Falling For Hay Mama: Twenty Years In The Making
We bring a sense of purpose to all aspects of Hay Mama, from our cattle’s life cycle to land management and biodiversity. This month, we’re looking back at our twenty-year history to acknowledge our sustained values, relationships with the land and the people as well as sharing news on two new certifications.
Since 1998, P Bar Ranch has cultivated a deep relationship with the land and surrounding ecosystem (incidentally, it was the same year Kristi and Tom were married). We feel sincerely connected to Sweet Grass County, to the community there, and the rich biodiversity that surrounds it. One of our central missions is to leave the land better than we found it. Hay Mama mirrors those P Bar Ranch values, and natural cattle grazing is just one of the ways we promote sustainable stewardship.
Hay Mama began as an outgrowth of the broader P Bar purpose. While Tom was raised working on a farm in Colorado, I grew up an ethically minded kid from Santa Cruz who spent many years in my 20s as a vegetarian and PETA activist. As we spent more time together at P Bar, I came to appreciate that you could raise food in a way that respects and improves the environment, honors the animal, and results in a delicious product. In starting Hay Mama, we wanted to promote the importance of raising cattle with sustainability, ethics, health, and family values in mind. Providing our beef to friends, loved ones, and the larger community allows us to practice and share what matters to us as a family.
These mutual benefits transcend beyond the beef we provide to our customers. The cattle at P Bar Ranch play a beneficial role in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem and the native grasslands found there. Cattle grazing is essential to maintaining healthy conditions for the variety of grasses that grow on the ranch, numerous bird species, and a wide variety of other mammals, providing a truly symbiotic relationship. The cattle play the role the millions of bison served when they roamed these hills hundreds of years ago.
This summer we received two certifications at the ranch focused on areas that are important to us. The first is with Western Sustainability Exchange, a nonprofit that “pursues environmental stewardship, economic prosperity, and community well-being as interlinked goals.” The WSE Certification ensures that an operation adheres to the following principles: treats animals humanely, does not use hormones and sub-therapeutic antibiotics, significantly reduces or eliminates chemicals used in production practices, and protects open space, wildlife habitat, and water and soil quality. We share these priorities with WSE and are happy to partner with them to help evangelize how critical it is that we all eat grass-fed beef that is raised humanely and limit the practice of raising cattle on feedlots.
The second certification we received is through the Audubon Conservation Ranching program which certifies that our cattle graze on land managed with bird friendly practices. Prairie grassland bird species are in severe decline largely due to the conversion of cattle ranches to crops like corn and soy that are then fed to feed lot cattle. Having a healthy and diverse bird population and doing all we can to support our resident, migratory, and breeding species is one of our key tenets.
We are excited about what is possible over the next 20 years and appreciate the support and interest of all our partners and customers on this journey.