#iamamodernfarmer Q&A: Meagan Burns of Rancho Santo Niño
Meagan Burns always considered herself a city girl and admits being afraid of wide-open spaces, even though she had spent her first few years of life on a dairy farm in Illinois. But something changed when her mother died in 2013. Burns left Chicago behind after feeling “a serious need to be in the country.”
She ended up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where her ex-husband, Reed Burns, had spent a “decade cleaning up a handsome breed of Limousin cattle.” When she learned he had plans to sell the cattle to a factory farm in Northern Mexico, she stepped in, proclaiming that they needed grass-fed beef in their area.
“He said if I could find people to process the cows and a way to sell the beef, I could have a few cows,” she tells Modern Farmer. “I began assembling the Mexican team the very next day and our products are now sold in local organic stores, restaurants, leather shops and farmers markets.”
Rancho Santo Niño, located near Dolores Hidalgo, in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, is home to about 70 head of cattle that graze on 630 acres. Burns says they may also build greenhouses in the future.
Modern Farmer: Why do you consider yourself a modern farmer?
Meagan Burns: I want to be very clear that while I am working on and for our ranch to produce grass-fed beef by using the most optimal practices possible, I by no means classify myself as a farmer. I believe that title belongs to the hard-working individuals who are working the land and livestock from dawn to dusk, and everything in between. I have great regard for the cattle ranchers I read about and learn from, which includes the Mexican family that lives on Rancho Santo Niño, as well as the butchers of Dolores Hidalgo who let me work alongside them.
As luck would have it, I found myself in a livestock situation that needed managing, marketing, and dedication; I just so happen to have these attributes, plus an unwavering regard for cows. It feels good to be among them; I love their sturdy nature and long deep stares. I suppose the modern part is that I practice reiki on the cows and play my crystal bowls for them. The guys look at me like I’m absolutely bananas, but I think the cows enjoy it tremendously.
MF: Why is it important to you to support local agriculture?
MB: I have expressed my profound love for cows and have been met with, “if you love them, how can you kill them?” This is certainly a valid point. I was a vegetarian for years, so I get it. An autoimmune condition sent me back to eating meat and my health improved greatly as my interest turned to the cows outside my window. Our cows are not pets and they have their purpose; setting them free is not an option, as some have suggested. Temple Grandin inspired me to want to treat them with the utmost respect and give them a good life until it is time for them to become fuel for people. I know where my food comes from when I sit down at the table. It is a deeply profound experience and has required me to become a better person. I would love for more people to have the experience of knowing where their food comes from.
MF: If you could grow or raise any food or animal, what would it be and why?
MB: Cows. Cows. Cows. Because cows.
MF: What’s your favorite vegetable?
MB: Brussels sprouts!
MF: If you could give other modern farmers any advice, what would it be?
MB: A few years ago, while still living in Chicago, I proclaimed I wanted to be a Modern Farmer, yet I could not keep a house plant alive, nor did I own a dollop of dirt. I scoffed at my dreams and forgot them as best I could, yet life led me to the cows of Rancho Santo Niño. I’m not presumptuous enough to give out modern farming advice, but I will suggest listening to your heart; the heart knows.
MF: Do you have a farming/agricultural hero? Why do you admire them?
MB: Hands down: Temple Grandin. She overcame so many obstacles and prejudices in life and in the cattle industry. I continue to learn from her and be inspired by her efforts. They thought she was nuts, then she changed cattle industry standards by first asking, “why are they mooing so loud?”
Here’s the #iamamodernfarmer video Meagan posted that won this week’s contest:
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