Lifestyle Livestock

The Pioneer Woman: Cattle industry’s unexpected advocate

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We all have a favorite recipe from her (mine’s the Spicy Dr. Pepper Shredded Pork). We’ve followed her love for the Marlboro Man evolve on the blog and watched her children grow up before our eyes on Food Network. We’ve added a few of her fun dishware to our collection, thumbed through her new magazine, and now have Pawhuska, Oklahoma, listed as another must-see destination on the map. And while the world fell in love with The Pioneer Woman, the cattle industry gained one of its most influential advocates.

“I didn’t set out to start a ranching blog or agricultural blog,” Ree Drummond said. “I just started sharing daily life around the ranch.”

Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, kicked off the 2018 Cattle Industry Convention on Wednesday in Phoenix as the keynote speaker. A member of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, she and her husband, Ladd Drummond run a successful cow calf operation outside of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. But as Drummond explains, it’s only by chance that we came to know this city girl raised on a golf course turned ranch wife and mother of four.

Drummond, who graduated from the University of Southern California and lived in Los Angeles, was actually on her way to relocate to Chicago when she decided to make a pit stop in her hometown of Bartlesville, Oklahoma to see her brother and meet some friends. She wasn’t planning to meet her future husband in a bar and fall in love with him. Drummond blames his Wranglers.

“Before I knew it, we were getting married and I moved to his cattle ranch in the middle of nowhere, it felt to me, in north central Oklahoma,” Drummond said.

Trading her high heels for tractor wheels, Drummond describes her first year of marriage filled with mice having parties in their house at night, skunks playing scratch and sniff under their porch, bobcats in the trash, manure everywhere, a baby in her belly, nausea, isolation, and tears. But The Pioneer Woman, who received her air quote nickname from some friends after moving to the ranch and officially earning the title after having no running water at the ranch for four months, pressed on as she said, “gestating and lactating.”

“That was my life. I honestly had never lived in the country and I had a lot of adjusting to do, but by 10 years in, I was hooked. I loved it,” Drummond said. “I settled in to my life but by no means would I call myself a cowgirl. I can’t saddle a horse yet, but I’m working on it … 21 years.”

She had no thought, no plan ahead of time when set up her blog “Confessions of a Pioneer Woman” with free online software in 2006. The kids and Ladd were out of the house and she decided to retreat into telling her observations about country life, cowboy colloquialisms … and several funny stories from her past.

What kind of funny stories? Drummond confessed a story that at the age of three, her mom noticed a strange odor whenever she was around. She scrubbed her hair, body, and even took little Ree to a doctor, who determined the odor was coming from her nose where she had kept a collection of fruit stripe gum wrappers there for safe keeping.

“I never went back to retrieve them and that is considered a foreign body and your body will fight back,” Drummond joked. “That was my blog in 2006 and now I have a show on Food Network.”

After a while, Drummond ran out of those embarrassing stories before her life on the ranch and so she started sharing day-to-day activities from the family’s working cattle ranch, taking photos and writing about gathering cattle, working calves, feeding, doctoring, etc.

The beginning blogger began receiving two kinds of feedback –“I grew up on a ranch and I miss it so much” or more frequently, “I have never seen this side of America.”

“It occurred to me well neither had I before I married Ladd,” Drummond said.

Drummond said she really saws things through her camera that she hadn’t noticed before on the ranch and at the very least, now has a great 10-year scrapbook of her kids’ childhoods.

“I never set out to be a beef advocate obviously and I didn’t’ set out to do anything except start a blog, that I didn’t think would last more than a week, but I started feeling gratitude that I was able to show people where beef begins and where it comes from,” Drummond said.

From there, Drummond turned her attention to detailing step-by-step recipes on her blog. Her first food blog … grilling a steak of course. Drummond soon found that the photography was key to engaging her audience and focused her efforts on her shutterbug skills.

And people took notice.

Her blog, The Pioneer Woman, attracts more than 20 million page views per month and was named Weblog of the Year at the 2011, 2010, and 2009 Bloggie Awards. She went on to author the #1 best-selling cookbook The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl and the 2011 memoir Black Heels to Tractor Wheels — A Love Story, which debuted at #2 on The New York Times Best Sellers list for nonfiction hardcover. This year Drummond is coming out with her fifth cookbook and is getting ready to shoot her 19th season of her show The Pioneer Woman on Food Network.

When she isn’t cooking and blogging, Drummond has found another way to express her love for the ranch life through children’s books and her magazine. She has penned “Charlie the Ranch Dog,” which chronicles the adventures of her much-beloved basset hound. That book premiered at #1 on The New York Times Best Sellers list. Her second kids book series, “Little Ree” explains her own transition from town to country told through the eyes of a little girl.

Her magazine, which came out last year, is still a way for Drummond to explain the ranch life. The next issue includes why the ranch needs to do a spring burning in the pasture.

Drummond spread her wings into retail two years ago with her own line of housewares at Walmart.

“My weakness is not shoes and purses, traveling or diamonds. None of that stuff moves me spiritually at all but plates move me spiritually,” Drummond said. “Give me a good checkered tablecloth and I’m putty in your hands.”

She and Ladd recently opened the very successful Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska where they get 6,000 visitors a day on average. After visiting the Mercantile, guests are invited to take a tour of the Ladd Ranch where Drummond said they have had visitors from all 50 states, Europe, and South America.

Their next project is to convert another old building in Pawhuska into a 8-room hotel.

And Drummond says on a day-to-day basis, except for filming, it hasn’t really changed her family’s life much at all, and has only deepened her love for the ranch.

“We love living on the ranch, we love being a ranching family raising cattle, and it’s something I consider a gift and a privilege,” Drummond said.

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