When the pandemic suspended campus life this spring, Jacob Pacheco '21 went straight to work. After all, it was calving season.
Most ranchers will tell you the ideal breeding season for cows is May - that way the calves are born in early spring the following year. The forage is beginning to regrow in February as the days lengthen and the temperatures rise, providing adequate grazing for the mother cow (and ample nutrition for her calf). So, when classes went remote this spring, Pacheco logged on from his family's cattle ranch in Taos, New Mexico, and in between classes, he assisted with cows in labor.
Pacheco cherished the routine. Every day, before he started kindergarten, he would get up early with his grandfather and tend to the cattle. Being a rancher is a lifestyle and a way to make a living. Pacheco always wanted both.
His grandfather and father started buying cattle more than 30 years ago (Pacheco's great grandfather also owned cows, but sold them soon after World War II). They now own approximately 300 cattle at any given time and raise them on 14,000 acres of leased land in the northern New Mexico mountains during the spring, and on 6,000 acres of pastures in the winter. They specialize in grass fed, black angus beef (they never use hormones or pesticide). It's a good-sized, yet local ranch - but when Pacheco gets his shot, he has plans to broaden operations.
Pacheco's grandfather passed away seven years ago. His dad manages the ranch now, but it was never his passion or his primary income (he recently retired from a government job). Pacheco, though, plans to take over the business and run the ranch with his brother, and expand. More cows, more land - and they want to increase the distribution of their own butcher shop. Pacheco's Siena degree will help, and he looks forward to realizing his grandfather's dream. But more than anything, he looks forward to being back on horseback.
Everybody deserves a happy place. For Pacheco, it's easy. Riding eight hours a day over miles of northern New Mexico mountains tending to his herd. Or, on the soccer pitch.
"Loudonville is far from New Mexico, but from the first day I toured campus - Siena felt like the perfect fit. It's just the right size. There are church services on campus every Sunday, which is important to me. I might stand out from the crowd walking around campus with my cowboy hat on, but I feel at home."
Pacheco's older brother, Patrick, was a gifted soccer player. Pacheco followed in his footsteps. But in a town of 7,000, they needed to play in the big city to face better competition and get noticed by scouts. Almost every weekend, the family made the 2-hour drive, each way, to Albuquerque for a soccer match.
Pacheco didn't have many Division I offers coming out of high school, so he connected with an exchange program, and spent almost a full year playing in Spain. He then enrolled in a junior college in Arizona, changed positions, and won a national championship his sophomore year. Former Siena coach Cesar Markovic was in the stands for the championship game.
Pacheco is a captain for the Saints, and he hasn't closed the door on a potential professional career (like the one his brother enjoyed). But whether next year, or in several years, Pacheco will eventually make his full-time return to the family ranch.