The Tam News

Putting our generation’s meat on the table

Back to Article
Back to Article

Putting our generation’s meat on the table

Sophie McGuinness

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Highway One weaves through Marin County starting as a messy curl tangled around Tam Valley and Sausalito where it delivers Priuses to driveways and storefronts, and ending in a smoother ribbon shooting straight from Bolinas to Point Reyes and Tomales, sending pickup trucks onto dirt ranch roads or lonely trajectories of explorative asphalt. A mile down one of these dirt roads in Point Reyes is the Historic M Ranch, where Tomales High School senior and future rancher Ashley Ardnt (pictured above, patting her horse with muscular, callused, and french manicured hand) lives and works. Ashley helps her parents and grandparents run the ranch, which has been in their family for five generations. She has a serious and confident manner, often conversing about humans and animals in a factual, numerical, or practical way such as, “We herd about thirty steers into this run, castrate them, give them medications, and cut their horns off,” and a few minutes later in the same tone, “I saw on Facebook that she’s been engaged for about two months.” Ashley is preparing for a career working on the family ranch by studying agriculture in school and participating actively in Future Farmers of America projects. These projects include the raising of two heifers and two steers for competitions. Like Ashley, many Tomales students hope to become the ranchers or farmers of our generation, a rare goal for Tam students. The following photos explore what it’s like to prepare for such a goal, and how a career in food production is unlike any other.

The Arndt’s ranch is conventional rather than organic. Ashley explained this difference: “If our cows get pneumonia or an infection, we can treat them easily. But our neighbor who’s organic can’t, he has to let them die just so he can keep the label [of organic beef].” I told Ashley about the hype over organic goods and sometimes even vegetarians in Mill Valley. Ashley widened her eyes in amusement. “Whatever floats your boat,” she said. The cattle raised on the Arndt’s ranch go to a feed lot (a large concentration of cattle being fed mass amounts of grain; perhaps you’ve seen or smelled the one on the way to Tahoe) a few weeks before slaughter, and are then sold to supermarkets and restaurants across America.

To catch this lamb, which really is as fluffly and floppy as a stuffed animal, Ashley snagged one hind leg, jerked it sideways to grab hold of the other, and quickly slammed the whole animal on its back on the muddy grass. As it wobbled to its feet, Ashley gathered the lamb around the middle and held it out, pointing to a green rubber band around its furry testicles. “Here’s where we’re cutting his nuts off. And we already got his tail,” she said. In addition to working at a local cafe, Ashley makes money by caring for this flock of sheep and selling the lambs at six months for meat; a small scale version of how her parents make a living.

Ashley said ranching is a very consuming occupation because of the constant care a ranch demands. Partly because of this Ashley rarely leaves West Marin, and has never been on an airplane. However, Ashley and her family love the work and don’t seem to feel the need to leave a ten mile radius.

A bumper sticker on the back of the Ardnt’s 4×4 Dodge pickup truck shows the family’s support of Tomales High. Ashley’s father and grandfather are Tomales alums, and during my visit they gathered around homemade cookies in the kitchen and expressed their opinions and memories of the school. “It holds on to a lot of our history, which is important, and what I love about it,” said Ashley’s dad, Rob Arndt, of Tomales’s emphasis on agricultural education. However, the Arndts agreed the school needs more funding. “If everyone who sends their kids to private schools spent that tuition money on Tomales, we’d have many more programs and Tomales could provide kids with more opportunities,” Rob Ardnt said.

“Yeah that’s blood.” Ashley said pointing to the brownish squirts dripping from this machine. Although Ashley has many “animal chores” on the ranch which require complex tools, she is still learning how to do the chore that needs this device; a cage that immobilizes cattle for castration, branding, de-horning, and vaccinations. “We line all the cattle up at once in here. You should hear the noise,” Ashley said.

“They’re fixing it up for me,” Ashley said of this house next to the sheep pasture, a few hundred yards away from her parents’ and grandparents’ homes. Ashley plans to live here while going to college at Chico State or Santa Rosa Junior College, and probably for the rest of her life. “Yeah, I’ll live here and work on the ranch,” she said without hesitation. Ashley’s level gray eyes show how rooted her entire being-her ancestry, interests, and well-being-is in the land. Unlike almost all Tam kids, Ashley knows exactly where she’s from and where she will end up. The Arndts prove that ranching is more a lifestyle than an occupation, requiring an uncluttered mindset and providing a clear, steady way of life.

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Left
  • Putting our generation’s meat on the table

    Lifestyles

    Coyote Coffee

  • Putting our generation’s meat on the table

    Lifestyles

    Stay Cheesin’

  • Putting our generation’s meat on the table

    Lifestyles

    The Mill Valley Music Man

  • Putting our generation’s meat on the table

    Lifestyles

    Review: A Star is Born

  • Putting our generation’s meat on the table

    Lifestyles

    Barbara Owens: We owe it to Owens

  • Putting our generation’s meat on the table

    Lifestyles

    Payton Pelaez: A Sweet Success

  • Putting our generation’s meat on the table

    Lifestyles

    A Master at Her Craft

  • Putting our generation’s meat on the table

    Lifestyles

    From Missing to Marking

  • Putting our generation’s meat on the table

    Lifestyles

    Dedication to Education

  • Putting our generation’s meat on the table

    Lifestyles

    Keep Your Blindfolds On

Navigate Right
The Student News Site of Tamalpais High School
Putting our generation’s meat on the table