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Starting from the ground up

Raised on the outskirts of Chicago, Katie Warner and her husband recently moved to what she calls “the sweet Plains” of North Dakota, where her grandfather owns 280 acres of land. Approximately 70 acres are naturally spring-fed, and about 60 acres had been farmed before Warner’s grandfather purchased the land seven years ago. 

With a heart for agriculture, Warner got a job at a local veterinary clinic working with all kinds of pets and livestock in the area. At the clinic, she saw the less luxurious side of cattle – scours, bloody injuries, and even death. She decided to research breeds of cattle to possibly start her own herd. 

Warner turned to Farmers for the Future (FFF) members to seek experienced input. “How have you accomplished this? Is it silly to start with three cows and go from there?” she asks.

Rick Houston, veteran FFF member from Arkansas, shares his similar experience. “The good thing about the cattle business is all the different ways to be in it,” he says.

Growing up southwest of Chicago, 20-year-old Houston had never raised an animal in his life. Much like Warner, Houston’s grandfather owned 100 acres of land in Arkansas, so Houston moved south to start his cow/calf operation. 

Beginning with four 500-pound heifers, a neighbor lent Houston a young bull for breeding season, and the operation gradually grew from there. 

“I worked for a farmer in Indiana, and he told me to always keep the ball rolling,” explains Houston in response to worries about not owning any equipment. “Each year I would try to improve the farm.” 

Whether it was putting in cross fencing, building a barn, or feeding hay on the worst pasture to seed it for the next year, Houston gradually shaped his land into the farmstead he now takes care of full time.

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