Working the Land: Chris O'Blenness

“People are joined to the land by work.”
— Wendell Berry

Chris O'Blenness
Livestock Manager

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Did your family farm or ranch?
My grandfather had a hobby ranch. Where I’m from, you’re always around cattle and ranching.

Which came first for you: an interest in food or farming?
I worked on a vegetable CSA [community-supported agriculture] farm in Idaho, and that inspired me to start a farm-to-table pizza joint in Jackson Hole.

Why did you come East?
After the restaurant went bust, I wanted a complete fresh start. I missed out on a chance for a Stone Barns apprenticeship because I was in the Grand Canyon for a month on the river. So, I just showed up and volunteered anyway. Four years ago, Craig [Haney] offered me a job.

What have you learned from sheep?
Patience. Doing by not doing. Less is more.

What’s the best thing about working with sheep?

Eating them.

What’s the worst thing about working with sheep?
Cleaning up after them—the barns in winter, and shearing time.

Is this the first time you’ve worked on invasive species management?

Yes. The thing about invasives is, it’s one of the things you can’t unsee after you’ve seen it. Once you recognize them, you see them everywhere.

Photo by Nicole Franzen