By TCA Intern, Justin Young
Abagayle Morton is the center of this week’s “Meet the Future Monday.” Morton is from the New Union community of Manchester, Tennessee. Abagayle is a junior Plant and Soil Science major and a Business Administration minor at Middle Tennessee State University. She works at Morton Farms as a ranch-hand when she is not at school. Additionally, Abagayle volunteers at the New Union Volunteer Fire department, and is a member of New Union Church of Christ in her free time. She graduated from Motlow State Community College with an Associate of Science degree in 2017 before attending MTSU. Morton is another terrific example of the upcoming generation of farmers in Tennessee. Let this article be an encouragement to you at the beginning of your week! Get to know Abagayle below!
Q: How long has your family been farming? (Give a bit of History if you can/want)
A: In 1958, my great-grandfather, Omar Morton moved to Manchester, Tennessee from Indiana. He purchased our farm and began as a 100 head dairy cattle farm. My grandfather, Sam Morton, took over the farm as the next generation and persisted in the dairy business. We slowly transitioned to a row crop and beef operation and eventually sold out of the dairy and milking business. My father, Sammy Morton, now owns and operates our family farm. I will be the 4th generation to continue our farming tradition at Morton Farms. I am also the 3rd generation of my family to attend Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) to study agriculture. Our family has always strived to be in pursuit of cattle with quality genetics and maintain sustainable agriculture practices. We have now been in the commercial cattle business for approximately 15 years.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about growing up on the farm?
A: The experiences it has given me. The knowledge you gain from growing up on a farm is incomparable to anything you can gain from a book or classroom. The memories I have made with my family on our farm are those that I will carry with me for a lifetime. I really enjoyed our dairy cattle operation we had when I was younger. It gave me a considerable amount of hands-on experience with cattle that has gotten me to where I am today.
Q: Who has been your biggest role model in pursuing your farming aspirations?
A: My grandfather, Sam, and my father, Sammy, have played the most influential role in my farming aspirations. My grandfather shared with me his love for agriculture, when I was at a young age. I have carried that with me and it helped me make the decision to continue our farming heritage. He always worked hard and showed me what a true, dedicated farmer was. My father has provided me with an incomparable amount of knowledge and advice that has helped me to reach my goals and begin a career in agriculture.
Q: Describe your operation…(Breed(s), type of operation, acres etc.)
A: We currently have approximately 80 brood cows in our commercial cow/calf operation (primarily Angus) at Morton Farms. We have about 500 acres of hay ground that we cut and sell hay from in the summer. In addition to hay, we typically manage about 950 acres of row crops (corn, soybeans, and wheat) throughout the crop season. We also have 125 acres of pastureland that is utilized for cattle grazing. I begun my own herd of Registered Black Angus Cattle under a new name, Spitfire Angus Cattle, in 2016. I had to finance through Farm Credit Mid-America to acquire my initial registered herd which originated from Oak Angus Farms in Manchester, Tennessee. Along with my Registered Angus cattle, I have a Mustang horse named Fury and a Texas Heeler named Turbo.
Q: What are you most passionate about in your operation?
A: I am most passionate about properly maintaining our farm and land so it can still be in production for future generations of my family. Agriculture and our farm has made us who we are, and I want that to continue.
Q: What are some of the greatest challenges that you face as a young farmer?
A: A young farmer, one of the greatest challenges is capital. Farming requires huge inputs, with sometimes very little return. Keeping your head above water and staying out of substantial debt is key for a young farmer to keep the farming tradition alive.
Q: Where do you see yourself and your operation in 10 years?
A: I hope that we can reach 100 brood cows in our Morton Farms commercial herd and 60-70 registered cattle with Spitfire Angus Cattle. I hope for Morton Farms to have roughly 1200-1300 acres in row crop production. I would like for my father to be able to retire from his full-time job and the two of us take one Morton Farms and Spitfire Angus Cattle together full-time.
Q: How will you continue to improve and grow your operation?
A: I want to continue to expand our operation. I want to continue to improve the genetics of our cattle herds, maximize our crop yields, replenish our soils, and continue to add more acres into Morton Farms production. Second, I hope to work hard and see Spitfire Angus Cattle develop into a thriving Registered Angus business that I can pass on to my children, supplementary to Morton Farms.
Q: How do you intend to leave your footprint on the beef industry in Tennessee?
A: I plan to improve the genetics of Tennessee’s commercial cattle producers’ herds by providing them with quality, superior bulls and maternal females with respected longevity.
Q: What could the existing farmers do most to help young farmers such as yourself?
A: Share their knowledge. This industry requires a vast amount of knowledge and experience for a business to thrive. If existing farmers offer their advice to young farmers, it would be a valuable tool for them to begin their farm.
Q: What is your favorite beef dish?
A: My favorite beef dish is a thick, juicy steak cooked medium rare from one of our own beef cows raised on our farm.
Learn more about Abagayle and her operation by visiting their Facebook page, Spitfire Angus Cattle!