MARSING, Idaho — Kim Brackett grew up on a ranch in Wyoming, then married Ira Brackett and moved to his family’s Idaho ranch in Owyhee County near the Idaho-Oregon-Nevada border.
“We’ve been here 25 years. Our kids are the sixth generation of Bracketts on this ranch,” she said.
This is high desert, with 10 to 12 inches of annual precipitation. “We always seem to be in a drought, trying to manage around it,” she said.
Kim is involved with daily ranch work alongside her husband.
“I love to ride and work on the ranch. As the kids got older and insisted on going to school, we got a house that is closer to town (Marsing).”
Her life consists of getting them to practices and games, FFA, 4-H, piano recitals, rodeos and other events.
“I also do all the bookkeeping for the ranch and don’t have time to be outside doing all the day-to-day work I once did, and I hate not being able to do that,” she said. “I keep asking my youngest son if we could just homeschool him so we’d have more time on the ranch but he isn’t sold on that idea!”
Kim also works for the beef industry at the state and national levels. She was chair of the Idaho Beef Council and went on to chair the National Cattlemen’s Beef Board. She’s currently vice president of the Idaho Cattle Association.
“I chair the National Beef Quality Assurance Advisory Board and Beef Industry Long-Range Plan Task Force. We created a strategic plan for the industry for the next five years and rolled out that plan last summer,” she said.
Kim is also on the management board of the Intermountain West Joint Venture, a collaborative conservation group.
“Their goal is to maintain or increase wildlife habitat and they realize this can’t happen unless we have working ranches and rangelands,” she said, adding that ranchers are the best conservationists. Without viable ranches these lands would be subdivided and wildlife habitat lost.
“I was hesitant about becoming involved with that group, but have enjoyed sitting at the table with folks with the same goal, of keeping working ranches,” he explained. “Idaho became involved with this because of sage grouse.”
The highlight of her career was in 2018 when she was an Eisenhower Fellow.
“On my fellowship I traveled to Argentina and Australia for six weeks to study sustainability, regenerative agriculture and grazing in those countries, and figure out what I could bring home and apply here,” she said. “That was the most humbling and most inspiring experience I’ve ever had.”
The four kids are Cade, 19; Zane, 17; Chantry, 15; and Rhett, 12.
“My oldest did college at home last year because of COVID. Early morning we all do chores — feed the horses and animals here — then take the kids to school. Some mornings I do the bookkeeping and pay bills. Then I may be helping outside, riding, bringing in cattle to sort, then it’s time to go pick up the kids again!” Kim said.
She thrives under pressure. Most ranchers have to in order to stay in business. It’s a matter of rising to each new challenge, which takes innovation and sometimes figuring out a new plan to make it all work.
“Much of our pasture is on federal land so it takes creative cooperation, trying to keep an open dialogue,” she said.
For the future of ranching, she says producers must be progressive and innovative.
“The focus on climate in the current administration is concerning but I choose to view it as an opportunity,” she said. “I do presentations and write articles about how the cattle industry — especially the cow-calf sector — is sustainable and how crucial cattle are for carbon sequestration and water retention in our soils.”
If eventually there are payments for ecosystem services — a carbon market or wildlife habitat — she foresees a time when cow-calf producers might have another revenue source for the work they do on their ranches and rangelands.