In 2015 I was in my sophomore year of college with no idea what my future looked like. The major I had chosen was Animal Science - Livestock Management emphasis, but I didn't know what I was going to do with it. All I knew was that I didn't want a desk job and that I liked the idea of working for myself. During this same time my mom and dad decided to start getting into the cattle industry. Their breed of choice were Scottish Highland cattle and in August, 2016 they purchased their first four heifers. I helped out on weekends when I was home from college, and really didn't like missing out on things when I was away. After graduation I moved back to my home town and became more involved in the farm, and bought my first two cows. The following spring my two cows gave birth to two bull calves, and just like that I was in the cattle industry.
So many people that I went to college with were second and third generation at their family farms, and at school this was intimidating to me. They had so much more experience than I did and helped them in class, and at job interviews. After graduation, however, I started to appreciate being new to ranching. It provided a unique opportunity to be more of a partner with my mom and dad and for me to be part of deciding how we would do things. We were able to research objectively the best way to do things, and learn from others mistakes and successes, without having a "we've always done it this way bias" from ourselves or past generations.
Initially the draw for me was that I love the animals and most days I love the work. Helping to build a business from the ground up is the most rewarding, and the most challenging thing, I have been apart of, and going into business with family adds a whole other level of challenges. We started out with 30 acres and four cows, and in three years time we had 170 acres, much of which needed to be fenced, and 41 head with 20 calves on the way. I had also begun to diversify with laying hens, pasture raised pork and pastured broiler chickens.
Looking back there have been many points in my life that have proven to me that I must really love the life of ranching. Living in a town of 600 people, many of whom I went to high school with was not appealing to me, but my little five mile radius of the farm, my house and my parents house was like a haven. During the summer of 2018 my parents began the process of divorcing. My team was falling apart. I thought about moving away and starting over so many times, but by this point I was starting to fully understand the opportunities I had here. I had started going to our local graziers conferences and I saw the struggles that other local farmers had with creating opportunity for themselves. I saw how so many of those challenges, with a bit of my own sweat equity, had been over come for me. I had the land to use, and many resources, because my parents were willing to let me use them. I had the time to work two other jobs in order to fund my projects because I had two other people on the same mission as me. Every time I thought about leaving because of the toxic environment that comes with divorce I thought "but what would I do?" because by this point I couldn't see myself living a lifestyle different than this one.
" I genuinely enjoyed the work we put in and reveled in seeing what we had built, and was proud of all we had accomplished. "– Molly Brown
I started to appreciate the therapeutic aspect of caring for other creatures when your own life feels like its falling apart, and through all the challenges I still looked forward to caring for the animals and continuing to build our business. I genuinely enjoyed the work we put in and reveled in seeing what we had built, and was proud of all we had accomplished. It continues to be a learning curve, and creating a healthy work life balance is something I continue to work on. Ranching isn't my only passion so creating time for other things in my life has become a priority as well, but having something to work towards is what gives me life, and with ranching there is always something to work towards. There is so much to learn, which at times can be overwhelming, but I never want to stop learning and growing. I have to make myself stop and look back sometimes because its easy to be overwhelmed by how far I have to go, and to forget how far we've come.
Ranching is more than producing a product to turn a profit. It's a lifestyle. Its wanting quality food for yourself and your family that is produced in a way that you approve of. Its the challenge of creating a quality product that stands out to your buyers. Family farms can't compete at the industry level, so it has to be about more. Its working a job that never stops, with no benefits or paid vacation, but that you look forward to doing everyday. Its building something for yourself, instead of for your employer. I continually see more and more people taking an interest in where their food is coming from and how it's raised and wanting to buy local. I want to be a part of this movement, and to provide quality foods for these people and for myself. When I look to the future I see providing quality food for my community, and being able to be home with my family doing what I love. I've never wanted to live for the weekend, or for a few weeks of vacation per year. Right now our future is uncertain, but I know that we are all too invested in this business to let it go. The beauty of creating your own business, and the beauty of ranching is that you decide your outcome. You have the opportunity to adjust and learn as you go and figure out how to make things work no matter what obstacles come up. Every challenge that we have over come has made me more confident and has helped me believe that I can face whatever life throws at me. I see this strength in every other rancher and farmer that I meet too. There is a humble confidence that allows them to take things in stride and a matter of fact attitude that they'll get through whatever they're facing; and a willingness to help anyone in their community do the same.
Lone Oak Cattle & Colts