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More Than A Farmer’s Wife – Sarah Jones

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Being a girl was never an excuse I could use to get out of farm chores growing up. I was raised on a 6th generation cattle ranch in California alongside my two older brothers, and although the only daughter and the baby of the family, I was still expected to buck hay bales, brand cattle, and fix fence. Weekends with friends were sacrificed during calving season, manicures and spa days were few and far between. While my older brothers and dad are the skilled mechanics and equipment operators on the ranch, it is my mother and I that managed the majority of the livestock. Being female never made us any less instrumental to the ranch operation, and the boys would never even dream of telling us that our place as a woman belonged in the kitchen (although we can both cook up a mean steak). 

​Too often I feel that the term “farmer” or “rancher” is synonymous with “male.” Since long before the days of wagon wheels and horse drawn plows, women have been a backbone to the agriculture industry. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) the average age of a Kentucky farmer is 58-years-old and a strong majority are male; however, female farmers across the state continue to be an integral part of the industry in production and beyond.

On a visit to southern Kentucky-Tennessee, I met Sarah Jones, a daughter, wife, mother, and I can assure you, just as much of a farmer as anyone that I have ever met, and much more.

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Sarah and Bart in front of original Red Hill Farms homestead
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Preparation of barn for annual March bull and female sale
Sarah, her husband Bart, and their nine-year-old son Ty farm in Macon County, Tennessee and southern Kentucky across Allen, Warren, and Monroe Counties. They raise seed stock cattle, burley tobacco, purebred hogs, and row crops to support their livestock operations. 

​Even though they were busy preparing for their annual bull and female sale, Sarah was kind enough to show us around the farm and share her story.

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I can do anything, but I can’t do everything.

Sarah was raised on a dairy farm and growing up her responsibility was caring for the calves. Although she was raised on a farm, her parents wanted to give her the opportunity to have a future outside of the industry. Sarah hasn’t always worn boots to work. She worked in Nashville as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) for years, but ultimately realized that tax season, managing farm responsibilities, and being a mom all at once was too much. With her CPA expertise, Sarah manages the office side of the farming business such as financials, record keeping, advertising, and marketing. Although, don’t let that fool you into thinking she works at a desk all day. She monitors the heifer barns at night, chops silage, rolls hay, and as the only certified Artificial Insemination (AI) Technician on the farm she is responsible for breeding livestock.
“If he wasn’t at school today, Ty would have loved to give you the farm tour himself,” Sarah said.
Sarah and Bart were both raised around agriculture and feel very fortunate that their son gets to have the same experience. She emphasized that they support Ty no matter what he wants to do in the future, farming or not. At just 9-years-old, Ty has a lamb project, shows pigs, owns his own cattle, plays soccer and basketball, has traveled across the U.S. and already has goals to introduce new breeds of livestock to the farm.
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Ty and his lamb project
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Bart and Ty with a litter of piglets
Sarah and I shared and reminisced about how there is something special about being raised on a farm. Farm kids learn lessons at a young age that most people don’t. They learn the meaning of sacrifice, knowing that there is a time to work and a time to play. They learn respect, not only for nature’s resources, but also for people and personal relationships.

“Chances are we won’t have to have the sex discussion with Ty,” Sarah laughed. Living on a farm and raising livestock teaches kids about reproduction, about birthing, and about death. They learn to appreciate the lifecycle. It teaches the responsibility of caring for something other than yourself – like making sure the animals are fed before you are, whether sunshine or blizzard. A farm kid learns to be goal oriented and to be driven by passion and not by greed. They learn the definition of hard work but also learn that farming is a labor of love, and it is that which makes a farmer a farmer.

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As I spoke with Sarah standing out in the cattle pasture, I couldn’t help but wish that every person got to know a farmer like this. With every question I asked, she answered thoughtfully and sincerely, her love for her farm and family apparent in every sentence she spoke. She has an open and brilliant mind, not only constantly looking for opportunities to improve their farming operation, but also ensuring that the end product of their farm – food— is the safest and most nutritious it can be. She encourages consumers to reach out to farmers to ask their questions rather than getting misinformation on the internet.  The same beef and pork that they raise on their farm for consumers is the same food that she feeds her family. When asked what her favorite cut of beef is she said, “I’m a steak person, sirloin or filet cooked medium rare.”

Sarah’s passion for agriculture radiates from her as she talked about farming. “Along with passion, there is a lot of pride,” she said. Being a steward of the land, turning God-given resources into something, and watching her family learn and grow together makes her proud at the end of the day. For her, “It’s not about getting bigger, but making things better.“ With every day there is a new challenge and at times she admits it feels like a lot to handle. Many people wouldn’t do what they do, what farmers do, working long hours year round to grow food for the world. It is passion that keeps them going, and the world should applaud them for the hard work that they do day in and day out. We should all be thankful for farmers, farmers like Sarah.

 

 

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