As we traveled through beautiful Georgia and South Carolina, I was amazed by the operations that we visited! We visited large operations and small! For myself, I noticed certain themes present themselves during our travels. The two biggest themes that seem to present themselves was diversification for profitability and farm transition with new farmers outside of the family. We saw this several times from Generation Farm (Vidalia onion operation) with their diversification into organic and other types of onions to the creation of Comfort Farm for Veterans with their rabbit and heritage hog production. Two operations that stand out to be the most with both of these themes was Yon Farms in South Carolina and 920 Cattle Company in Georgia.
Yon Farms is an impressive operation with John and Lydia Yong starting from scratch! As a young couple, they had work ethic, degrees, and a strong desire to make it, but little else. After being the farm managers for a farm for several years, the rug was taken from underneath them with the owners deciding to slow down. With this came a point where they didn’t know what to do when a farmer who knew them decide he would give them a chance. That farmer and his brother started leasing and selling land to the couple. They slowly built up and raised their family. They built up one of the strongest Angus stock breeders in the Southeast and sell bulls all over the country. As their kids got older, Mr. Yon wouldn’t let them come back to the farm immediately and asked they all come back with skills to add to the farm. As their children came back to the farm so did new ideas and willingness to try to new things. Other then improving and expanding their cattle herd, they have ventured into pecans. A farmer in the community that didn’t see an heir to take over his operation offered it to the Yon Family! Now, they own the Nut House in town selling pecan candies with their own website and working with grocery stories to put their products in stores! They also do some freezer beef as well and work to help promote other farmers’ local products!
The second farm is a young couple with a lot of desire to be successful. Becca & Jarrod are in their late twenties to early thirties and have already created an empire! They created 920 Cattle Company where they sell meat produced on their farm to restaurants, Farmer’s Markets, and out of their store. In addition to the farm and the meat, they also operate a fencing company and custom hay operation. They gave us the most amazing sausage and a glass bottle coke when we visited their store! The couple was able to get its start slowly into production and say they fell into several things such as the fencing contracting. Recently, they have bought a slaughter house and store through another operator seeing no heir and asking if they be interested in the business.
Through our U.S. trip, I have hope for family production in the future. Too often, we see farms broke up due to no farm transition plan or people not willing to give others outside of their family a chance! I also love that we constantly saw farmers working to diversify to find markets to be profitable!