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It’s Farmer Friday!  I am so excited  because I get to introduce you to my Farmer Friend from Mississippi, Ashley  Hesterman.  We met through our own blogs, her’s is Deep South Kiko News, and I have loved watching her children grow and learning how farming is done below the Mason-Dixon line.
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!

2seperate pastures

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!

goats and cows watering hole
cows and goats
two black cows
The Hestermans raise beef cattle through a cow/calf operation.  That means all the calves are born on the farm rather than bought at an auction (like we do).  They started implementing a controlled breeding operation with their herd so that all cows calve, give birth, within a few weeks.

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.”

Goats and cows  3
She talks about two of their bucks with quite a bit of humor and pride.  This is Pistol Pete…
and the inquisitive one here is named Rooster.
goat curious
What a lovely pasture and creek for these goats to enjoy!
goats in pasture
goats in Brush around pond
Now that you have had a look at the farm, you can just imagine that it might be a bit tiresome and crazy trying to round up all the critters, but Ashley and Shane have all that figured out:  DOGS!  Shane has trained two border collies to help move and herd cattle, but the big workers are the Anatolian Shepherds.  Ashley tells me, “They build a bond with the animals like you would not believe.  They will clean up the kid goats right after the does have given birth.  It’s an amazing bond they have!”
lgdcleaningkid
watchdog
These guys do it all from protecting the goats from predators like coyotes, which we have in troublesome abundance up here, to warding off poisonous snakes.
snake! 1
Shane and rattlesnake
Several years ago, they lost one of their Anatolians because it was bit numerous times by this snake while trying to protect the goats.  *Writer’s note:  This is NOT a pretty picture, but it is a part of farm life in Mississippi.
Yep, remember that we are WAY DOWN SOUTH, so the Hestermans always have to keep an eye out for these nasty, deadly reptiles.  So glad we don’t’ have to worry about deadly snakes yet, but I have heard rumors of rattlesnake sightings just a county south of us along the Wabash River…cottonmouths too!  Ashley and I DISLIKE SNAKES VERY MUCH!
Ashley and Shane have one more source of help on their farm, their kids.  NO, not the baby goats, but their own son and daughter.  Looks like the 4th generation of Hestermans are doing quite well learning on the job.
boy and girl feeding the cow
girl and goats
CUTE kids
Hesterman boy and calf
kids hearding goats
I want to thank Ashley for pulling all her information and pictures together for this post.  It is has been so much fun getting to know her.  Our children are about the same age, she is starting to run, and I am still trying to move this body for a specific amount of time.  Please stop by her blog, Deep South Kikos News and get to know my Farmer Friend from the great state of Mississippi.

Lana from Walking the Off-Beaten Path

Jill of many trades trying to master them all. After teaching high school English for 18 years, I changed my life to become a farm wife in northwestern Indiana and mom to Tink and Bear.

    Comments

  • Jent!


    Very Cool – I love her blog!

  • Rhetta Bryant


    I love driving by their farm on the way to work. It is such a beautiful place. And they are such nice people! Great article!

  • Steve Hesterman


    Thanks for this wonderfully written article, and for portraying my son Shane and his family so well. Shane has a lot of farm heritage from both sides of his family. His Great Great Great Grandpa Hesterman was a German immigrant farmer who helped clear, settle, and farm the fertile farmlands of Northwestern Ohio. Farming continued in the Hesterman family and to this day Shane & Ashley bring a higher standard of precision & tested science to the farm. Shane and Ashley and kids make our family very proud of them & this fine age old heritage.