Small-scale ranchers say livestock, not veganism, has the potential to save the planet.

Image for post
Image for post
Cows and calves graze in the pastures at California’s Bolinas Ranch, the regenerative agriculture operation of vegetarian environmental-lawyer-turned-cattle-rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman. (Photo by Erin Flegg)

Before they were ranchers, Tristan and Aubyn Banwell were vegans. Then, an experience homesteading led them to appreciate the importance of livestock in small-scale farming: while converting an overgrown lot into cropland, they enlisted pigs to uproot shrubs and trees, ducks to control the slugs, and chickens to recycle plant material into the soil as manure. The Banwells subsequently founded Spray Creek Ranch in 2014, where they currently raise cattle, pigs, chickens, and turkeys on 100 hectares near Lillooet, British Columbia.

Tristan sees their transition from vegans to livestock farmers as a natural result of uncovering the complexities of the food system: “I think it’s actually a really common story — there are a lot of people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet for a period of time, and then eventually find that their concerns can be addressed by some other products. …

Image for post
Image for post

A few months ago, I remember applauding myself for being such a successful 26-year-old. I’d so far spent my twenties holding strong stable jobs and living in my own apartments. I felt like I’d somehow escaped the boomerang millennial cliché. I was never going to be that lost and jobless twentysomething, living in her parents’ basement.

Or so I thought.

Last week it dawned on me that my short-term “visit,” sleeping in my sister’s guestroom, had ballooned into a lifestyle. I’d run out of money. Everything I owned was spilling out of a suitcase in the corner. And there I was, skimming through Craigslist ads for yard work and babysitting and sensual foot modeling. I was anything but an exception to the rule. …


Katy Severson

Writer of food, farming, and environment. Regenerative agriculture enthusiast. Passionate eater. Portfolio at

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store