Meet the artisan: Zara

What are some of the places you’ve lived in your life?

I was born in the Blue Ridge area in Virginia. Appalachia is home to me, the older mountains. I moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, I studied abroad for a year in Galway, Ireland, and also Prague. I moved to Paris for a while, worked on a farm south of the city, then I came back to Nashville.  I had a documentary job in New York but I was only there for five months, then I went back to the family farm. I’ve lived all over the place. 

What was your favorite of those places? 

Paris, it was the most formative for me. It gave me perspective on my home. I don’t know that I love city living, but it was a good city to live in for me because its a lot slower paced compared to other places. I just wanted to see things. 

What exactly is your role in the leather shop and on the ranch?

I'm working in the leather shop, and look after the kids, and also now write blog posts for Ranchlands. [Madi's daughter] Dean naps a lot of the day so I have plenty of time to research. I’m working on one now about the sustainability of leather. As long as there’s a meat industry, hides get thrown in the trash, and leather lasts so much longer than fake, plastic, or vegan leather, so that's not really sustainable in the long run. It takes more chemicals to make the fake versions. I’m a vegetarian but I can still argue for it. Then I want to write another about the tea that you can make from plants here on the ranch.

How were you first exposed to Ranchlands?

A friend of mine was working for the Forest Service in the San Juans. He had heard about Ranchlands, specifically the Zapata, and told me about the mission of conservation and said “this is so up your alley!” And he was right. I’ve always been around horses and feel most like myself around them. My mom has 9 sisters and they all chipped in so my sister and I could visit the Chico as guests. 

9 sisters?!

Haha, yep, thirteen kids total. Ten daughters and three sons.

What are your first impressions of the Chico now that you’ve lived on it?

It’s really exciting to me because it’s all pretty foreign. Where I’m from it’s green, there are trees everywhere. The animals and the plants are so different here. The landscape is completely different. Everything feels exciting and it all feels like something new to learn. I love learning. And the sunsets and the sunrises are so pretty. 

Impressions of working in the shop?

I love the craftsmanship of it so much. I really respect what Andrea’s doing, and I’m so grateful to have such a great teacher. I’m really eager to be more useful, but I know that takes time. I think that also the community of ranchers, or living like this, is I really appreciate the time it takes to know people. It’s really genuine and it resonates with me. It translates to the shop. If you care about a craft, you have to give it time, attention, and energy. Andrea’s so good. 

What are you looking forward to most here?

Oh my gosh, that’s a good question. I guess learning. From the land, the people, the animals, there’s just so much to learn and absorb. I’m excited to be a part of this community and make it my home and really know it well. I’m excited to get to know the ranch. I can’t wait for brandings, because I’ll get to know the ranching community surrounding this place and get to spend time with them.