This year's Kern County CattleWoman of the Year had a moment of clarity upon returning home from college in 2008.
Amanda Rankin Barrett was sitting horseback gathering cattle on her family's ranch when she looked down over a grassy valley and was "overcome by a sense of pride and belonging," as she wrote later in the family's history book.
"I gazed at the beauty that surrounded me, and I listened to the utter silence that was occasionally interrupted by a passing bird, or the call of a mother cow in the distance," she wrote.
"I knew that family members from four generations before me had experienced this very same view, and it was because of their determination and hard work that I had the opportunity to do the same."
Needless to say, Barrett decided to put her new Cal Poly San Luis Obispo agricultural business degree to work at her family home, Rankin Ranch. Now she helps with its cattle and guest ranch operations, and on the side promotes the beef industry in classrooms and various events.
Her dedication won notice within the Kern County CattleWomen's Association, which is honoring her at its annual banquet Feb. 22 at Bakersfield's Petroleum Club.
"Of course it's a huge honor, a huge privilege to receive it," Barrett said, adding that her grandmother, mother and sister have also won the county CattleWoman of the Year award.
That's not the reason she works so hard within the industry, though.
"We enjoy being involved with it, having an opportunity to be involved with the beef industry," said Barrett, this year's association president.
This year's Kern County Cattleman of the Year is Dr. Jerry Woody, a veterinarian who grew up on Woody Ranch, which last year celebrated its 150th anniversary (Rankin Ranch celebrates its 150th this year).
Woody, also the son of a county Cattleman of the Year, showed steers at the Kern County Fair as a child, and graduated from Bakersfield's North High School before starting work as a seasonal firefighter with the Kern County Fire Department.
A counselor at Bakersfield College, where Woody was studying, suggested he look into veterinary medicine. He did, and went on to earn a doctorate in veterinary medicine at the University of California, Davis.
By now, the 68-year-old father of two has spent 40 years practicing large animal veterinary medicine. He has become a familiar sight to the county's ranchers and dairymen.
"It is a great honor to be chosen (county Cattleman of the Year) by cattlemen that you work for," Woody said.
"I guess they felt that I helped to, you know, keep the herds in good health and productive. As a large animal vet, that's what we do."