New Ranchers, New Needs: Why are first-generational ranchers deciding against traditional climate adaptation strategies?

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2018: $24,982.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2019
Grant Recipient: University of California - Davis
Region: Western
State: California
Graduate Student:
Principal Investigator:


  • Animals: bovine, goats, sheep
  • Animal Products: dairy, fiber, fur, leather, meat


  • Animal Production: rangeland/pasture management
  • Education and Training: networking
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, local and regional food systems, quality of life, social networks

    Proposal abstract:

    There is a crisis in U.S. livestock production, marked by climatic extremes and rapid aging of the rancher population. Amid this crisis, there is both a critical need and an opportunity for a new generation of ranchers who practice climate-smart ranching. Based on preliminary analysis, I found that first-generation ranchers (FGRs) are a diverse demographic (female, non-white) who desire to practice sustainable ranching, yet under-utilize traditional ranching information sources, are less likely to find this information useful, and ultimately are less likely to use climate adaptation strategies (conservative stocking rates) when compared to multi-generational ranchers. How are FGRs making management decisions to adapt to climate change, and how can outreach organizations improve FGRs adaptive capacity? Answering this question requires comparative research on not only beginning FGRs, but inclusive of all stages of experience in order to ensure the success of this new generation.

    The overall project goal is to enhance FGRs’ climate adaptation capacity and outreach organizations’ ability to meet the needs of this new clientele. The project uses mixed-methods (interviews, surveys) in the three regions of California with the highest densities of FGRs: the Central Coast, Northern Coast and Sierra Nevada Foothills. Project objectives include, 

    1. Conduct a regional comparison of FGRs to determine how decision-making by different demographics influences adaptation to climate change and quality of life
    2. Develop appropriate resources and outreach strategies to improve climate adaptation practices and FGR quality of life,
    3. Host three regional workshops to facilitate knowledge exchange,
    4. Improve rancher organizations’ outreach strategies

    This project incorporates FGR collaborating ranchers, UC Davis Rangeland Extension Specialists, and the network of Cooperative Extension advisors to ensure the usefulness of the project from conception to outreach. Outreach will include workshops, presentations, publications and webinar. Expected outcomes include improved climate adaptation for FGRs and targeted outreach efficacy. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Conduct a comparative multi-method study of 40 first-generational ranchers to determine how decision-making of different demographics influences adaptation to climate change.

    For the fieldwork portion of this project, I will interview and conduct follow-up surveys of at least 40 first-generational ranchers in the fall and winter of 2017. These ranchers will include a diversity of ages, gender, ethnicities and length of time in operation. I will work with my rancher collaborators and the network of UC ANR agents to recruit participants in the summer of 2017. Results will be disseminated through publications in the summer of 2018 (Objective 2), three regional rancher workshops in summer and fall of 2018 (Objective 3) and outreach to rancher organizations in the fall and winter of 2018. 

    2.  Develop appropriate resources and outreach strategies that aim to improve FGR quality of life satisfaction and climate adaptation practices

    The goal of this research project is to increase the sustainability and adaptive capacity of FGR operations by understanding how to align outreach and information to enable science-based decision-making. Results from my fieldwork will directly inform the information needs, design and delivery of resources and outreach strategies. Resulting materials and outreach strategies will be developed in the summer of 2018 in collaboration with ranchers and Cooperative Extension partners.

    3.  Host three regional workshops to disseminate information and facilitate knowledge exchange between rancher-to-rancher and rancher-to-expert

    I will work with collaborators to organize three workshops in the summer and fall of 2018 to highlight results that encompass the diversity of information needs of FGRs. Topics will include best practices that project participants communicated to me based on goals of their operation, location, demographics, and lifespan of operation. These workshops will be structured to build collaborative partnerships, with time allotted to enable peer-to-peer learning and to network with outreach organizations

    4. Disseminate information needs and appropriate outreach strategies to rancher organizations

    A primary goal of this project is to better enable outreach organizations to provide FGRs with the tools and resources that will enable them to make decisions which will increase their sustainability. I will share findings and engage agents in conversations and their changing clientele through multiple formats: webinar, Journal of Extension article and popular press in organizations newsletters.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.