Ackley: 'I like the independence of farming'
CRAIG REED For the Capital Press
NEWELL, Calif. — When the summertime
hay season rolls around, Erika Ackley and her two teenage
daughters go to work as the hay crew.
Ackley is the owner of Copic Bay
Farms, a small hay and cattle operation a couple miles
outside Newell in Northern California. When the hay is ready
to be cut, Ackley runs the swather. Daughter Helena, 14, is
next in the field with a rake. Ackley follows with the
baler, and daughter Hannah, 16, operates the bale wagon that
hauls the bales to the barn.
“I like the independence of farming,
working for myself,” Ackley said. “I like to raise a good
product, make the best bale of hay I can. The goal is to cut
the hay at the right time, bale it at the right time in
order to get the highest quality possible. That produces a
Ackley’s operation involves growing
and producing hay for sale to Oregon and California dairies
and to some feed stores. She also has 25 registered black
Angus cows and sells their offspring as replacement heifers
“It’s in my blood; I just love it,”
she said of her farm business. “I’ve always wanted to farm.”
Ackley, 42, is the fifth generation of
her family to farm in the Klamath Basin. Her ancestors
arrived in the area in the late 1800s. Her grandfather,
Leland Cheyne, and father, Lee Cheyne, raised cattle, grain,
hay and potatoes for many years in the Henley area a few
miles east of Klamath Falls, Ore.
Ackley has many good memories from her
childhood years on the family ranch: Driving the tractor
while her father flaked hay off the trailer for the cows,
riding in the combine with her grandfather, sitting in the
feed bunk trying to feed the cows by hand but having little
or no success, and bottle feeding calves.
Ackley was a member of 4-H and FFA,
raising lambs and hogs. After graduating from Lost River
High School in 1998, she earned a bachelor’s degree in
animal science from Oregon State University and then a
master’s of science in ag education.
Returning to the Klamath Falls area,
Ackley taught horticulture and forestry classes for two
years at Henley High School. She also continued to help on
the family farm.
“If I couldn’t actively farm, I wanted
to try to educate the next generation on the value of
agriculture,” she said.
But Ackley slowly transitioned to
being a full-time farmer by being a substitute teacher,
working for another farmer and farming for herself for a
couple years. She quit being a substitute teacher in 2007
and went to full-time farming.
“It’s hard work, it’s not for the
faint of heart,” she said. “I don’t want to scare people
off. It’s long hours, but it’s rewarding, it’s fulfilling.
“Getting up early and seeing a sunrise
every morning, seeing seeds sprout or calves born, it
doesn’t get any better,” she added.
Ackley is a member of the Klamath
County Cattlewomen’s Association, the Modoc County Farm
Bureau and the California Farm Bureau, and is a livestock
leader for the Tulelake 4-H Club.
She explained it’s important for ag
people to advocate for the industry and to help educate
others about it.
“It used to be most people were in
agriculture or associated with it, but that’s not the case
anymore,” Ackley said. “So we have to work more on educating
society. We need a population that understands the value of
agriculture and where food comes from.”
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