Shep Evans isn’t afraid of a little hard work. The nine-year-old loves driving tractors through the hay fields, gathering food for his family’s cattle.
“I like to bale hay,” he says. “I like to pick up the bales and put them on the hay van.”
He also likes pouring cement and using the pressure-washer (with his parents’ supervision, of course)! His 12-year-old sister Ellis Ann likes to herd up the cattle astride her horse.
“I help out in whatever way is needed,” she says.
Helping feed America requires everyone to pitch in, which means working after school and putting in half-days on the weekends. Although cattle ranching can be a lot of work, the Evans family truly loves it and finds it a great way to spend time together, too.
That’s the life for families on U.S. farms and ranches, 90% of which are family-owned. The 3,000-acre farm, CK Cattle in Hope Hull, Ala., has been in the family for three generations. They raise angus, chiangus and simangus beef.
Sustainability and environmental management are chief concerns for beef farmers and ranchers. They want their land to be passed on to the next generation in even better condition than what it was when it was passed down to them.
One of the sustainable methods farmers can use is regenerative grazing by rotating where cattle graze, allowing plants to regrow before they’re grazed again, thus regenerating the land’s health. Early studies indicate it can greatly help reduce carbon emissions.
Paying careful attention to the herd’s health not only ensures the family’s livelihood endures, but also their sustainability goals. They know that by working closely with Mother Nature, they can be good stewards of the land that they were entrusted with.
Life on the farm isn’t all work. Shep enjoys fishing for catfish, hunting and playing football and baseball with his dad. Ellis Ann also plays sports, practices cheerleading and masters her cooking skills, making cornbread, biscuits and tacos. Both love the outdoors and believe most of their favorite activities would take place outside, whether they were growing up on a farm or not.
“I like being outside,” Ellis Ann says. “I like enjoying nature and having fun.”
Working on a cattle farm means beef makes it to the dinner plate quite often, and its nutrients fuel them to do all the things they love. Ellis Ann’s favorite meal is country fried steak while Shep prefers a nice ribeye. And how does he like it cooked?
“The way my dad cooks it.”
Indeed, raising beef is a family affair.
Learn even more about how cowboys and cowgirls take care of both their animals and the environment at this link. Take this quiz to find out, and then consider applying the information you learn to your Environmental Science merit badge!
Editor’s note: This post is sponsored by National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff.