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Concurrent with my visit to Trout Stalker, the Western Landowners Alliance held “Circle 5” of its Women in Ranching initiative at Trout Stalker Ranch. Now in its fifth year, the first WinR Circle convened in 2016 at Paicines Ranch in California, founded by Paicines’ Director of Education and Innovation Sharing, Elaine Patarini. After its first couple years, the WinR program found a permanent home under the umbrella of the Western Landowners Allliance.
In founding WinR, Patarini realized that these women often work in a male-dominated business, in tremendous isolation on vast rural tracts, and without a support network of peers. WinR addresses that need, giving ranch women the opportunity to connect with one another, to foster leadership, to strengthen themselves, and to nurture the next generation of women ranchers.
WinR includes working-lands women throughout the West, and helps them develop a support system of peers. The host ranches move around the country, so that women form different regions can have the opportunity to participate. Each Circle numbers about 20 women, who come together for three days to help create opportunities for leadership and skills development; to build a strong peer network in support of personal growth and self-care; and to promote best-practices land management techniques that sustain whole and healthy lands.
Aiding Patarini with the facilitation of the Circle 5 event were Virginie Pointeau, a Santa Fe-based communications specialist, and Stephanie Holdenried of Equine Encounters, who led the horse interaction seminars. Instruction included both classroom-based sessions and workshops afield, such as a soil health workshop led by Cathy O’Neill, an Area Resource Conservationist for the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Amanda Fiorino of Wild Earth Medicine led morning yoga sessions and taught attendees how to craft dreamcatchers. Trout Stalker’s own Ashlyn Perry and Brittany Wallace served as both hosts and participants, with Livestock Foreman Trisha Rohs and then-Head Wrangler Carmen Taylor also attending.
Amy Violette, an attendee from Resolana Farms in Coyote, New Mexico, sums up her WinR Circle 5 experience by saying: “Being part of Circle 5 was life-changing. Spending the weekend with like-minded women—hearing stories, sharing resources, and learning from their experiences—has helped me feel more confident as a rancher. I now have a network of 20-plus women I know I can call with anything—ranch or personal. I don’t feel so alone out here anymore; I feel heard, supported, and encouraged. It’s empowering, and my life will never be the same.”
Other attendees came from California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. Participants ranged in age from their twenties to their sixties—each bringing an open mind, a passion for the land, and a burning desire to become the best land stewards they could be. These incredible women—strangers when they first met—would become lifetime friends and professional resources for each other by the time they parted three days later as a result of this profoundly impactful program.