Meet Cattle Farmer Jeff Aiken
The Dirt on the Farm
Farm Legacy: Third generation
Farm Location: Telford
Land Area: 900 acres
Livestock and Crops: Beef cattle, straw and burley tobacco; corn and hay primarily for their own use.
Farm Bureau Membership: 32 years
What are your biggest struggles and blessings on your farm?
We were a dairy farm until 2005, when we transitioned to a 600-head cow/calf operation. We background cows, meaning we buy cows, keep and feed them for a period of time and then re-sell them, and we have Holstein steers. All farms face challenges. As my area becomes more heavily populated, neighbors who don’t understand agriculture move in, and that presents challenges. Getting quality labor to get the jobs done on the farm is becoming a major challenge, and it is just discouraging to know so many folks have a misunderstanding of what agriculture truly is.
My blessings are many. I work with my family on a daily basis. Even though at times that creates challenges, it is very rewarding that we all work together as a family. Being a farmer in general, I get to do what I love. I love what I do with a passion – the smell of freshly mown hay in the summer; planting a crop and watching it grow and mature and turn into something of value; seeing a baby calf born and knowing with your help it will grow and mature.
You started in the Young Farmer program and now are the vice president of the Farm Bureau Federation. How important is leadership development and staying involved?
Through all the organizations I was involved in, Young Farmers had the greatest impact on my life because that was the group that gave me the format to grow and learn and be involved in something I believe in with all my heart. I was involved in 4-H and FFA before Young Farmers, and if not for that program, I don’t know where the opportunity would have been for me to continue to be active in something that is a passion to me. Because I have traveled that path, I have a great desire to see others have the opportunity to participate in Young Farmers as well.
Are you Farm Bureau proud?
Absolutely – the opportunity to tell folks I’m a part of the largest Farm Bureau in the country is an honor. It’s an honor because I think Farm Bureau is the voice of Tennessee agriculture, but maybe more importantly than the voice, I think Farm Bureau is the ear that listens to problems, concerns and issues and tries to find solutions for our farm folks within the state.
How can we share the story of agriculture with others?
It is important that farmers share their stories – what they’re doing and why they’re doing it so folks can have a better understanding of the science, technology and reasoning that goes into being a successful farm. It all boils down to education, and Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program is great for school kids across our state to start early. But that in itself is not enough; we have to also educate grownups as well.