Surrounded by the DeSoto National Forrest near Brooklyn, Mississippi, Ashley works with her husband, Shane, raising cows, Kiko goats, horses, and as a necessity and a good side job, Anatolian Shepherds on 80 acres of ground.While Brooklyn, MS is a long way from Benton County, IN, it is surprising how similar we farm, while other practices and problems differ. I have a friend right here in the county starting her own herd of Kiko goats, but Ashley and Shane have some different predators to deal with, thank heavens!, than we do. Learning all this makes it fun to meet new neighbors!
The Hestermans are third generation farmers who did not start their married life farming. As Ashley tells it, “Shane’s grandparents started this farm back in the 1960′s. They had cattle and eventually added chicken houses (which were destroyed…after Hurricane Katrina in 2005).” Hmmmm…Hurricanes? YIKES! While our tornadoes are to be respected, the damage from a hurricane is so much more widespread. It’s hard to imagine…
Unfortunately, the health of Shane’s grandfather began to decline, and Shane started helping him on the farm as his full-time job allowed. In a way that only a grandpa can do, one day he asked Shane if he and Ashley wanted to buy the farm. After much discussion and planning, Shane and Ashley decided to take Grandpa up on his offer. They had hoped to have time enough with both grandparents to learn more about the farm, especially his grandmother who knew so much about the day-to-day running of the farm, but by June 2007, both his grandparents had passed away, and Shane and Ashley had some quick learning to do on their own. Looking back, Ashley states, “We never would’ve dreamed that we’d be living and working on a farm. We feel so blessed that we were able to take the family farm and to keep it running for hopefully the fourth generation to take over someday.”
As it stands now, Shane still has a full-time job at a local chemical plant, and while they work the farm together as much as possible on Shane’s off time, Ashley sees to a lot of the day-to-day work. Ashley left her job as a nurse seven years ago to “look after the place.” Those little words in quotes translate into a bucket-load of jobs ranging from feedings (dogs, cows, goats, and horses) to maintaining all records concerning the goats. This includes weighing them, tagging them, checking their general health, and keeping track of the breeding information. She says it gets rather interesting when she discovers goats and cows in pastures they are not supposed to be in. As many farm wives know, the animals never seem to get out of their pens/pastures/holding areas until the farmer leaves the farm. Fun times!
Let’s go see the farm!
Along with the cattle, the original animals on the farm, the Hestermans also raise Kiko goats. This is a seed stock operation, meaning the goats are raised for breeding. Any not meeting the requirements or standards of the breed are sold at the local livestock auction. From reading Ashley’s blog, I know a lot of time and effort goes in to their breeding program. Besides the income of selling goats for breeding, these animals also help out on the farm: “They compliment the cows and our pastures well. They mainly browse and eat weeds and brush that the cows won’t eat.”