Dr. Samantha McLerran has a unique mixture of occupations. She is both a medical doctor and cattle producer from Moss, Tennessee. Samantha is also on the Board of Directors for the Tennessee CattleWomen’s Association. Learn about her family’s life on the farm in today’s blog feature…
How did you get involved with raising cattle?
I got involved with farming by default because I fell in love with a farmer. I met Brian as a Senior in college with my own plans for medical school.
So, the first few years of our life together involved farming on the weekends while I went through medical school and Residency training. I will be the first to admit that I did not take an interest in the farm and made it difficult at times for Brian to do what needed to be done on the farm. I was truly one of those women that did not know or care where my food came from and I loved words like organically grown and hormone free, without a clue what they meant agriculturally. So, after coming home as a young family, Brian finally convinced me to go on Fall Tour with YF&R- it was eye opening. I meant the nicest people that were devoted to their farms and production. I started to learn what farming actually means, and I started talking about agricultural and learning all I could. I also took a more active role in YF&R, our own farm, and social media as it related to agricultural issues.
Tell us about your farm today.
Brian and I live in a sixth generation Registered Angus farm. Now, six generations ago, his family farmed to survive and feed growing families. We have raised Registered Angus for over ten years, but before that the farm produced tobacco, hay, and commercial cattle.
We are proud of the genetics of our cattle, the environmental changes implemented on our farm, and of being able to raise our family on the farm.
Today we also produce hay, recreational horses, registered Mt. Curr hunting dogs, and help our kids with their 4-H animals.
Watching my girls grow up on the farm – that’s interesting. Well, I would have to say that seeing them take an interest in the genetics and health of our cattle has been neat. Having them help in farm chores like working the cattle for vaccines and health checks, haul in hay, and check/repair fences.
But also, it’s good to see them learn things like hunting for Morel mushrooms, hunting for everything from squirrel/turkey/deer, and hiking.
I am most proud of their interest in our cattle. Brie can tell you about every baby calf we get and already has a keen eye for an animal in poor health. While, Ella is learning to AI and draw blood under her Dad’s watchful eye.
What have been some of the trials you or your family has had to overcome?
To name a few: balancing farming with my job, learning to let go of my timetable when their is farm work to be done, and not caring if the house is perfect but rather as long as it’s home.
But, the biggest trial was in me learning and accepting the role of farm wife and Mom. A lot of women I meet in agriculture still occupy a very traditional family role- as in the stay at home Mom, that is able to cook 3 meals a day and do all the house work. I think that is a wonderful goal and wish I was made that way, but I am a total career woman at heart. Balancing the difference can be interesting at times, because even in my life, my Mother-in-law is very traditional in her mindset. Often we differ I small things like whether the girls understand “checking for heat” actually deals with cows estrus cycle and related to breeding. She just never discussed such things and worries that Brian and I are too open with the kids. It’s also been difficult at times relating to other women in agriculture because I don’t quilt, cannot always volunteer for a local food drive or read at school day, but that does not mean that I am less interested in issues facing agriculture.
Well, it’s not that different than life anywhere else, but it is more rewarding. We are blessed to grow our own meat, or hunt for it. It’s great to be able to get out into a pasture and watch our animals. But it is full of responsibility too. You cannot just take off for 2 weeks. Animals require care every day. So, despite baseball, dance, work or play – there is animals to feed, fences to mend, and work to be done everyday.
I admit to not having to worry if the kids just go outside to play. Well, let’s be specific- I don’t worry about them going missing out of the yard, but I do worry about snakes, falling out of barn lofts, or trying to do more than they should working cattle and getting stepped on. But, any life has little worries.
It’s a commute to work, but only about 45 minutes and I have friends in cities that commute longer and have much less freedom at home.
What does it mean to you to be able to work with your family every day?
Well, that would be a better question for Brian as he works with his Dad every day. Blending generations can sometimes be tricky, especially as both Father and son think each knows best and that just leaves the kids and I to be the little Indians to two very different Chiefs. But, overall it’s a lot of fun to work with all my family. It also helps teach the girls about temper control, working with different personalities, and remaining goal oriented.
Be patient and have a long range plan for care/farming. Have a good support team and if your spouse is not from a farm, try to get them involved in the operation by letting them help, even if it means you might have to go back over their work latter. I know from first hand experience that I became more excited and involved once their were things I could do to be useful to the farm.
What is it like to balance farming with your work as a doctor?
Well, that has been interesting to work out. For several years I had a full time office practice and could be involved very little in day to day farming. But, since I have transitioned to full time ER work, I can do a lot more on the farm. One of the best features of farm life is usually Brian or I can get free for most everything the kids are involved in. From school plays, to ag projects, we are able to be involved in their lives. So, I choose to orient my schedule for farm and kids.
How do you incorporate beef into a healthy meal for your family?
Healthy meals are not much of a problem for me in relationship to using beef. We grill a lot, and our hamburger meat is a 80/20 grind. Roasting and braising both also limit the overall fat in beef cuts.
Most people don’t know but their is even a validated diet supported by the medical side of my life called BOLD. I also love using leftover steaks for lunch time steak burritos or quesadillas. Turning roast into beef stew is also neat. I find no matter the culture, beef can fit into the menu.
Is there anything else you can share with us?
Having come from a non-farming family and background, I feel blessed everyday for the richness that being a farm Mom and wife has allowed. The richness of this life is not to be replaced, and I worry that as farmers age and young people are choosing lives in cities over their farms who will grow our food and fiber. I can understand the issues facing us – immigration reform, water regulations, and so many more and hope that by being involved in a small amount, we can keep our farm going for my seventh generation farmers.