For TDA member Barbara Peeler and her family, helping kids in the community is part of everyday life.
“My main focus has always been kids,” says Peeler, who has been a school board member in her hometown of Jourdanton for nearly 40 years.
Barbara and her husband and family have “run” their Atascosa County ranch for over 55 years even though they maintain a home in town. It is primarily a working cattle ranch and was established in 1913.
She credits her husband with being able to maintain and keep the ranch all these years, though it has not always been easy to do. “We are very particular about things,” says Peeler, “and we believe in maintaining all aspects of the land.”
This, of course, includes their wildlife resources. A TDA member since 2012, Peeler believes in actively managing their deer population and has help culling deer by letting area kids, servicemen, veterans, and church groups go hunting. Stressing to her guests the ethics of hunting is important to Peeler. “We are hunters, not killers,” she says. “What we hunt and what we shoot is eaten.”
One of the most rewarding ways Peeler has found to interact with local kids in the community is through the Future Farmers of America, or the FFA. Her family has worked with the organization for many years, and has begun to team up with them to host a district meet at their ranch.
This year marked the 10th year that Wintergarden FFA enjoyed the beautiful surroundings of the Peeler Ranch as they pursued their annual Invitational Land, Grass, and Range Contest. Nearly 500 kids from 29 schools across south Texas—stretching all the way south to Benavides and Calallen, competed in contests that included: range evaluation, homesite evaluation, plant identification, and land judging.
Peeler said this wasn’t the only group that her family has worked with, but it was certainly the largest. To incentivize the kids, her family started to offer college scholarships to the first and second place winners in each division. To her, the best part is seeing the growing diversity within the FFA community, as well as being able to help students with special needs take part in the activities.
Working with students through the FFA allows Peeler and her family to pass on to the next generation what they consider to be a very important life lesson: teaching the youth of today where their food actually comes from.
“It all goes back to the land, and that’s what we want them to know. That they should appreciate it and be grateful for it, and for all that it provides for us.”
She has discovered over the years in talking with the kids that most every one of them dreams of one day owning a ranch… whatever that might mean to them. And that is something especially gratifying to Peeler.
“This is all something that has been gift from God,” she said thoughtfully. “We are believers in a good clean way to make a living, and we thank Him every night that He has provided us this way to make ours.”
Peeler will be quick to point out to you that they don’t have a fancy lodge, or large commercial operation. Nor do they have their family ranch just to play. “We work hard every single day, says Peeler, “everybody here does! Our end goal is simply to make a living and to help feed a lot of people,” she explains.
And feed people they do… but not just in the obvious ways. The Peeler family’s hospitality and dedication to the children of the community has fed countless minds, hearts, spirits, imaginations and dreams over the years, and south Texas is a better, richer place for it.