Pride in Ownership
Pride in Ownership
Story by Dee Ann Littlefield
Quiet solitude. A place to think.
After spending 30 years in rush hour traffic on the Dallas Central Expressway, these are some of the things Kather Woods enjoys most about her Houston County cattle ranch, located just outside of Crockett, Texas.
Woods grew up on her familyï¿½s corn, cotton and pea farm in Crockett, but the slow job market in the area forced her to look for employment elsewhere. She spent 30 years working for Texas Instruments in Dallas. When they downsized in 1989, she took early retirement and headed back to her hometown to look for property.
In 1992 she purchased a small ranch where she raises crossbred cattle. Woods works the land herself with the help of hired hands, and on the weekends, her son helps out.
ï¿½Owning this land has meant pride of ownership for me,ï¿½ she says. ï¿½I love living this country way of life, but what has been the most rewarding is exposing inner city kids to this lifestyle.ï¿½
Every summer, Woods hosts day camps for inner city kids, showing them what land ownership and country life is all about. She lets them fish in her pond and sets up archery ranges for them, in addition to talking about the land and nature. She also invites guests like the American Dairy Association to bring cows out for the kids to milk. Texas Forestry has brought out snakes to display for the kids.
ï¿½They love the animals more than anything,ï¿½ Woods says. ï¿½That is always a great memory for them.ï¿½
Her camps fill up by word of mouth invitations, and primarily are run through private donations, although she did receive a small grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department this year.
Woods says it is so rewarding when she sees a father and son connecting over the activities on her ranch.
ï¿½When I hear a father tell his son, ï¿½We could put up a hay bale and archery target in our back yardï¿½ or ï¿½We should go fishing together like this more oftenï¿½ that just means the world to me,ï¿½ Woods says. ï¿½To know that I have the opportunity to share this lifestyle and open avenues about the way that family will interact with each other from now on is something I am so proud of.ï¿½
Woodsï¿½ caring spirit shows in her land management style as well. As soon as she purchased her land, she began working with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
ï¿½When I moved from Dallas back to Crockett, I was a barber and one of my customers, Mr. McPherson, worked for the NRCS,ï¿½ Woods remembers. ï¿½He was trying to get more blacks involved and told me about the advantages they had to offer. He didnï¿½t feel the minority groups were taking advantage of all that NRCS had to offer.
ï¿½I had him leave some material in my shop and told him I would pass it out,ï¿½ she continues. ï¿½I got to reading it and decided I was interested in their programs.ï¿½
As soon as Woods bought her property, she began working with Troy Mumphree, the NRCS district conservationist serving Houston County at the time.
Mumphree helped her develop a conservation plan for her property. Her plan included a project to divide a 73 acre pasture into three pastures with a pond in the middle of it.
ï¿½Through this project I have been able to implement a rotational grazing plan that has worked really well for me,ï¿½ Woods says. ï¿½The vegetation has improved so much.
ï¿½In fact,ï¿½ Woods adds with a laugh, ï¿½My land has improved so much that when people drive by my property now they actually pause to notice it.ï¿½
Woods has enhanced the wildlife habitat on her land and leases out deer plots to hunters that come in the fall. Since she has implemented her wildlife management plan, she has seen a noticeable increase in the number of deer on her property.
Looking to further diversify her property, Woods has now planted 20 acres of Long Leaf Pine trees, with the hopes that someday her grandchildren can harvest them.
Woods is very impressed with how NRCS has been able to provide the professional technology, as well as some financial resources, to help make her land be so healthy.
Woods believes there is strength in numbers. She, along with a handful of others, organized the Texas Small Farmers and Ranchers Organization and the Texas Landowners Association.
ï¿½These groups have been excellent networking opportunities,ï¿½ Woods says. ï¿½For information as well as for resources, like who has hay we can buy in the middle of a drought, or for other needs.ï¿½
Woods credits Wade Ross, founder of the Texas Small Farmers and Ranchers Community Based Organization, as being very instrumental in exposing group members to national meetings and opportunities especially for black landowners.
Between ranch work, meetings and day camps, what Woods enjoys most is simply her property ï¿½ the green grass, blue sky, fresh water and animals that make her land a better place to live.
Kather Woods is proud to be a landowner and rancher. She is thankful for the opportunity to live on the land and apply conservation practices that are good for her operation and the environment.
Kather Woods has been working with NRCS staff in Houston County for the last 19 years. Here she visits with soil conservationist Angie Osborn about conservation options on her land.
Kather Woods reviews her conservation plan with Houston County NRCS District Conservationist Stan Murff.
Developing this pond was one of the first conservation projects Kather Woods implemented on her Houston County ranch. With technical advice from NRCS, Woods built the pond and then divided her 73-acre pasture into three smaller pastures for a more efficient and productive rotational grazing program.