Learning from Experience

Learning from Experience

podcast title

I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to get a fair bit of formal education - from my undergraduate days at UC Davis studying agricultural economics to the online coursework I took while obtaining my master's degree at Colorado State University. The certificates that hang on the wall in my office attest to this formal education; my membership in professional societies (like the Society for Range Management and Western Association of Agricultural Economics) gives me access to continued learning. My formal (and continuing) education has driven my intellectual curiosity.

Thankfully, I've also had the opportunity to learn from experience - my own and that of others. Much of what I've learned through my own experiences has been from mistakes that I've made! In many cases, I've learned what NOT to do next time. I've also had the good fortune to learn from others - from mentors (ranchers and colleagues). This informal learning is interesting - while there are times when it confirms what I've learned from books or in classrooms, it often makes me question my formal instruction. And it certainly drives my intellectual curiosity, as well.

Early on during our shelter-at-home experience this spring, my friend Ryan Mahoney, a sheep producer from Rio Vista, approached me with the idea of starting a podcast about sheep production. While Ryan operates at a very large scale (and we have a much smaller operation), we felt like we could both learn from one another. We also felt like taping a podcast would give us something to do every Wednesday afternoon! And so Sheep Stuff Ewe Should Know was born! We've now produced 12 episodes in our first season, covering topics like risk management, the effects of COVID-19 on the sheep industry, and livestock guardian dogs.

Of all the topics we've discussed, though, I think I learned the most from this week's episode. On Wednesday, we interviewed Ryan's grandfather, Richard Emigh, who will turn 91 this summer. Mr. Emigh recounted his lifelong experience in the sheep business - after an hour long conversation, I felt we'd just scratched the surface! He talked about what makes good sheep range, about the value of multi-species grazing (he ran cows and sheep together), and about the need to be creative in today's sheep industry. Personally, my favorite part of the conversation was our discussion about the importance of experience and local knowledge - Mr. Emigh talked about how a good sheepherder knows what his (or her) sheep need to eat at that moment, telling us:

"The best sheepherder gets the most out of the land by getting the most into the sheep." 

As we continue producing Sheep Stuff Ewe Should Know, Ryan and I hope to interview other producers to learn from their experiences. We'll also be talking with experts in animal health, livestock nutrition, marketing, and business management - learning from their experiences, and having fun along the way!

You can check out our podcast HERE! And let us know what topics you'd like to learn more about!