All eyes are on your farm, so why not open the gate?

Farm and Dairy file photo

“Call any time … really.”

When the northeastern cattlemen I was interviewing ended with that, I knew he meant it. His very helpful, ever-available attitude was the reason I was writing a story on his family. They host hundreds of visitors at their farm every year.

They’ve had foodservice sales people in their barn, 100 retail meat cutters in their pastures, and New York Times and Time magazine reporters riding around on their land, all in the name of education. “We’ve kind of always been big on education, and we really need virtually no notice.

“We’re ready all the time. That’s just our mentality,” the fourth-generation cattleman told me.

On display

But not everyone is so eager to put their farms or ranches — their lives — on display. Between calving and AI, haying and silage chopping, there is never an “off” season or a good time of the year to devote a day to visitors, not to mention to prep ahead of time.

When a cattlemen’s group or an association wants to bring anybody from fellow producers to chefs to your place, it might be easier to say “no.”

Strike that, it would definitely be easier to say “no.” But not necessarily better.

“It’s a little bit self-serving from the standpoint of our kids and grandkids … they want to farm,” he said. “They want to be in the beef business, and the only way we can make all that happen is if the whole community is healthy.”

Smart, long-term, big-picture thinking indeed.

You hear it constantly: education is the key to overcoming misconceptions. If you’ve ever taught someone to drive a tractor or handle cattle, you know some lessons must happen outside of books and classroom settings. That’s why it’s so important that those who work with and sell beef have an opportunity to visit and see farms and ranches first hand. They can’t tell how much you care about all the responsibilities entrusted to you unless they meet you.

Even if you’re more likely to have a hayrack full of hay rather than people in the near future, the “always-ready” idea is a good business philosophy. If you operate like somebody might just show up tomorrow to observe, it might impact your day-to-day.

Lesser things

I’m not talking about that junk pile out back or the barn that needs painting. Everybody will look past those details and might even think that broke-down, old tractor in the trees adds charm. Instead, think of 100 eyes, all on you, wondering what you’re doing to ensure you raise the kind of beef they want? Can you confidently say you’ve selected genetics with others in mind?

Can you talk about the ways you’ve adjusted your management to increase quality? Can you show how you’ve improved the land and water on your ranch? Can you tell tales of animal care that would impress the uninformed?

These are the things that matter. If you answered “yes,” then maybe you’re ready to say “yes” when one of those phone calls come in.

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