Meredith Ellis holds a deep appreciation for the ranch and its role in society.
Meredith Ellis got her first taste of the world at age 13.
She had spent her childhood days covered in dirt — building forts, picking wildflowers and riding horses on her family’s ranch in Rosston, Texas. Then one summer, the young teen traveled to Australia with her grandparents. She returned yearning for more adventure.
Meredith Ellis returned to her family’s Texas ranch in 2013 after living in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
After high school, Ellis ventured to Albuquerque, a metropolis with 4,100 times the people and 600 miles away from her hometown. The buzz of the city, and its countless dining options, mesmerized the University of New Mexico student, but she couldn’t resist the call of nature. After earning her bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurial studies, she started her master’s in landscape architecture with a focus in sustainable design.
The coursework taught her how to deal with the challenges that come with urban sprawl, like runoff from highways, loss of habitat and truncation of migratory patterns. The lessons turned her thoughts to home, which now seems like a haven compared to the “concrete jungle” and its limited green space that, when it is seen, typically features the same five plants.
For All Generations
G Bar C Ranch in Rosston, Texas, is a multigenerational operation that includes GC and Mary Ellis (left) as well as their daughter, Meredith (far right), and her 4-year-old son, G.C. The Ellis family, with ranch manager Mike Knabe, manage 3,000 acres of wildlife habitat, native range and improved forages for primarily Angus cattle.
She realized the solutions to these problems are found on the ranch, where water is filtered through the soil and cattle naturally fertilize the land they graze, eventually to provide beef to the masses.
“All of a sudden, the ranch became something important, not just to me and my family but to everyone,” Ellis says. “I had taken all the biodiversity, this lushness and pureness for granted because that’s all I ever knew growing up.”
It also gave her a deeper appreciation for her father, GC Ellis, who purchased the first 450 acres of G Bar C Ranch in 1983. Ellis decided to return to the ranch after receiving her degrees. The homestead now spans 3,000 acres of wildlife habitat, native range and improved forages for their primarily Angus cattle.
Every decision you make is tied to another decision on the ranch, and you find out if you made the right one years down the road. Noble ... has helped us navigate the responsibility we have to make good decisions today so we can take care of the land and raise healthy animals long-term.”
— Meredith Ellis
About the time Ellis went off to college, her father started working with Noble, first for help managing white-tailed deer then for other questions about forages and cattle. In 2000, he became a founding member of Noble’s Integrity Beef Alliance, an association of ranches that follow a set protocol to produce high-quality, uniform, preconditioned cattle that demand a premium.
Ellis became increasingly interested in Noble, which she says shares her desire to see beef producers both feed the world and leave the land in better shape for future generations. She eventually joined the Integrity Beef Alliance Board of Directors and became involved in other projects, from a national beef sustainability pilot project to the Land Stewardship Program, which seeks to measure the ecosystem services that ranches provide to society.
Meredith Ellis raises her son G.C., 4, on the ranch where she grew up.
“What I appreciate about Meredith is her focus on the ranch as a system,” says Jeff Goodwin, who leads Noble’s Land Stewardship Program. “She operates within a management framework that allows her to achieve specific, short-term goals and to see the big picture. She has a vision for the long-term, both ecologically and economically, and she shoulders the responsibility for tomorrow with passion and conviction.”
One thing that Noble has taught them, Ellis says, it that it all starts with the soil.
As part of their plan to continually improve soil health, the Ellis family, alongside Mike Knabe, who has worked on the ranch more than 30 years, are experimenting with cover crops in some of their wheat fields. Planted in the summer, when the fields would typically lie bare, the mix of plant species keeps the ground covered while also strengthening the soil and its microbial kingdom.
Meredith Ellis sets up transect points in various pastures to monitor forages and other species over time using app-based software, GPS technology and photography.
Ellis says it will take at least eight to 10 years to see a difference, but she is excited about the possibility to reduce their need for fertilizer, which would benefit both the environment and their bottom line.
“Every decision you make is tied to another decision on the ranch, and you find out if you made the right one years down the road,” says Ellis, whose hope in the cover crops is founded on experiences of other producers she has met through Noble Research Institute. “Noble has been a safety net that has helped us navigate the responsibility we have to make good decisions today so we can take care of the land and raise healthy animals long-term.”
Soil is the Key to Success
Meredith Ellis pays close attention to the different variables that contribute to the land’s health and ability to provide her family a livelihood. Though the ranch produces beef cattle, the ranchers recognize that success begins with the soil. They continuously look for ways to improve soil health so the ranch can continue far into the future.
Ellis has a major reason for wanting to see the success of the land and ranch: her 4-year-old son, G.C. Already, G.C. is digging in the dirt and discovering caterpillars in some of the same places she did as a child.
“Once you have a child, all of a sudden it’s not about you anymore. It’s about what this world will look like in the future, when he’s my age,” Ellis says. “The idea that ranchers could make the world better, it’s one of the noblest things we can do, and I feel like Noble Research Institute is a catalyst for that.”