ORLANDO, Fla. (Feb. 1, 2024) - Growing up, Advocate of the Year Alli Fender, spent her days working cattle on the Mesa Chiquita Ranch, participating in leadership roles with her local FFA chapter and 4-H club. Over the years, her love of animals grew into a passion for livestock management and eventually advocating for agriculture and the beef industry.
The Mesa Chiquita Ranch, located in the mountains of San Diego, has been a part of Alli’s family since 1921. Originally a dairy operation, it was transitioned into a beef operation by Alli’s grandfather “Sonny” Phillip Cauzza in the 1990’s. In 2014, the Flying F Brand was born when Alli and her husband, Bryce, got married and were gifted ten bred heifers by her dad as a wedding present.
Alli and Bryce, along with the support of family, are focused on caring for their registered black angus herd and marketing their beef for custom cut and retail programs. They currently sell beef direct to their consumer base in the local San Diego community and are working to expand and reach even more consumers in southern California.
When it comes to advocacy, Alli’s interest first peaked during a college business course when she discovered many of her peers had no idea there were cattle in the San Diego area. “As part of an assignment, I gave a presentation on one way my family could improve business through exploring different production and marketing practices,” explains Fender. “After an extended question and answer session from other students and my professor, it became clear I had an opportunity to share my family’s story and shed a positive light on the larger beef industry.”
Through her advocacy efforts, and as a member of the Trailblazers advocacy program, Fender has grown her presence on social media where she works to educate those wanting to learn about the beef industry. One story she has found consumers to be particular interested in is how her family works with a local brewery to incorporate spent brewer’s grain into her cattle’s nutrition program. “San Diego is known for craft beer, and with an excess of grain that would instead be hauled to a landfill, ranches like ours can use these grains to add much needed protein to our herd’s diet”, said Fender. This past October, the Flying F Ranch even hosted a ranch-to-table event with the brewery they work with to showcase the efforts ranches go to in order to raise and produce high quality beef for the consumer.
Fender sets a positive example for other beef advocates by sharing her journey in ways that connect with people outside of her immediate beef community. Alongside sharing experiences from ranch life and information about caring for cattle, her advocacy efforts often include beautifully photographed beef meals and information about how beef is raised sustainably. When challenged on her perspectives of beef by consumers who think differently, she responds gracefully, saying that “showing respect for differing viewpoints is important to having a positive dialogue, and relying on my unique experiences in ranching allows me to better answer questions or concerns from those outside of the beef industry.”
Everything Alli and Bryce do within the beef industry is for their two sons, Warren and Wells, in hopes that they can one day take over their operation. “I want to be a leader within the industry so they have someone to look up to and ensure we have value to pass along to them should they want to run the Flying F Ranch when they are old enough” says Fender.
Fender’s work to connect with consumers and tell the beef story with honesty and transparency exemplifies what it means to be the Beef Checkoff’s Advocate of the Year.
Follow Ali Fender’s advocacy efforts online at flyingfranch.org or on social media as @flying_f_ranch. Fender will be recognized as Advocate of the Year during the 2024 Cattle Industry Convention in Orlando.
About the Beef Checkoff
The Beef Checkoff was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The Checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States may retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.
About Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA)
The Checkoff-funded MBA program was launched by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, in 2009. The program, with over 24,000 participants, is designed to equip advocates to engage in conversations with consumers about beef and how cattle are raised. Applications to participate can be found at beef.org/MBA.
About NCBA, a Contractor to the Beef Checkoff
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is a contractor to the Beef Checkoff. The Beef Checkoff is administered by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, with oversight provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.