We had a big loss to our farm a few weeks ago. My mom, Ninalei Bader Poore (Nina), passed away; she was 91. She had been in a slow decline the last two years, but she stayed positive as she approached the end of life. Life changed for her dramatically in 2015 when my Dad passed away, and it only seems a short time ago. My parents lived amazing lives, and raised 7 productive kids. Our main home was in Arizona, but in the summer we traveled to North Carolina to work on a small tobacco and cattle farm my folks bought after we moved from the east to the west. This was a great experience for little kids, and along the way I became convinced that I wanted to be a farmer.
About the time I entered college my folks purchased near-by Triple Creek Ranch, which also grew tobacco, but which had a lot more cows and pasture. We now calve 110 cows and finish 50 of the calves for the local beef market. Many of the young people in our family have passed through “The Farm” over the years, taking gap years from college, or taking a few years while deciding on a final course for life.
After graduate school, my spouse and I moved back to North Carolina where I was close to the farms. I had a chance to spend a lot of time with my parents over the last 3 decades. Mom was especially important to our farm as she was the most conscientious cow checker at calving time, and she also loved to feed. I have a clear memory of her helping unroll a round bale down a hill and pouring whole cottonseed on top of it.
Mom was also the key to the early development of our local beef business. She loved talking to people, so she did our marketing and really had a knack for selling beef. We had many great experiences developing the program, and then named it “Blake’s Beef” for my nephew Blake Herman who worked on the farm in the 1990s but passed away at age 25.
My Dad was cremated and small samples of his ashes were carried all over the world to his favorite places. Some of his ashes were spread on one of our pastures and the balance were buried on the top of Gill Mountain where we have constructed a large stack of white rocks as a memorial. My nephew Blake was also spread on that pasture. In the spring, my Mom will join Dad and Blake in the same pasture, and I hope that I will in turn join them some day. It gives me a comfortable feeling to realize that when I turn a group of cows into that pasture my loved ones are part of the mineral cycle there, and that a little piece of them is in the grass and in the cows as well. They will be part of the ecological cycles on this farm forever.
The passage of time is the hardest thing for me to get my hands around. It seems only months ago that Mom and Dad were here helping work cows and keep the farm going. Now I am the old man and I enjoy having my nieces and nephews and their families around to enjoy the beauty of the farm. I am also working with a young couple that are developing a pasture-based livestock farm next to ours. They are hungry to learn about regenerative grazing management, and I look forward to helping them develop the skills they will need in the future.
I have changed the way I think about our farm over the years. When I was young I was confident about what I was doing, and I thought I was in control of everything. Then in middle age, I realized I was not in control at all and I worried a lot about things beyond my control. In more recent years, I realize I am a part of something much bigger than myself, and that my job is to be observant and adaptive and to take my turn steering this huge ship through time.
Part of doing a good job of stewardship and management is being connected with the system. Take time to get out of your truck, walk pastures, and think about the incredible system that you have the pleasure to be a part of. When I do this my parents are right there with me and I have a strong feeling of their presence. As you spend more and more time on the ground with the animals and the plants you will realize this kind of work is good for your soul.
~ Matt Poore, NC State and Chair of the Alliance for Grassland Renewal.
The Alliance for Grassland Renewal is a national organization focused on enhancing the appropriate adoption of novel endophyte tall fescue technology through education, incentives, self-regulation and promotion. For more resources or to learn more about the Alliance for Grassland Renewal, go to www.grasslandrenewal.org