Homer Buell: Fourth Generation Rancher

March 25, 2019

You can stand there and you can see the whole northern part of the ranch, and way south, too. And I think just to stand up on that hill and be able to see all that… that’s never really changed in all of our generations here. That’s probably my favorite spot.

Homer’s favorite spot, the hill where he can see the whole ranch, north to south. Photo by Erin McCready.

My great grandfather homesteaded here in 1883, went clear on out to Washington state and worked in a logging camp as a bookkeeper for about a year and then came back. Obviously, saw something he loved about the Sandhills.

The next generation was my grandfather, Homer, who I’m named after. I’m named after Homer Marion actually, my two grandfathers. Homer, he was a real outdoor enthusiast. He built in the early ’40s, with teams of horses and whatnot, built a little manmade lake here, just to the west and loved to fish, loved to hunt, loved the outdoors, loved the land, I think, as well.

Two creeks that run through the ranch, the Bloody and the Skull, are the two creeks. The Bloody empties just right here north of the house here, little bit that way. You know, there’s different stories. One story is that there was a big battle with the Native Americans, and the settlers were here then. Another story is a guy just cut his finger, and a little blood was running down. Water is the most important resource we have, and to take good care of those creeks, at least while they cross our ranch.

The Calamus River flows right through Homer’s backyard. Photo by Erin McCready.

I really had no idea when I started college, what I wanted to do. I went into business administration, thinking I would maybe go to law school. But decided about my junior year, and surprised my Dad, said I wanted to come back at the ranch.

I think every generation took the technology and the knowledge they had, and managed the land the best they could. We started out with just some two and three-pasture rotations, and then we moved up with much larger rotations. But the whole goal in mind was to leave the land better every year, every 10 years, every generation.

A herd of cattle graze the prairie while investigating what we are up to. Photo by Erin McCready.

My wife, Darla came from a little farm in western Iowa. I think she’s had a real positive effect on me to take the time to look, to look out to see what’s there, the animals, the wildlife. So, she’s really heightened my awareness, and has really been a good partner for the ranch and to go to get her opinions on different things. My brother and I, I think us working together, it really made a good synergy. You know what some of the things I was weak in, he was strong in, and so I don’t think either one of us would have been as successful without the other.

I’ve become to love the land more and more, and see everything that’s there. And on reading some o’ Aldo Leopold’s books and quotes and the Sand County Almanac, and the one that always sticks with me, he talks about the community, and the community is not … You know, a lot of people might think of the community as being their neighbors, their town and whatever, but the community is everything that’s there. It’s the wildlife, it’s the plants, and the animals.

Mule deer are just one of the species of wildlife seen throughout the ranch. Photo by Erin McCready.

And I think people would think that way and would really work to make sure that that whole community is alive and doing well and prosperous. I don’t mean just the plants or just the animals or just the trees or just the cattle that are part of it, but your town, too, and your neighbors too. If the whole community is going to do well, they all have to be vibrant, prosperous, and so you need to work with everything there. I love talking to people, meeting new people, learning from new people.

Homer and his family pose in front of their iconic red barn. From left to right, Kelby Nelson (Larry’s son-in-law), Devon Nelson (Larry’s daughter), Larry Buell (Homer’s brother), Nickie Buell (Larry’s wife), Darla Buell (Homer’s wife), Homer Buell, Tricia Buell (Homer’s daughter-in-law), and Chad Buell (Homer’s son). Photo by Homer Buell.

I think, how important it is that everybody understands how animal agriculture, and it doesn’t have to be cattle. It can be sheep or goats or whatever. Being on the land is a good thing if done properly. I think it’s so important, with being involved with ESAP Award at National Cattlemen, the Leopold Award, it’s so important that we just continue to tell that story, tell that story because every generation is further away from the land. And everybody needs to understand that you can have agriculture, you can have your natural resources and you can bring that all together, and they can all be good for the other.

The sign off of Highway 183 that welcomes visitors as they come and go on the beautiful, rolling Sandhills of Shovel Dot Ranch. Photo by Erin McCready.

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