Catherine Andrews gets it, and — as a rancher — so do you.
Andrews, a teacher, speaker and author of the The Sunday Soother newsletter, once shared her experience of purchasing a 250-year-old home on historic lands in western Virginia. A seemingly pedestrian life event became a touchstone moment as she zoomed out to see her small place in the history of her new property:
“I am not the house’s owner. I am not the land’s owner. I am not this creek’s owner. By whatever twist of fate and luck and privilege and timing, I am merely their current steward, one in a long line of dozens if not hundreds before me.”
Ranchers get that.
You receive the stewardship mantle from your parents. You fight like hell for decades to keep the ranch profitable and the land healthy, hoping to improve what was given to you, before passing the baton to your children. Sure, there’s official paperwork stamped and sealed in some county clerk’s office, but we all know the land that was here long before us will be here long after us. We are stewards for just a moment.
Jobs are like that, too.
By “whatever twist of fate and luck and privilege and timing,” I came to Noble Research Institute in the fall of 2006, a 20-something-year-old with more gusto than know-how. Noble offered fertile soil, so I settled in and grew. I had a chance to create. To grow something with my bare hands (not growing plants from the soil, but stories from a keyboard).
Out of those early attempts at telling Noble’s narrative was the establishment of our first-ever magazine, Legacy. The idea behind launching a publication was simple: Provide an inside, in-depth look at Noble’s people and programs.
The inaugural issue was mailed out in summer 2007, and for the 16 years since, I’ve served as editor. As Noble grew and evolved, so did the magazine. We matured together; the magazine reflecting the best wisdom and stories of each era.
Legacy allowed me to contribute — in some small way — to the greater narratives of the American rancher and the noble legacy.
When Noble shifted the lens outward, we began to hone in on the farmer and rancher story, talking about the rich heritage of the land steward. More recently, we further focused our lens on those who have chosen to walk the regenerative ranching journey, powerful tales of how working with nature has reshaped entire operations and the families who steward them.
Along the way, I’ve had the great honor of telling two interrelated stories: first, of the ranchers who persevered through challenges to be faithful custodians of the land; and second, of the men and women at Noble who have come alongside ranchers as guides for more than 75 years. They are stories worth telling time and again.
Though I was never the subject, the words that I penned for Legacy allowed me to contribute — in some small way — to the greater narratives of the American rancher and the Noble legacy — both of which were here long before me and both will remain long after I go.
And it is time to go.
This will be my last issue as editor of Legacy. I’ve been called to steward another field. I know what I leave behind is better than what I was given, and I know what is ahead for Noble (and Legacy) will be even greater still.
It’s important in these moments of transition to pause and appreciate what has been accomplished and thank those who helped you accomplish it. As our founder Lloyd Noble once said, “No individual builds anything worthwhile by his effort alone.” That certainly has been the case with my time at Noble and this publication.
I thumbed through our first issue this week, and it’s as thin and cringeworthy as I remembered. The evolution to national-award-winning magazine is a result of the combined creative powers of many communicators through the years, each adding their own special flavor.
Past teammates like Scott McNeill, Broderick Stearns, Doug McAbee and Katie Westman all contributed to Legacy’s growth. If you turn to page 2 of this magazine, you will see four names in the staff box: Rachael Davis (graphic designer), Tara Lynn Thompson and Katrina Huffstutler (writers) and Rob Mattson (photographer). These are my co-stewards. With more than 90 years of combined publishing experience, their creativity and talent oozes through every page and every issue.
It’s only fitting then that Davis, who has made Legacy’s visual design a stunning masterpiece, will assume the mantle of editor. She loves this publication and telling your story as much as I do. She strives for excellence in all that she does, and I expect Legacy to flourish under her guidance.
As for me, it’s bittersweet, really.
That’s the inevitable outcome of being a steward. You dedicate your energy and passion to something — be it a ranch, a job or a magazine — that you don’t own, then you hand it to the next person and step back and cheer as they continue it forward.
I’m cheering for you all.