. Extremes of heat, drought, cold, and wind affect the outcome of the cattle business in clear, hard ways. Large, vast parcels of land are still intact, the remains or the re-forming of old Spanish land grants,” wrote Holland.
Ranch raised kids are special
When asked how ranch raised kids might be “different,” Holland’s answer was “Instead of saying how they differ from ‘urban kids,’ let’s just talk about the things that make them special.”
Below is a sneak peak into photos from Arizona, California, and New Mexico ranch raised kids complete with a few of the reasons that these kids are truly special.
1. They are not afraid to get dirty.
“My father taught me how to track fresh cow prints so now I know to follow those because I know that someone will be there.” — Emma Westbrook
2. Kids who live far out of town are not lonely, they are happy for the peace.
“If you forget to do something, it always leads to another thing that is probably worse. Everything you do affects the next thing.” — Reagan Pascoe, 11
3. They do not consider being polite a burden. They would rather be polite than right.
4. They are emotionally mature because they learn to intuit how large, speechless animals will act.
“People think we are cruel to our animals, but we are not. We try our hardest to take care of them and give them a good life.” — Kyle Fowie, 12.
5. They are given responsibility, so they take responsibility.
“I never thought about anything else. From the day someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said ‘rancher.'” — Ryan Klump
6. They are mature beyond their years.
“I will ride or walk as far as I need — to fish.” — Tommy Fogarty, 10.
7. They are comfortable working with adults.
“People probably think we just ride around all day like in the Westerns, that’s really not what it is.” — Bryce Stone
8. They are trusted because they are given the opportunity to earn trust.
“You need to have the right mindset. You have to know what to do and what not to do. You have got to be careful.” — Colt Noland, 14.
9. They do things other kids are not allowed to do because they need to be able to pull their weight in an emergency.
10. They do dangerous work, and they don’t quit until the work is done.
“I like branding because I spend all my time with family.” — Kyon Hatley, 14.
Where will Ranch Raised Kids go next?
The work of Ranch Raised Kids isn’t quite finished. “We will continue to tell the story of ranching, through the unique and shared experiences of the kids being brought up in the life,” Holland said.
The couple has their sights set on Florida, a state steeped in history, cattle, with its own unique topography and ranch raised kids. Learn more about the available books at the Ranch Raised Kids website.
Heidi Crnkovic, is the Associate Editor for AGDAILY. She is a New Mexico native with deep-seated roots in the Southwest and a passion for all things agriculture.