How does a dream come true? We all know it’s different from the movies and typically involves a lot more work than Hollywood would ever waste screen time on. But the Barnard family, who lives far from the silver screen, knows how. This whole #azbeef family knows that dreams come true through goal setting, hard work, and some serious perseverance.
Jason and Candice Barnard are Arizona ranchers and farmers in Cochise County, with agricultural roots from both sides of the family. Candice, an Arizona native, grew up in a farming family where white corn was grown and sent to California to be made into tortilla chips. Jason grew up in Texas and had family here in Arizona who farmed. As a kid, he would make the trek out every summer to spend time with his grandparents and help on the farm. After Jason graduated from college, he was fortunate to get into farming like his grandparents and came to Arizona for good. The Barnards are blessed with three children, Haidyn, 12; Hannah, 11; and Ethan, 3. The family has been at their current location in Portal, Arizona for 11 years and has built the business into something they had dreamed about.
Going back to how to achieve a dream, you could look at this family as a case study to answer that question. This dream really belongs to Jason, and as Candice and I talked, she mentioned a few times that it had always been Jason’s dream to incorporate cattle into their farming business. As with most plans, there were many naysayers who shared that farming and cattle just don’t mix, but Jason and Candice didn’t let that stop them.
Their opportunity to get into the cattle business really started back in 2009 when a small feed yard became available to lease. They jumped on the chance and started feeding weaned calves (calves that have recently been separated from the cows) hay from the farm that had been rained on. A feed crop that had been rained on typically loses value but can be fed to cattle. This provided a chance to get into the cattle business while also feeding hay to the calves, which didn’t hold much value elsewhere, allowing them to convert that into high-quality and nutritious beef.
Since these humble beginnings, the feed yard side of the farm has grown and blossomed. Not only do they feed their own weaned calves, which they raise on some leased grazing land nearby, but now they also can take customers’ cattle to do custom feeding. They also work with larger companies to supply animals for harvest and are proud to say they are doing a direct-to-customer business.
Many technologies and innovations help the Barnards to do their job in the best way possible. One of those is the feeding program they use, which allows them to properly mix the feed rations (the mixture of grains, hay, and other nutrients fed to their cattle) so cattle are getting all the minerals and nutrients they need to help them grow and stay healthy. This program does more than that, though! With a few inputs of information by the user, this app allows them to know how much to mix and how much to give to each cattle pen. It doesn’t stop there. When the actual feeding is happening using a feed truck, it weighs out how much each pen of cattle needs. Not only does this help to make the job more efficient, but it also ensures less waste.
Another item that Candice says is very helpful for their business is the RFID tags, which stand for radio-frequency identification tags. These ear tags are put into a calf’s ear, much like an earring is put into a human. But unlike an earring that we might wear, this RFID tag contains a tiny radio transponder, which can be activated with a reader. This allows the Barnards to scan the ear tag with a quick swish of a wand (not actual magic, the wand contains a radio receiver), which brings up an individual number assigned to that particular animal. The information can be entered into a computer program about that animal. Every aspect of the animal’s life is recorded, including any change in feed ration, if it is given medicine, and when regular health protocols take place, notes are made with the unique number attached. This level of record keeping and transparency is increasingly important to beef consumers and also aids in food safety.
The Barnard children are no strangers to dreams and goals. The two oldest children have a unique, fun, and educational book that they helped write and complete called Farm Kids, Growing Up WhiteBarn. This book takes readers through a day in the life of these hard-working kids and all they do to help their family raise healthy and delicious beef.
So, what have we learned from this tenacious family, and how to achieve our dream? Set goals, keep going, and use the tools you have but don’t be afraid to invest in new ones, and don’t give up. Thanks to the Barnard family for this valuable lesson and for raising delicious and nutritious Arizona beef.
Feature photo by Hannah Whaley Photography.