The big picture: Beyond beef

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EAST CANTON, Ohio – All that’s left is one thick trunk, stretching taller than a house. No branches, no needles. Nothing but the spine of a decrepit evergreen.

Two other pine trees used to stand next to this skeleton. That was back when Tri-Pine Farm got its name.

While those three trees grew, thrived and died, times changed. Farming changed. Tri-Pine changed.

Not long ago, the Vincent family planted three new evergreens on the farm. They wanted to continue the tradition of Tri-Pine’s namesake.

But those freshly buried seedlings represent something more: the new life the Vincents bring to their farm. The new life the Vincents bring to all of agriculture.

Agriculture stewards. Kris and Becky Vincent have a nice little cow/calf Angus farm in East Canton, Ohio. But that’s not what sets this couple apart.

It’s their love of farming, it’s their devotion to agriculture, it’s their excitement, it’s their whole way of thinking.

They thought there should be a cattlemen’s group in Stark County. So they started one.

They think other farmers should be involved in cattlemen’s associations. So they recruit. And they even won state and national membership recognition.

They think farmland preservation is important. So Kris took over as president of the county group.

They think customers should have access to local meat. So they make it available.

They look beyond their farm, beyond cattle. They think about all farmers, and all farms, and the public, too.

It’s that straightforward.

Split lives. But life on the farm is not that easy.

Kris, Becky, their two children, their daughter-in-law, their future son-in-law and Kris’ father all put long hours in at the farm. Checking cattle, helping with calving, making hay, moving cows, breeding.

But they all have other full-time jobs, too: from Kris’ job as a maintenance supervisor at Malone College, to Becky’s job at PBS Animal Health, to son Kyle’s job as a technician for ABS, to daughter Stephanie going to nursing school.

Simplify, focus. Kris has worked on the farm since his grandpa plopped him on a tractor when he was 7 and told him to “go!” But the Vincents didn’t officially buy the farm until 1996.

Through the generations – Kyle and his wife, Jessica, have the sixth one on the way – the farm has been home to dairy, hogs, steers, sheep and row crops.

But the Vincents didn’t have time for all this. They needed to simplify and focus.

They made what they now call the best decision of their lives: After selling almost all their machinery, they turned their 78 acres into pasture and started rotational grazing.

“It’s easiest this way, with all of us working away from the farm, too,” Kris said.

It also eliminates some stress, he said. The weather doesn’t give him the headaches it used to. Now, when it’s poured a dozen days straight in the spring, he isn’t worrying about getting his corn in the ground.

He’s just worried about getting off work before the next heifer calves.

Never. Development and urban sprawl isn’t a concern either. They don’t worry because they won’t sell.

Ever.

“This will stay as a farm as long as I’m alive,” Kris vows.

Instead the family worries about food safety “hurdles.” How do they teach their community food safety measures? How do they increase the public’s confidence in beef?

With these questions in mind, they decided to more actively advertise and sell their own meat.

No antibiotics, no growth implants, just naturally fed beef, the Vincents say.

“It sparks interest in folks,” Kris said. It makes them feel confident in what they’re eating, he continued.

The beef, and some pork, is processed locally at a state-inspected facility and wrapped with the Tri-Pine Farm logo.

Potential. Maybe someday they’ll process their own meat.

Maybe someday the Vincents will add another farm.

Maybe someday they’ll increase their herd numbers.

But for now, they say it’s important to just work off their means and not financially overextend themselves.

Money management is important at Tri-Pine Farm. Less than 10 years after buying the farm, they already own it free and clear.

“It gives us more freedom. We can make decisions on where we want to spend money next,” Kris said.

“We borrow money in smaller increments so we can keep the bills affordable,” Becky added.

This is how they plan to afford their “maybe somedays.”

By then, those three pines in their yard will be different. They will stand tall and full and proud. They will have strong, well-established roots. They will continue to change and to grow. Just like the Vincents.

(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)

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