Marathon Man: Tennessee Cattle Farmer Competes in Famous Boston Race

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Jason Bailey; marathon farmer

Jason Bailey trains for races while running loops around his family’s cattle farm in Strawberry Plains; Photo credit: Nathan Lambrecht

From farming to fitness, this East Tennessean has a marathon mentality.

Jason Bailey operates Spring Meadow Farms, a beef cattle farm in the Strawberry Plains community of Knox County. It’s a true century farm, started by Jason’s great-great-great-grandfather around 1860 and kept running on the same site by his descendants.

Jason and his father, Daniel, co-own the farm and employ part-time hands seasonally. With about 100 head of cattle and 100 acres of hay to manage, spring is a busy time. “We’re working all our cows, doing herd health examinations, deworming, vaccinating and putting fly tags in,” Jason says. “We’re also fertilizing our hay crops and spraying for weeds.”

See more: Meet East Tennessee Farmer Cathy Cambell

Stephanie, Jason’s wife, provides lunches and constant support. “She holds the place together,” he says. Their daughter, Addie, a fifth-grader and member of 4-H, has become increasingly interested in the family business.

Industry Ideals

The Baileys have responded to customers’ increased demand for all-natural beef. “We’ve had to raise a different type of animal on the farm just to stay current with the industry,” Jason says. “We’re more cautious about how we vaccinate. We don’t want to put antibiotics or hormones into the food product.” Proper feeding is another part of what Jason calls “good animal husbandry.” He knows what customers want and markets accordingly.

“You can’t just market the way you used to,” he says. “You have to diversify. We do some custom feeding, and we sell beef off the farm and market to individuals. We try to add value to our product, which is a big key to staying successful.”

In addition to farming, Jason manages the Knoxville Livestock Auction, which sells cattle from around the region – East Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia – every Wednesday. The stockyard also auctions horses a couple times a month.

marathon farmer

Photo credit: Nathan Lambrecht

Farmer and stockyard manager aren’t Jason’s only duties. Besides being a husband, father and church deacon, he has served on the board of the Knox County Farm Bureau for almost a decade. While many people know the organization as an insurance provider, Jason explains the Farm Bureau’s primary role.

“The focus is on agricultural issues,” he says. “We work with our local legislators to get bills passed that are in the farmers’ best interests, to help them be successful and to keep certain legislation from being passed that may unintentionally hurt farmers.”

Jason is also a past president of the Knox County Farm Bureau, as was his grandfather.

Healthy Hobby

What more could Jason add to his busy schedule? A lot, it turns out. Before his workday begins, he’s up every morning at 4 – sometimes earlier – pursuing an intense and disciplined hobby.

Jason runs marathons and has competed in the sport’s most prestigious event. Yet his love of running grew out of a simple desire for health.

“I really wasn’t a runner until about five years ago,” he says. “I played high school sports, but became less active after college. I saw myself becoming a little overweight, and I had to take medication for high cholesterol, which ran in my family.”

Jason saw the need for a lifestyle change and started running for exercise.

“Maybe a mile at most. After a year or so, I ran my first 5K in Knoxville and did OK,” he says. “A year later I ran my first half-marathon and also did fairly well. I saw potential, and I started training on my own for my first full marathon, which I ran almost a year later in New Orleans.” He completed the race but struggled. “It was tough. I realized at that point that I needed a coach.”

See more: Meet Middle Tennessee Farmer Charlie Hancock

After improving dramatically under coach Bobby Holcomb, Jason began looking toward Boston, site of the world’s oldest annual marathon.

“I ran the Indianapolis Marathon a couple years ago and qualified for Boston with a time of three hours and three minutes.” He shaved off more time in Chicago, finishing in two hours and 56 minutes. In April 2019, he competed in Boston.

“I did even better in Boston and was able to ‘seed’ myself better,” Jason says, meaning that his qualifying time positioned him closer to the desired inside lanes.

So what’s next for Jason?

“After Boston, I plan to do local races with my team, KPL/Zen Evo and Knoxville Track Club,” he says. A future return to Boston seems certain, but getting faster is an immediate goal.

Whether running a marathon or a farm, Jason is clearly in it for the long haul.

1 Comment

  1. Charlene

    February 26, 2020 at 8:15 am

    This is such a great article! Where can beef be purchased that is raised on Spring Meadow Farms? I live in Maryville, Tn. I am looking for meal sized portions. Thank you.

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