Conservation Ranching

Women in Audubon Conservation Ranching: California

To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re introducing you to the incredible women ranchers in California who are enrolled in Audubon’s Conservation Ranching Initiative.

Meet Doniga Markegard and Carolyn Carey, two of the incredible women enrolled in Audubon’s Conservation Ranching Initiative. They don’t let anything stand in their way, working around the clock in all weather conditions fiercely defending birds, the land, their animals, and the food we eat.

Doniga Markegard of Markegard Family Grassfed

Doniga Markegard

Location: Half Moon Bay, CA


What is your favorite bird and why?

The Pacific Wren and the Golden Eagle are my favorite birds, even though it is hard to pick a favorite because I love them all. The Pacific Wren is one that I am always impressed with, how they go from feeding on the ground to flying to the tallest tree to sing that song that always makes me pause and smile. They also show up in times of significance in my life. The Golden Eagle, well because of how magnificent they are. They visit our grasslands on their migratory route and the whole energy of the place changes when they are around, like a very prominent person has just walked in the room and everyone shifts their attention to them.

What conservation projects are you working on right now?

I would say that every day is a conservation project. We are constantly interacting with the ecology around us and working to improve habitat with our grazing methods. We are out on the ranch observing and listening to nature. In California, we have had record heat temperatures this year which has changed the growth patterns of the grass and also seemed to kick start spring early. We are moving the animals frequently to make sure enough forage stays in each pasture for maximum recovery both for grassland bird habitat and for our cattle.

We are also working on a large infrastructure project on our Jenner Headlands Ranch in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Wildlands Conservancy. This project will improve our conservation grazing by providing water in parts of the ranch that previously had none, cross fencing to improve the movement of the herd, and prescribed grazing to help with fire mitigation.

Any advice for women looking to pursue a career in ranching?

Just go for it. Get some dirt time in, go work for room and board on a ranch somewhere and give it your all.

What’s your dream job?

I am living my dream job. I get to be outside every day on beautiful ranches with my family, doing good things for the planet.

Carolyn Carey of Carey Ranches

Carolyn Carey of Carey Ranches

Location: Alturas, California

What is your favorite bird and why?

Owls… we have many on the ranch… as well as great rodent control, they’re fun to watch and "talk" with.

What conservation projects are you working on right now?

We’re proud of our management plans with Audubon and Ducks Unlimited. The Pit River runs through our ranch and irrigates the meadows. We devised a management plan to continue providing wonderful habitat. Swainson’s Hawk and Ibis and the threatened Bank Swallows are here because of the way we’ve managed the ranch for 50 years. I’m also the Vice-Chair of the board of California Rangeland Trusts and their plan is to help ranchers keep ranching to save the land.

Who’s been your most influential woman mentor?

My mother. She went to Cal Berkeley and graduated in 1938 with a degree in Business as one of the few women in those times to have a business degree. She was brilliant. She had incredible common sense in addition to being very educated, which she never flaunted. One of my best memories is when kids came over to our house and we’d sit around the table doing homework and visiting. Someone would have a problem with algebra, French, Spanish, etc. and without saying a word, my mom would get out of her chair and go over to the big bookcase. She'd bring back the right book and set it down in front of them. We could always count on her to get more information about whatever subject we needed. She was such a strong, unassuming, commonsense type of person.

Any advice for women looking to pursue a career in ranching?

Every situation is so completely different but you need to have a bit of a financial background and you can’t get flustered by much of anything. Just be ready for whatever might come up at whatever time of day!

Support Carey Ranches

Carey Ranches is one of the first Audubon Certified bird-friendly ranches in California that produces Panorama Organic Grass-Fed Beef™. You’ll find Panorama Organic beef at retail locations throughout the U.S. and online at Crowd Cow for shipping nationwide.

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