State FFA Secretary, University of Tennessee Volunteer, and young cattle producer are three things that describe this week’s Meet the Future Monday. Erin Bacon shares with us her understanding of producing a safe and abundant beef product in this week’s feature.
Describe your operation
I live on a small cow/calf operation in Jefferson County where we raise and sell Hereford/Angus crosses.
What have you enjoyed most about growing up on the farm?
I have enjoyed being able to play an active role in my family’s operation, and see firsthand how food is produced. Learning the ins and outs of the business at a young age opened my eyes to the hard work, dedication, and passion that drives beef cattle production. I love the feeling when a new calf is born or we sell a weanling because I know that animal will serve a purpose in the food supply, and it is my job to raise it to the best quality it can be.
Who has been your biggest role model in pursuing your farming aspirations?
My father started this operation from the ground up. He has overcome the discomforts of agricultural life, and celebrated its joys, but he never lost sight of what was truly important. Our animals’ welfare comes before anything else, and he will do anything in his power to ensure they are healthy and comfortable. He has always taken the time to stop and explain how to do a task or why it’s important to my older brother and I. I can honestly say I do not believe my passion for agriculture would be nearly as strong if had not have been for my dad.
What are you most passionate about in your business?
I am passionate about contributing my part in creating a safe, abundant food supply for the growing population, and ensuring that my cattle are happy and healthy every step of the way. There is a sense of pride that swells up whenever I watch an animal go off to market, knowing that it has lived the best life it could have and it is a high-quality product for consumers.
What are some of the greatest challenges that you face as a young farmer?
As a young farmer, I believe the biggest challenge facing my generation is finding a way to be proactive rather than reactive when facing consumer misconceptions, a changing diet in consumers, and producing food through transparency. Our income is heavily reliant on the consumption of our products, and those sales will continue to decrease if the public still does not trust us or our practices. It is our job to connect with consumers, rather than debate them.
Where do you see yourself and your operation in 10 years?
I hope that in ten years I will be working for an agency such as the United States Department of Agriculture or Animal Agriculture Alliance, promoting the needs of livestock producers and marketing US agriculture products. I see my operation doubling in size and shifting towards registered Hereford production.
How will you continue to improve and grow your operation?
I have only just begun to realize the world of possibilities we have together in agriculture to grow as producers. I will take back my knowledge I will learn as an Animal Science student at the University of Tennessee and implement it in my own operation. I hope to become AI certified to improve my herd genetics, and obtain BQA certification to increase the value of my market cattle.
How do you intend to leave your footprint on the beef industry in Tennessee?
I always remember the saying from Dr. Seuss’s book, Horton Hears a Who, when it comes my involvement in production agriculture: “A person’s a person no matter how small.” I may never have the largest beef cattle operation in Tennessee, but it does not matter if I feed one family or a thousand. I still made a difference in that way. I will leave my footprint on the beef industry by taking care of my home and community, therefore contributing to the overall success of Tennessee agriculture.
What could the existing farmers do most to help future farmers such as yourself?
Agriculture is all about learning together, working together, and growing together. Personally, I believe there is no better way to develop a better understanding of agriculture than to learn from someone who had walked thousands of miles in the shoes we are about to step into. If current agriculturalists could communicate their practices with us and show us what works and what does not, feeding the 9.5 billion people by the year 2050 will be a much more feasible task.
What is your favorite beef dish?
I do not know how you can pick just one, but I do not believe I would make it very long if I had to go without ribeye steaks!