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Erika AckleyErika Ackley: 'I like the independence of farming'


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 better profit.”

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 and bulls.

“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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