By Scott Whittington, Public Affairs Specialist
We’ve all seen those family business signs that say “Serving our community since 19-something,” but one rancher’s family has most of those beat.
Ron Cerri, a fourth-generation rancher, has followed his family’s legacy that started in the 1800s and he is keeping tradition alive, raising beef cattle in Nevada. His son, daughter and their families live and work on the property. Even his granddaughter, a sixth-generation family member, joined 4-H and is showing an interest in ranching.
Cerri runs his herd on 1,200 deeded acres along with grazing permits from the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service that are tied to his ranch. Because 86 percent of Nevada is federally-owned land, Cerri depends on these federal grazing permits to run his cattle. “I’m glad I chose this job and not a doctor or lawyer,” said Cerri. “I love what I do. It’s hard work, so you have to love it.”
Cerri grew up on the family ranch and leased Rebel Creek Ranch in 1986. According to Cerri, Rebel Creek got its name when a Confederate soldier and a Union soldier both wanted to name the creek. They agreed to a fight, with the victor getting to choose the name. The north didn’t win that fight. The only fight now is with the weather.
While Nevada has desert, there are many areas with land suitable for growing hay and raising cattle. However, due to five plus years of drought, many area farmers and ranchers have suffered great losses. Luckily, he said, the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) programs helped him. “They offered assistance to purchase hay and I didn’t have to sell my herd,” said Cerri. Thankfully, this area has finally received some of the moisture it needs and he says he hopes rainfall may get back to average and, for this year anyway, “everything is looking good.”
Cerri has been using programs from USDA for more than 30 years. The purchases of Rebel Creek Ranch and Rock Creek Ranch were made possible by FSA guaranteed loans.
The Livestock Forage Disaster Program provided funds enabling him to purchase hay to feed his cattle during the drought years. Before FSA and its programs, “If there was a drought, you were on your own. You made it through or you didn’t. If your cattle didn’t have feed you either reduced your numbers or tried to find a lender willing to finance the purchase of additional feed,” he said.
The Emergency Conservation Program assisted with the drilling of two livestock water wells to improve cattle distribution on grazing land.
FSA isn’t the only resource for assistance. The USDA National Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS) assisted in putting in a pivot irrigation system in his hay field which improved water distribution.
Cerri said most of the farming/ranching operations in the area are run by families and the neighbors help each other. It’s a close-knit community in Humboldt County, Nevada. The farmers and ranchers also share a similar work ethic and pride.
The USDA wants consumers to know more about who produces the food they eat. Cerri wants his consumers to know about him, too. He said, “I take care of my cattle. I take care of the land and water. It’s not just a way to make a living. I care about what goes to the supermarket because my family eats it, too.”
As consumer demand for local products rises, U.S. farmers and ranchers like Cerri are working to meet the demand by creating local markets for their products and USDA is working hard to introduce these family farmers and ranchers to the American consumer.
Between 2009 and 2015, USDA invested over $1 billion in more than 40,000 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects.
For more information about local food and markets visit http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/knowyourfarmer?navid=kyf-kyf.