For an online celebration of combined passions for family, cattle and cuisine, Flint Hills stocker operators Arturo and Wrenn Pacheco created their Cooking with the Cowboy culinary blog four years ago in 2016.
Today the blog features a winning combination of Wrenn’s photography skills and Arturo’s home style recipes with roots in his Southwestern heritage.
“I didn’t want to start a true advocacy blog because I knew that wasn’t something that was sustainable for me to write about as a singular topic,” Wrenn said. “Arturo has a passion for cooking so I thought it was a really cool story that he could wear chaps and boots and his cowboy hat most of the summer and then come home and cook us a five course meal without blinking an eye.”
While their culinary style has evolved over time from college cooking, to fine dining for two and now to more kid-friendly recipes created for their two sons, the Pachecos have learned a lot from and about each other through the course of their blog — and those are life lessons they want to share with the world.
“I wanted to pair that cowboy story with ag advocacy because I believe that breaking bread with someone is a way to open up communication,” Wrenn said. “The food blog is a way we can break bread with people virtually through the Internet and share our story.”
Both Wrenn and Arturo grew up in the cattle industry — her in eastern Texas and him in central New Mexico. The pair met initially while livestock judging at separate junior colleges and eventually landed on a team together at Texas Tech University.
When Arturo went on to pursue his doctorate in beef cattle nutrition at Kansas State University, Wrenn went on to work at the Beef Cattle Institute and eventually the couple found their own slice of paradise south of Manhattan, along with their own business opportunities — Arturo’s in nutrition and Wrenn’s in photography.
Together the two make a dynamic advocacy duo, with shared experiences in many levels of beef cattle production and a tasty way to relay those experiences to the general public.
“As beef producers I think it’s important to let people know that their food doesn’t come from the confinement, factory farm kind of situation that they might picture,” Arturo said. “Raising cattle is a very intimate, unique part of our food supply that’s pretty necessary.”
With experiences in a wide variety of cattle production environments — from piney woods to near-desert to rolling plains — the Pachecos have a unique appreciation for the challenges cattlemen face.
“There’s a lot of land in the United States that isn’t useful for anything but grazing livestock,” Arturo said. “For cattle to spend a big portion of their lives harvesting something that we cannot directly use and making it into a resource we can consume — that’s an important part of our industry.”
Sharing their love for the beef industry through food is more than just a hobby for the Pachecos; it’s an opportunity to document their passions honestly and allow anyone interested insight into the daily lives of people in agriculture.
“For us, the food blog represented an opportunity to tell our stories every day because all of the things we are most passionate about are a part of the blog,” Wrenn said. “First and foremost being our children, secondly our livelihood and lifestyle as far as being ranchers, and thirdly being food.”
Cooking with the Cowboy’s target audience is anyone who wants to cook and eat good food. With simple recipes, often featuring a Southwestern kick, the blog focuses on food that fits a hardworking family’s lifestyle.
“We have a wide range of followers from our ag and producer friends who are cheering us on to the people I connect with more on a mom-to-mom level,” Wrenn said. “I try to be very open and explain things in detail as we go on social media and we get a few follow-up questions but normally it’s enough information along with the visual on its own.”
In challenging food climate, recent recipes featured on Cooking with the Cowboy are targeted for ease of preparation and waste reduction.
“Right now there are cuts of beef available that may not be typical to people who are purchasing meat because so many stores sold out of ground beef first,” Wrenn said. “So we’ve been providing recipes that use different cuts of meat or even use leftovers in a different way so people can limit their trips to the grocery store as well as food waste.”
For Wrenn, starting Cooking with the Cowboy was an adventure not just into the world of blogging and social media, but also into the world of cooking as a whole.
“I grew up in a household where my mom cooked, but she didn’t really enjoy cooking so she made simple things she could get on the table quickly,” Wrenn said. “I didn’t learn a lot about cooking with her because I didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen when she was cooking and because I didn’t have a huge interest in it.”
After cooking through college alongside Arturo and eventually being introduced to his family, Wrenn’s fascination with and appreciation for culinary skills grew in leaps and bounds.
“Arturo’s mom is one of those women who can feed an army out of nothing,” Wrenn said. “Not only could she feed them but it would be delicious and fabulous so I’m sure that’s where part of Arturo’s inspiration comes from.”
The recipes Arturo shares on the site are often simplifications or adaptations of foods he grew up eating, and while years of practice have honed his craft, he said nothing ever turns out quite as good as it is when it come’s from his mom’s kitchen.
“For me it started in college when I had a basic understanding of how to cook but I would try to cook things that I grew up with and they never turned out quite the same as I remembered,” Arturo said. “Our livestock judging team was a really tight group and when we would get home from being on the road, the first thing we would want to do was pick up groceries and beer at the store and hang out with a home cooked meal together.”
Appreciation for the feeling of community and closeness that comes from sharing a meal with friends became the premise for the feel of the Cooking with the Cowboy blog, as well as the feel of the recipes Wrenn and Arturo share with their children at home.
“We enjoy good food and cooking good food, as well as spending time together in our kitchen and sharing those experiences with our children,” Wrenn said. “Teaching our kids about how to cook and where their food comes from goes hand in hand with our blog.”
A focus on family values isn’t a foreign concept for people in all levels of production agriculture — but it is a concept Wrenn and Arturo hope to share with anyone who isn’t familiar with producers’ ethics.
“I think it’s important that we all come together to tell our story,” Wrenn said. “The public needs to know that the cow-calf guys produce a healthy calf that get’s great care from their family, and then it’s sent to a stocker where it remains healthy and get’s great care from that family and so on throughout the supply chain.”
To check out the Pacheco’s recipes, visit cookingwiththecowboy.com or follow their stories on Instagram using the cookingwiththecowboy handle. Farm Talk’s Country Lifestyles page is featuring a selection of Arturo’s recipes this week on page 12.