Flora & Fauna

August 14, 2014

Lessons from the Past

2013-12-05 11.12.06

The growing presence of new technology in the form of wind turbines around Willacy County, did not keep Grace Heritage Ranch from flourishing by imitating and thriving with traditions from the past.

Bryan and Mary Schalk moved to Willacy County from Cameron County three years ago with a dream: to live in a self- sustaining homestead where they could grow organic vegetables, raise farm animals and home school their six children.  Most importantly, Bryan wanted to instill in his family the perseverance, wisdom and work ethics from past generations. As months went by, friends visited the ranch and enjoyed it so much that Bryan and Mary decided to share their homestead with others. “It’s just like pioneer days, but our God given abilities are to teach, and that is what drove us to share our ranch with others,” said Bryan.

Named after the family’s loyal first donkey, God’s Grace, which succumbed to cancer in 2012, Grace Heritage Ranch officially opened its doors to the public on Saturday December seventh. On the fifth, the Raymondville Chamber of Commerce hosted a “rope cutting” at the 100-acre ranch where members and guests, led by Pastor Bob Harris of San Benito, prayed for blessings, and wished the Schalks the best in their new venture. One of the guests present was Willacy County Commissioner Noe Loya who has been an ardent supporter since Bryan approached him with the idea almost two years ago. “We need more people with new ideas like him to come to Willacy County. We are here to help out with access roads, and the Chamber of Commerce will also support this effort,”said a proud Loya adding that Grace Heritage Ranch will bring more visitors to the county.

For Bryan Schalk managing the ranch is his passion, but he also has to fulfill his duties as a full time employee of the federal government. Prayer is what keeps Mary Schalk going, and working together has strengthened her family. There are many chores to tackle each day, and hosting visitors on Saturdays will certainly increase the work, but Bryan, Mary, and the children are thrilled at the potential of teaching others about their lifestyle.

“What is the number one use of a cowhide?” asked Bryan during the rope cutting. “Boots,” someone yelled. “To keep the cow together,” a smiling Bryan replied as he talked about a wealth of featured activities included in the 2 ½ hour tours. It is an interactive tour where visitors will have the opportunity to feed the cattle, and see the ranch’s naturally pastured heritage breeds of animals. Milking the goats, feeding the turkeys, chickens, and geese, in addition to learning about a rain water collecting system, heirloom vegetables, rotating garden, endangered animal species, beehives, and native grasses will be part of the tour.  One of the Schalk children will demonstrate how to turn cotton fibers into yarn, and Bryan will talk about the county’s historic shipwreck, and the salt lakes.  A Willacy County ranch tour could not be complete without learning about an onsite working oil well, and the nearby wind farms.

During the event, Bryan and Mary, with sons Jacob, Matthew, Joseph, and Caleb, introduced guests to some of the animals, and encouraged them to partake in feeding the vivacious goats, donkeys, and rambunctious turkeys.  Cold and gloomy weather has not discouraged the Schalk family, for they have been getting the ranch ready for some time now. “It did take an initial investment,” commented Bryan, “but in the long run we will see the savings generated by our new lifestyle.”

Turkeys at Grace Heritage Ranch

Ranch tours will be available every Saturday at 10:00 a.m. and at 2:00 p.m.  Private tours are available for different dates and times with previous reservations.  Because, their website says, the ranch is an operating and working homestead, it could be a potentially hazardous place. Guests are encouraged to arrive early enough to complete an indemnity form that can also be printed online. Graceheritageranch.com is a great place to start the tour, meet the family, access admission costs, and everything that is happening at the ranch including the sale of their beautiful steers, goats, geese and chicks.

Now that the vision is complete, Bryan reflects on what is most important to him and Mary. “We believe our children are learning Christian values, and are good stewards of the land, for they see where food comes from and appreciate things more as a result of positive work ethics and hard work. They know things are not free,” concluded Bryan.

27539 Old Alice Road – Santa Monica, TX – Toll Free 1-855-447-8687

This article was published by The Valley Business Report /January 2014 issue.

Facebook Comments


About the Author

Nydia O
A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.-Maya Angelou. La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" my life in the Rio Grande Valley. From this bi-cultural corner on the tip of Texas, I share my poems and my spiritual and travel experiences. I also blog about the arts, nature and my passion for historic preservation and architecture. But most importantly, let's talk about "la vida" - living our lives - in a vacation state of mind. Contributions and comments are always welcome .

Visit Art.com

White Tailed Deer

Public Hunting Opportunities at Laguna Atascosa

Just in from the folks at Laguna Atascosa Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (LANWR) will be accepting hunter applications during the month of August for archery and firearm hunts that will take place during the months of...
by Nydia O


Greyhound First Company to go South of the Border

Today we read  in the New York Times and we hope some routes will eventually include cities in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. For the first time ever, the intercity bus operator Greyhound has started service to Mexico. The ...
by Nydia O

green jay

Why is the Rio Grande Valley so Rich in Birds and Wildlife?

If you Enjoy Bird Watching and Nature, South Texas is Waiting for you! Texas offers the richest bird watching in USA – 630 species, more than any other state. The Lower Rio Grande Valley offers the richest birding in Texa...
by Nydia O



Can Important Art be Found in the Rio Grande Valley Art Walks?

I recently stumbled upon this post that I found extremely interesting because it provides important tips for artists to consider when participating in an art walk or open studio events. The italicized paragraphs below belong to...
by Nydia O

Violent Cities in Texas

The Rio Grande Valley much Safer than the rest of Texas.

How I wished I had read Dan Solomon’s story published January 23, 2015 by Texas Monthly online edition before my RGV promotional trip to Fort Wayne, Indiana.  The title of the article is “The FBI’s List of th...
by Nydia O


Visit Art.com


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>