By Justin Young, TCA Intern
This is the first edition of a new (limited) segment that TCA will be doing on Mondays, called “Meet the Future Monday.” Like “Farm Feature Friday,” we will be highlighting some of Tennessee’s finest producers, but instead, this will be geared toward the up-and coming-generation of farmers. This segment shows that even though farming is tough, hard to enter, and sometimes hard to thrive, there are still young folks out there that are, not only farming but also succeeding at it. TCA is proud to highlight these young farmers in their endeavors.
The first “Meet the Future Monday” feature, is Andrew and Hope Pryor, a newly-wed couple from Walland, Tn. The couple are students at Middle Tennessee State University and will graduate in May. Andrew is a multi-generational farmer who is following in the footsteps of his dad, grandad, and great-grandad. Andrew is a very accomplished student, who has earned a 3.9 GPA, and is very active on MTSU’s dairy/creamery operation when he is not visiting home in East Tennessee. Anyone that has even met Andrew, knows that he is a solid person to the core. He serves as a great example for others pursuing a career in agriculture, even for those his own age. He believes in hard work, Christian values, and a strong family. Have a look and get to know Andrew Pryor!
Q: How long has your family been farming?
A: My family was blessed with farming on both sides. My grandmother’s side (McKenry) has been farming since 1843 on our century farm in Walland, TN. The original farm was 166 acres and eventually diversified to milk 155 cows, produce vegetables, tobacco, chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, beef cattle, corn, hay and raised horses. My grandfather’s side (Pryor), began in 1834 and farmed dairy and beef cattle, corn, hay, as well as tobacco. The Pryor family mostly farmed part-time throughout past few generations. Today, my family owns a portion of both farms and focuses on beef cattle production.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about growing up on the farm?
A: For me, learning responsibility at such a young age has been irreplaceable. I can remember bottle feeding calves, splitting wood, picking green beans, and stacking square bales when I was very young. This helped develop my work ethic at an early age.
Q: Who has been your biggest role model in pursuing your farming aspirations?
A: My great-grandfather Robert (Bob) McKenry. He took over our operation in 1951 and had a strong passion for agriculture and the family farm, like myself; we are alike in numerous ways, one being that we believe no other place on earth compares to the family farm.
Q: Describe your operation.
A: Today, me, my Grandad, and Dad all farm 240 acres part-time. We focus on cow-calf production with both freezer beef and registered herd segments. Our freezer beef business is growing with about 15-20% of our calf crop being marketed directly to consumers for meat. I have also begun Artificial Inseminating my herd to incorporate top genetics in the Angus breed. I hope to grow my registered herd and market quality replacement heifers and herd bulls to local producers looking to upgrade their genetics.
Q: What are you most passionate about in your business?
A: I am very passionate and take a lot of pride in our family history on the farm. I am very fortunate to come from a family that instilled in me a strong work ethic, responsibility, and Christian values. This is something I hope to continue with my wife and our family on the farm.
Q: What are some of the greatest challenges that you face as a young farmer?
A: There are many entry barriers for young farmers in today’s market. I personally have had a great asset in having the family equipment to harvest my forages. This helped me get started with smaller amount of start-up cost. I leased land to start my cattle operation because that is the only feasible way to begin without inheriting land immediately. To me, those are the biggest barriers for young farmers wanting to get started in the cattle business. I grew produce for 5 years before I segmented into cattle, to make it financially possible. A young farmer must have the mindset that they are going to farm and be successful at it, no matter what obstacles may come their way!
Q: Where do you see yourself and your operation in 10 years?
A: In 10 years, I hope to have every commercial calf produced on our farm marketed directly to a consumer as meat. This business has been great for my family because we see our product from the start to finish. We select for our genetics and consume our own beef. This allows you to see what genetic selections yield the highest quality product. Agriculture is always attempting to create a strong public perception. A family farm that sells directly to a consumer can produce a product in a way the public is proud of, and consumers can see this first hand. We are proud to be open and transparent with the public about how we produce our meat. I also hope to grow my registered herd and market them to local producers. I hope to achieve this by continually upgrading genetics through Artificial Insemination with top sires in the industry.
Q: How will you continue to improve and grow your operation?
A: I will continue to improve and grow in several ways. I will make the customer my priority, and make sure they receive top quality products with satisfaction. I will also use my education and future training. I am BQA and Advanced Master Beef certified, and will also receive my bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness in May. I hope to use these experiences to become more profitable, which will provide the ability to grow in the future.
Q: How do you intend to leave your footprint on the beef industry in Tennessee?
A: I hope to leave my footprint on the Tennessee beef industry by proving that a young farmer can make it in today’s market. There are many obstacles and barriers for young people, but you can do anything you set your mind to.
Q: What could the existing farmers do most to help future farmers such as yourself?
A: Existing farmers should mentor the next generation. Farming is not something you wake up one day and decide to do. It takes years of experience and additional assistance. I took what my grandfather and dad taught me (and continue to teach me) and added education to make my dream possible. I still seek guidance in some decisions even today because it is a tough industry that has so many uncontrollable factors (weather, market, etc.).
Q: What is your favorite beef dish?
A: Rib-eye steak grilled medium-rare is hard to beat!
Follow Pryor Farms on Instagram @pryorfarms.