Farming the Gap: Planting Seeds

Last week, I had the privilege of meeting our beloved processor in person. I have known Ethan of Homestead Farm and Packing‘s work of the past year with every meal that contains our home grown pork that we have taken to him. He was gracious enough to show us his operation from start to finish.  During our time at the plant (which extended into lunch), we were able to discuss our shared passion for humane animal treatment.  As we have written several times before, we hold the care for our animals at the upmost importance and to know our processor upholds those same values, is comforting.  Our conversation wildly opened my mind to a different perspective of the meat processing experience that I did not even consider.  It also refueled my passion to continuously learn more about this business. There is a reason we take our animals to Homestead Farm and Packing and it was only reinforced with our visit.  I tell you this in order to tell you an account of another conversation that occurred that very morning.

The morning of our visit happened be the morning after one of our daughter’s friends stayed the night. Knowing we were going to the plant and wanting share my excitement in it being my first time to take a tour of it with my kids and their friends, we asked our daughter’s friend if she would like to go. We thought it would be a cool experience for her to see what all is involved with farming, just like bottle feeding the baby goats, we have many responsibilities.  We strive to include our children in as much of the business as we can, so they see the care, value and hard work we put into our business.  Upon asking my daughter’s friend’s if she would like to go, her immediate answer to was “Absolutely not, that is murder!”  We tried to carefully navigate the conversation with this young mind to open her perspective about the experience and where the meat that she eats, through the course of a day, comes from.  It doesn’t just come from a grocery store, someone, somewhere raised that pig, cow or chicken that she would consume at her dinner table as she initial thought.  After that statement, of course, we did not make her go with us.  We provided other arrangements for her and our daughter to have fun while we were gone.  But that opens up an even bigger concern that many Americans share this same reaction about livestock animals and raising them for meat to consume.  They think the meat that is bought at the grocery stores is just that, grocery store bought meat!  The bacon that is on the breakfast table comes from the grocery store.  This is the EXACT cliché we are trying to change.  YES, raising livestock comes with the cost of taking an animals life.  NO, taking the life our livestock is not taken lightly.  YES, we strive to give them the most valuable life possible while they are in our care.  Would you rather know that the animal was taken care of on pastures, treated with genuine respect through its entire life and even in their death or just block the idea a living animal was behind the meat and it comes strictly from a shelved cooler?  I can understand not wanting to put a sweet little piggy face and curly tail in the same image as my pork chop but it is a reality, a reality that should be appreciated and not shielded behind a grocery store cooler.

In our day and age, it is so easy to push the responsibility or burden to someone else. It is our duty to the younger generation to bridge the gap from our farm to their table and take the time to explain these concepts to this young and malleable minds.  They will be our future leaders of this country.  If we don’t start to change their perspective now on where food comes from, farmers will be extinct in 20 years.  The average age of a farmer is 58.2, according to the USDA NASS, 2012 Census of Agriculture, and only 5.16% are young farmers age 25-34 years old. So if you do the math, actually put the pen to paper, we will not have enough USA produced yield to support its population in 20 years.

Needless to say, we did not change her mind in that conversation but we did our job and planted the idea to think about where her food comes from. Today… we have upheld our duty as farmers, we planted the seed of changing the culture for the youth in our country, one mind at a time.  And my farmer(ish) soul was enriched!  So I challenge you, know your farmer – not just your grocery store’s cooler.  Form a relationship with them, know where your food comes from, appreciate your meal because I know how hard a farmer worked to provide you with that product!

-Katie Buchanan

Farming the Gap with Mr. Charles and Mrs. Joyce Adams

On this journey to bridge the gap from our millennial generation to that of the farming one, we have meet some really incredible people.  Ones that will forever hold a piece in our family and farm operation.  The first highlight, if you will, that we would like to share with you is that of Mr. Charles and Mrs. Joyce Adams, goat and cattle farmers of McClain, Mississippi.  We met this lovely couple in February of this year through a mutual farmer in the community that set up for us to tour to three farms within the surrounding area.  On the journey to find the perfect buck for our 2018 breeding season, Mr. Charles acted as our tour guide and was willing to spend the whole day with us.

We started the morning at Mr. Charles’ farm viewing his buck prospects.  And might I say what prospects they were.  Never have I seen such majestic animals in person as those that were at this farm.  Of course, you see in goat magazines, Google searches and hear legends of the first New Zealand bucks to make their way to the Unites States as being this huge, muscular “once in a lifetime” animals but viewing Mr. Charles’ bucks, was one of those moments of wonder.  These bucks live off the forage, in their pasture and are feed only periodically in a working shoot in order to check on them or load them up for this reason or that.  We tried to keep an open mind about the other bucks we would see throughout the rest of day but I must be honest, I already made my decision on which buck we would be taking home before ever leaving that pasture.  Next, Mr. Charles showed us his beautiful doelings from the previous year’s crop, their breed does and his current herd sire.  All the while, chatting as we moved pasture to pasture about our operation, their operation, and openly giving advice to us that only comes from many years of blood, sweat and tears dedicated to farming.

As we visited the other two farms, we received the same, very kind, treatment and overload of information.  (We hope to be featuring some of these farms in later blog additions.)  Keep in mind, the farms we visited were of those that have been in the business for many years.  Their operations were very fluid and were expanded upon over time. #farmgoals is what comes to mind.  As we finished our tour and drove back to Mr. Charles’ house, we were invited to come inside their lovely home to meet Mrs. Joyce.

The moment we walked into their home, I was transported back to my childhood, as if I were walking into my very own grandparents’ house.  Both of my grandparents died before I was 14, so I was immediately taken back by nostalgia and overwhelmed with the feeling that I was talking to my very own grandparents.  Nick and I sat down in their den with them and started chatting like we had known each other for what seems like forever.  We had the same interests, beliefs, even our humor was similar.  We talked farming and told them our story of this first generation farmer passion and all the hurdles we have had to jump through to get to where we are.  They openly shared their experience and helpful advice.  I believe we could have stayed there all day and probably would have if it wasn’t for having to pick up our children from school.

As we hugged them goodbye and promised to chat soon, Nick and I knew we had really met some lifelong friends.  We quickly agreed we would call Mr. Charles and Mrs. Joyce the next morning to confirm we wanted to purchase one of their bucks named Buckie.  Buckie met all of our requirements – good genetics, parasite resistant, well built, hearty, etc.  You name it, Buckie has it!

The next morning, before we could place that very phone call to Mr. Charles and Mrs. Joyce, we received a phone call from them that would bring us very close to our knees.  They offered to loan us Buckie for our 2018 breeding program; not knowing that we were planning to call them the very same day to purchase Buckie.  If you know our family, you know we are not ones that are given much, we work, HARD, for everything we have.  Handouts just don’t exist in our world.  And here we have these amazing people offering to help us, we were and still are completely humbled and forever in their debt.

So Buckie is currently at Jolly Roger Ranch to be this year’s herd sire and we can’t wait to share with you the results this kidding season will bring.  A special thanks to Mr. Charles and Mrs. Joyce for everything!  It is hard to put into words what your kindness means to our farm and our family.

Katie Buchanan