Updated: Jul 12
April and Nick both have a passion for education youth about agriculture. One way they have been able to do this is through the Young Farmers and Ranchers program. YF&R is a subset program of Farm Bureau. According to Young Farmer & Ranchers page on the Tennessee Farm Bureau website "Young Farmers & Ranchers program promotes leadership skills for farmers ages 18-35. Members share a common bond for the agricultural lifestyle, are interested in leadership development, and are dedicated to solving problems facing agriculture. YF&R also provides social activities and competitions that recognize young leaders in agriculture." This program allows April and Nick to help young adults in agriculture and also learn new agriculture practices and programs themselves. In 2019 April and Nick won TN YF&R Young Farmer of the Year which is a tremendous honor. They had to submit an application answering a few questions about their farm operation.
One of the questions was: Describe significant changes, expansion or improvement in management and marketing practices, and the acquisition of agricultural machinery, equipment and irrigation systems, and/or buildings built or devised by the applicant(s) since his/her involvement in the operation began.
Answer: It’s sometimes hard to look back even to 2011 and remember what it was like. While it was and continues to be an incredible blessing to start with the land base that we did, there was really no infrastructure. April’s father had a plan in place for after his death that included her and her brother purchasing specific tracts of land from his trust. April’s brother was able to purchase most of the land that their dad had been farming throughout his life. The tract of land that April started farming with was a relatively late purchase in her father’s life and while it was a farm, it had not been managed as such for several years at the time of purchase.
As such, since 2011 we have purchased or leased all the equipment and livestock that we have today. Many of the farms that we raise cattle on we have either had to fence ourselves or do extensive work to existing fencing. Also, what grain storage we have has also either been built new or re-worked since 2011. We also built a farm shop/office in 2017-2018, as well as two livestock shelter facilities that we feed in during the winter months.
While we both grew up on farms, both we centered around the various stages of beef cattle production. Given that row crops are our main source of income, it has been a steep learning curve in some ways, but we are very proud of the production levels that we are able to achieve and the amount of work and research that have gone along with that. I do make all the agronomic decisions on the farm with the input of key ag suppliers and custom applicators that we have built strong relationships with. We also completed a project in 2019 that is a subsurface drainage system that can also be used as a subsurface irrigation system. This 50-acre bottom is our first irrigated land and this year has had a steep learning curve associated with it as well. Soil Health has been a focus of ours ever since we first started. In the beginning that was just deciding to do no-till in our row crops and soil sampling each individual field. Each year we try to implement different practices and today that would include grid-sampling (2.5 acre grids) of each crop field every two years with a spot check sample every year, cover crops on a majority of our crop acres (when weather allows), and integrating livestock onto the fields when we are able to, and using soil health products in our nutrient program. We have seen organic matter increase on many of our fields, as well as decrease our chemical nutrient usage while maintaining or increasing yields.
As previously stated, we also started with no livestock on the farm, except for what I helped my father to manage on the farm that I grew up on. April’s father had several beef cattle at the time of his passing, however like the land, her brother was able to purchase these cattle both before their father’s death and after. We bought 16 bred heifers in 2012 that we purchased from the Tennessee Livestock Producers and have been growing our herd ever to nearly 100 cows as of today. In the fall of 2015 we purchased our first purebred Akaushi bull to breed to our commercial cows. This breed is one of the Japanese breeds that are known for their meat quality and fatty acid profile. The ranch that we work with has a buy-back program where they offer a premium for calves that are genetically verified to be ½ Akaushi or higher. We have sold cattle to them the past couple years and have gotten some of our first carcass data back, which was incredibly positive and very interesting to see. We have also been able to get the paperwork necessary to sell meat directly to the consumer within our state. We have been successful at selling both animals and cuts of meat thus far and continue to hope to expand this portion of our business. We have also been integrating the use of AI into our breeding program to have more controlled calving seasons and increase our genetic pool. One of our long term goals that we are working towards is combining the Akaushi genetics with cattle that thrive on our forages in our local area and have those genetics for sale in the future.
April and Nick serve Clay County YF&R by continuously promoting YF&R and promoting agvocacy everyday.