This week’s Meet the Future Monday is nothing short of a passionate and devoted cattlewoman. In this week’s feature, Alaina shares with us her desire to use technology not only to breed her cows but promote her cattle operation. Be sure to check out Alaina’s blog, Agvocating From Brush Creek, where she actively shares and promotes the farming way of life.
Describe your operation
I am a fifth-generation member of the Staggs family’s cow-calf operation located in southern Middle Tennessee on “Brush Creek”, and a second generation member of Broken S Farms. Our operation consists of roughly 300 acres that runs along the Natchez Trace Parkway on the Lawrence and Wayne county line.
My family has raised beef cattle with registered Charolais or Angus sires since the late 1970’s. We currently run four registered Charolais bulls and one registered Black Angus bull. We also have between 80 to 100 commercial cows and replacement heifers, a select set of registered Charolais heifers and cows, and one ornery three-quarters Braham cow named Sprinkles. At last count, we had approximately 70 calves on the ground.
Apart from cattle, Brush Creek Honey Farm has been in operation since the 1980’s. My parents raise Blue Heeler and Great Pyrenees working dogs, chickens, brush goats, and several assorted breeds of fowl such as turkey, quail, pheasant, and peacock.
What have you enjoyed most about growing up on the farm? My favorite memories as a young girl involve all aspects of the farm. As a small child, I remember the summers spent in the hayfield and the winters spent busting ponds and water troughs. I always loved being down at the barn around springtime when the buttercups began to bloom, or in the garden during the summer standing barefoot in freshly tilled ground.
Who has been your biggest role model in pursuing your farming aspirations? My Pappaw and mother have both been the two driving forces in my pursuit of a career and a livelihood in agriculture. From goats to calves, my roots in the animal agriculture industry are widespread and I owe a deep thanks to those two people for instilling a passion for agriculture in me.
What are you most passionate about in your business? The constant learning and the ability to make a connection with a consumer at the end of the day are my two passions in this business. I never could have imagined that I would have met as many people, or accomplished as many things, thanks to loving beef and the cattle industry as a whole. I pride myself on my efforts to advocate so broadly and so loudly, and I think that my ability to communicate with those around me the love and the patience put into my family’s herd (as well as those around the country) is my biggest blessing.
What are some of the greatest challenges that you face as a young farmer? Both as a young farmer and a young woman, I think one of the most difficult obstacles that I’ve had to face is being taken seriously by the rest of the industry. To have that happen, it takes confidence in yourself and that is not always something that I readily have. I think to be able to most effectively have an impact both within the industry and at the consumer level, the ability to be “worth your salt” is invaluable in contributing to that.
Where do you see yourself and your operation in 10 years? In ten years, I hope to see my family’s operation continue to thrive, expand and continuously grow. I tell people constantly that I’m going to college in order to provide “for my cows.” At the end of each day, in ten years I hope that I can look back and take pride in the steps that my family and I have taken to keep our operation running as I know how hard it has been – and still is – to remain operating due to declining health of my grandparents and various financial issues that farmers across the nation face. Right now, the bulk of the operation falls on my mother and my siblings as I am away at college. I think my biggest goal in life is to be able to go home at the end of every day and remain involved on the family farm.
How will you continue to improve and grow your operation? Personally, I would like to begin utilizing more technological advances in the beef industry and take advantage of more reproductive practices. With our purebred stock, we already utilize semen collection but I am working on completing artificial insemination training in order to begin AI’ing of our heifers myself. I also think it would be interesting to dabble in more Brahman or Brangus influence within our existing herd as I feel that is a more progressive turn away from the local Continental or British cattle influence found within my community.
How do you intend to leave your footprint on the beef industry in Tennessee?
I am so very passionate when it comes to preserving the legacy and enhancing the future of the agricultural industry. I have attempted to lay a strong foundation for myself in the field of agricultural communications in hopes of making the beef industry a more common place for consumers. Improving consumer relations and the overall concept of what beef means in Tennessee is one of my goals as a rising producer. I hope that I can have a positive, lasting impact on Tennessee’s beef industry as I believe we are one of the most diverse and influential beef states in the nation, and we have the ability to continuously leave a positive footprint on the beef industry.
What could the existing farmers do most to help future farmers such as yourself? I feel that young farmers already have the resources and abilities to make a connection with a large audience through social media and organizations like Tennessee Cattlemen’s and Young Farmers and Ranchers. I think that many younger generations of farmers, or perhaps brand new “first-gen” producers, have a hard time connecting with older producers in their community. I think this ties back into being taken seriously, but I think encouragement from already established producers as well as a willingness to mentor (and sometimes even learn from) the new kids on the block would be extremely beneficial to rising cattlemen and women.
What is your favorite beef dish?
Brisket nachos or steak carnitas covered in queso. I am an avid fan of Tex-Mex and Spanish cuisine, and adding brisket to anything just takes the eating experience to the next level.