In Tennessee, we have dedicated cattle producers working to raise the best beef they can, caring for the land and livestock…and providing a good life for their families. Today, we feature one of them: Margie Baker Hunter. Read about her love for the livestock and for her life on the farm…
How long has your family been involved in raising cattle? Tell us about how it got started.
Hunter Farms has been at the same location for 3 generations. It started as a dairy farm and switched to beef cattle in the early 1990’s. I grew up on a commercial cow calf farm in Kentucky and both my husband and I have been involved with raising cattle our whole lives.
Tell us about your farm today.
Today we raise mostly purebred Angus. We also have some commercial cows that we use a Hereford bull on and sell calves through the Upper Cumberland Beef Alliance, which is part of the Tennessee Livestock Producers. We have purchased cattle from other purebred producers and even flushed two of our cows to improve our genetics, and also use artificial insemination to bring in new bloodlines. David spends a great deal of time comparing bulls to try and find the perfect match for our cows. Since we raise replacement heifers, he focuses on bulls with good maternal traits, but we also want cattle that will grow well.
What was your favorite part about growing up on the farm?
My favorite part about growing up on a farm was getting to work alongside my dad. Being outside and working with livestock were just added benefits. David worked with his father in the dairy, and learned the value of hard work at an early age. We both learned the value of hard work and how to appreciate what we have from growing up on a farm.
What have been some of the trials you or your family has had to overcome?
The weather is a big one that we have no control over. A drought year that lead to poor pastures and lack of hay is one trial. Another is volatile cattle markets. We are fortunate right now to be selling some of the highest cattle we’ve ever sold. But any producer will tell you that prices can drop at any time. A third trial is dealing with animal activist groups. Most of these groups try to portray farmers in a negative manner, and if the public took the opportunity to ask a local farmer, they would see that farmers are hardworking caretakers of the land and their animals.
What is one thing you wish more people knew about life on the farm?
Farming is a job that can be 24/7. During harvest time extra hours are spent in the field – whether with row crops or hay. Calving season can be round the clock as well, making sure the new heifers are checked on regularly and that they have help they need if necessary. Farming is not just a job, it’s a way of life. It’s what we do each day, and we do it because we love it!
What does it mean to you to be able to work with your family every day?
Watching the grandkids help out on the farm is one of the most gratifying things in my life. Being able to work alongside my husband in our cattle operation is another. I do work off the farm, but love being able to help out any time that I can. David has said quite often that what he does is not a job – it’s what he loves!
Do you have any advice for young Tennessee cattle producer about the business?
Get involved with groups like the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association both in your county and at the state and national levels. They have many educational meetings where you can learn about new and innovative practices that you can use on your own farm. Know that there will be times when the market is good, and be ready if it drops. And always remember, you have the best job around! You’re never going to work if you love what you do!
What’s your favorite beef dish?
I think steak is my favorite, but I really like beef in general. I do appreciate what the Beef Industry Council does in using creating new beef dishes from less desired cuts, through research and development. The Flat Iron steak is a good example of this, and with a portabella mushroom and cheese on top it is awesome!
Is there anything else you can share with us?
Even as a kid, I always felt that farming was what I wanted to do when I grew up. I am just thankful that I found a wonderful husband that I am able to share my passion with. Taking care of the land and our animals – it’s not just a job, it’s what we love to do.