Our ranch is about a year old now. We took over a dilapidated house on 18 acres in the middle of nowhere in Georgia, with no kind of maintenance or anything. We remodeled the house and brought all the animals in, even did the fencing up ourselves. The real kicker to it is my wife grew up about half a block from the beach in Orange County, California, so it was a huge change for her. I grew up around horses, but we both wanted to live this life. So, when we were offered this opportunity by a real estate business in California, we started a ranch out here. We also have a 5-year-old who can tell anybody more about these animals than reading any kind of book, just because he gets to live it every day.
I love it more than anything in the world, but this has probably been one of the toughest years of my life – and that’s including being in the army for 4 years. It’s been nuts all through the summer. First, we had the water go out on us. Then, we lost two of our cows because the towns around us didn’t have enough water for us to buy. It also made us lose a couple of younger calves that way.
In the summer, the sun doesn’t set until about 10 o’clock so there were plenty of times when we would stop working just because we noticed the sun was coming down. We would say, “Alright, we’re pretty good out here – fences are all working, done tagging, everybody’s in their pasture.” Then we would come inside to make dinner and say, “Oh, it’s 10:15! We should’ve been in bed 3 hours ago.”
It’s been really hard, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything else. The biggest challenge we had initially was figuring out the legality behind everything from starting with a cow to selling our beef. Luckily, a strong marketing background comes in handy. Right now, we sell beef directly to the consumer and work with organizations like the Farmers Veterans Coalition. They help us market our beef better and give us some exposure. We’ve got several customers that we sell beef directly to, but our biggest runs are always when we visit my dad in downtown Atlanta. Every time we would come out there, we would usually bring two to three coolers full of everything from beef to chicken and eggs. We normally meet our customers at a Target parking lot, and it’s really fun watching everybody’s reactions when they see us. We’ve even picked up a few customers from the parking lot just by seeing us there.
" I love it more than anything in the world, but this has probably been one of the toughest years of my life – and that’s including being in the army for 4 years. "– Steven LeNoir
We had our first calf and didn’t even know it!
We were at a sale barn and had just bought a cow for us to eat. When the auction ended, the guy who sold the cow came over and said “Hey! We tried to AI her, but we don’t think she took. Come September or October though, be on the lookout.” And true enough, one day, we came home to this cow in labor at the pasture! My five-year-old got to sit in the truck with us and watch everything go down. We even got some photos of him with the calf an hour after it was born. It was going from never owning a dog to raising a Scottish Highland with 15 other cows.
The BlackWood Ranch, GA