My name is Raymond, or R.J., Mooney and this May of 2020 marks the completion of an exceptionally stellar undergraduate experience here at CU. I will be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Arts and Sciences accompanied with a certificate from the Center of the American West. These two fields of study in tandem have helped me develop a strong sense of place and rootedness in the community and the beautiful region we find ourselves located in, the Intermountain West.
From the beginning of my undergraduate career I knew I wanted to involve myself with something related to land management, environmental stewardship, and sustainability. I grew up in a rural area of New England, and found myself victim to the magnetizing lure and romantic image (but not too romanticized!) of bucolic, agrarian life. At CU, positioned in livestock grazing country, it seemed fitting to investigate how I could focus my studies on the fusion of sustainability and agriculture. Then in the spring of 2019, while abroad in northern New South Wales, Australia, I was introduced to the benefits of regenerative agriculture and collaborative conservation. I was compelled to dig further and embarked on a two-month research project, concluding with a report on the status of the movement in the region. Regenerative agriculture stands as a promising practice to meet the triple-bottom-line framework of social, economic, and environmental sustainability, and collaborative conservation affords the capacity to integrate many different dialogues, often competing, into a healthy forum and cooperative management. The West has a theme of many different interests and parties often at odds with one another, so this seemed appropriate to involve myself with.
I am still gravitating towards the field of environmentally-sound livestock grazing, however I found myself equipped with field research but a lack of hands-on field experience. Weary of pointing and wagging fingers at ranchers from afar, I wanted to get some on-farm training. This August, I’ll be headed back to the Northeast and apprenticing on a humanely-raised, rotationally-grazed, grass-fed beef, pig, goat and maple syrup farm.
I hope to soon return back to the Intermountain West after completion of the apprenticeship and tackle more agricultural challenges in the land of less water. My long-term goal is to become a regenerative grazing consultant that can help farmers transition smoothly into a healthier farm and ecosystem. I’ll look to continue to engage in environmental activism and localization efforts as well. In 15 years I’d like to be an expert in regenerative agriculture, a husband, a father, and a homeowner in a progressive community that values both the scenic and working value of the landscape.
“RJ Mooney moves through the world on a quest for opportunities to refuse defeat and resignation. When he contemplates conflicts over land use in the American West (or in New England or Australia!), he assesses the dilemma with realism and practicality, and then moves steadily toward the domain of possibility and hope. Without RJ, the enterprise of regenerative agriculture will benefit humanity, but with RJ, that enterprise will gain a major infusion of energy, resilience, charm, humor, and original thinking. RJ has orchestrated his education to fashion a way of conducting himself that will invite hundreds of fortunate souls to find inspiration in the example he sets.”
– Patty Limerick, Faculty Director and Chair of the Board
“Every time I meet with RJ, I can almost see the thoughts churning in his mind. He thinks carefully and deeply about the issues facing Westerners. And he marries an interest in analyzing complex ideas and questions with a desire to find practical solutions to the seemingly intractable conflicts around agriculture, grazing, water, and development. He also always infuses some humor and a smile into every conversation!”
-Brooke Neely, Research Fellow