How long has your family been involved in raising cattle? Tell us about how it got started.
I have been involved in raising cattle my whole life. My parents and grandparents all raised cattle. I grew up on the family farm where my father and his parents raised dairy and beef cattle. My father grew up raising and showing dairy cattle and they also had beef cattle. When I was a little girl my grandfather gave me my own dairy cow. I guess that would be the way I truly got started with cattle. When I got older I began showing registered beef cattle, my first calf was an orphan that I bottle raised. My brother and I showed registered Polled Hereford cattle all through school. When I married in 1992 my husband had a commercial herd of beef cattle and we have continued to work on improving that herd over the years. My son began showing registered Black Angus cattle in 2005 and my daughter began as soon as she was old enough. Currently my daughter and niece and nephew are all showing Black Angus, sometimes my daughter also shows commercial heifers. My children purchased a small herd of commercial cattle and rented a farm to run their herd on. My husband and I helped to supplement their herd in the beginning by furnishing hay for the herd. So raising cattle has been a family tradition for generations.
Tell us about your farm today (breed of cattle, what you are proud of, etc.)
Today we have a 40 head commercial cow-calf operation and are improving the herd by breeding to a registered Black Angus bull. We retain our heifers to increase the cow calf herd and to use as replacement cows. We are currently working on implementing a rotation plan for grazing for the operation.
What was your favorite part about growing up on the farm?
I always loved being around the animals and working with them. One of my first memories is riding on the mules as my grandfather plowed the fields. I would also go and help my grandparents milk the cattle. Then in 4th grade I began showing cattle and that was my true joy. I loved showing and all that went with it. It took a great deal of hard work and it seemed to be a never ending cycle, but I loved it.
What have been some of the trials you or your family has had to overcome?
The cattle industry has been trials that most producers must face daily. We have all had to work to overcome the rise and fall in the beef prices and the demands placed on producers. As a beef producer we have to stay current with the needs of our animals and to produce top quality animals for the market.
What is one thing you wish more people knew about life on the farm?
Most people do not understand the dedication and hard work that is required to farm. There numerous problems that most farmers face daily. A trait that most farmers’ posses is to think outside the box and look for various solutions for the problems they are facing. Producers have to face the misconceptions that many have about how the animals are raised and treated. My family has been active in the Smith County Farm City Day for years as a way to get the information out about where your food and fiber really comes from. My husband, Ronnie, heads up the program and he and both of my children conduct different stations at the event. Ronnie does the honey bee booth, Nicholus does the Horse booth and Samantha presents the cattle booth. Most students are several generations removed from the farm and truly don’t understand that they hamburger all began on the farm. We do this as a way to educate and inform the students about the reality of farm life and where their food and fiber comes from.
What does it mean to you to be able to work with your family every day?
I would say that I am blessed to be able to work with my family on the farm. I have watched my children grow and develop skills that are way more advanced than their age. I have watched as my son has taken skills he has learned on the family farm and develop a business plan and began his own greenhouse business when he was only 15. I have watched my daughter gain leadership skills and citizenship skills through her involvement with her show cattle and her farmer’s market produce operation. It is meaningful to know that your children understand how their farm impacts their community and world. They understand that they must be good stewards of their farm, because it is relevant in the big picture of their world. One must realize that a farmer can make a difference and must hold themselves accountable for their actions.
Do you have any advice for young Tennessee cattle producers about the business?
I would advise anyone starting in the cattle business to develop a good business plan and to have more than one. Currently we are seeing very good prices for beef and that would make is a very expensive investment to begin in the cattle business. If prices hold steady there is a profit to be made, but as with any farming business prices are subject to change. So you need to understand and plan for that aspect of any farming business. I would seek out advice from successful cattle farmers and truly evaluate the advice you are given.
What’s your favorite beef dish?
One of my favorite dishes is of course a good grilled steak and my other favorite is a slow cooked beef roast.
Is there anything else you can share with us?
One of my favorite quotes about farming comes from the book, “Bringing it the Table: Writings on Farming and Food” by Wendell Berry.
“Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide.”