Couple showcases ranch-raised kids through series of publications
It all started in 2016 at the Arizona Cowpunchers Reunion Association Rodeo in Williams, Ariz.
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 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.”
So, Joel and Holland set out on their newest adventure – a project dedicated to informing people “who are not from around here” about how cattle are raised and who does the 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.”
Joel and Holland’s work began in Arizona, moved to California, and now they have 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 who raise cattle. Telling their stories through the eyes and words of their kids is our way of showing our respect and faith in the future of ranching in America,” explained Holland.
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 from the mouths of ranch-raised kids, the couple said they were struck by the resourcefulness of the ranchers and animals in Arizona.
“We understood cattle ranching in Arizona uses land which is not suitable for any other agricultural use. This makes for some tough cowboying,” note Joel and Holland.
The second book, “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 ranchland was being lost to development and how ranchers were being squeezed by urban sprawl,” said Joel and Holland. “Very few ranches have contiguous pastures. They haul a lot.”
New Mexico is the most recent stop in Joel and Holland’s “Ranch Raised Kids” journey. In partnership with the Cattlegrowers’ Foundation, they have photographed and interviewed kids on 25 ranches in areas of New Mexico.
The newest book, “New Mexico Ranch Raised Kids,” will be published in fall of 2023.
“In New Mexico, we understood how vulnerable the ranching business is to the uncontrollable 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 reforming of old Spanish land grants,” wrote Joel and Holland.
When asked how ranch-raised kids might be different, Holland answered, “Instead of saying how they differ from ‘urban kids,’ let’s just talk about the things that make them special.”
A few of the reasons Joel and Holland believe ranch-raised kids are so special are as follows.
They are not afraid to get dirty.
Kids who live far out of town are not lonely – they are happy for the peace.
They do not consider being polite a burden. They would rather be polite than right.
They are emotionally mature because they learn to intuit how large, speechless animals will act.
They are given responsibility, so they take responsibility.
They are mature beyond their years.
They are comfortable working with adults.
They are trusted because they are given the opportunity to earn trust.
They do things other kids are not allowed to do because they need to be able to pull their weight in an emergency, they do dangerous work and they don’t quit until the work is done.
According to Joel and Holland, 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 kids being brought up in this life,” Holland said.
The couple has their sights set on Florida – a state steeped in history and cattle, with its own unique topography and ranch-raised kids.
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. This article was originally published in AGDAILY on Dec. 19, 2022 and can be found at agdaily.com.