Cattle Showman, Entrepreneur & AGvocate
For Isaac McFarland, his days start early. He and his team members jumpstart each day by feeding, walking, washing, exercising, and caring for approximately 150 calves in the cattle operation at a show cattle ranch in Colorado. Isaac is no stranger to the busy cattle-fitting environment and gained a lot of experience growing up in Keithville, Louisiana.
"I am the youngest of four siblings," Isaac said. "So by the time I was growing up, my siblings were already heavily involved in the Angus Association," Isaac continued. He has spent 25 years in the agricultural lifestyle, producing, showing, and working on his family's farm. A fond memory he recalls was when he was traveling to the Angus Junior National Show in Pennsylvania. Isaac, his siblings, and his parents traveled 14 hours to the show. They tried to make the most of it, but he remembers it was a long drive in a cramped vehicle. However, the memories made that summer would leave a lasting impression.
While he currently works for a cattle company taking care of show cattle, he grew up learning the ins and outs of the show cattle industry. His passion for agriculture stemmed from his father, who wears many hats yet still finds time to take care of his family and their farm. "My dad is a private practice family doctor and pastor, and he's a full-time farmer. So he literally doesn't stop working," Isaac said.
The appreciation for quality show cattle runs deep. "My dad grew up showing cattle. God gave him a vision, and he ran with it. His dream was for his children to be able to show cattle and live a very different experience," Isaac said. He values his dad's work ethic, which has allowed him to appreciate his show cattle more. "I was able to have nice cattle because my dad was working hard every single day for years."
In the future, he plans on moving back home and being able to help out more in the area. As for now, he settles for videos from home sent of the kids showing their livestock.
In the midst of calving season, Isaac and his team travel to the shows and prepare show cattle for their shining moment in the show ring. Meanwhile, crew members are back at the farm, watching the cows eagerly awaiting their babies' arrival.
Since Colorado can get pretty cold in the winter, the cows getting ready to calve in a week or two get brought inside the warm, dry barn away from the elements and placed under 24/7 surveillance to ensure there is the safe delivery of the new calves.
Isaac and the crew spend their time caring for and overseeing the show cattle at the shows. One particular job is washing, blow drying, and working the cattle hair. In the show cattle industry, it's crucial to work the hair every day so the hair is trained and ready for show day to ensure the cattle look their very best. When it's show time, the days are long. Some mornings can start as early as 3:30 AM and likely will end about 7:30 PM.
Getting involved in the show cattle industry is an excellent opportunity to build the youth of tomorrow. For today's youth wanting to get involved, Isaac recommends joining 4-H and FFA. He speaks highly of the organizations, as their mission is to educate the world by fostering career development events and allowing more opportunities in the ag industry.
"After joining 4-H or FFA, kids and their parents have access to an agent or teacher who can walk them through purchasing their first show animal," Isaac said. He encourages anyone interested in these organizations or showing animals to speak with an agent about the time and cost commitments. And when in doubt, he also referred to Google as a great resource. Isaac said, "It's not about the show animal. It's about learning and being coachable."
While Isaac's lifestyle seems normal to him, it's certainly different than most. He and his family take pride in being advocates of the agricultural industry. They do so in several ways. First, they allow inner city kids from the church who may not have the opportunity to get outside and own show animals, let alone show them, to show the pigs, cattle, and goats the McFarland family raises. "Trying to help them [the kids] overcome the fear of cattle and show them a different way is so inspiring to be a different light in this world," Isaac said.
In Isaac’s free time, you can find him on social media promoting his platform as the “Official Black Farmer.” He said it's less about being official and more about informing the world about what a day in the life of a farmer is all about. "I'm going to push everything that's not just Black farming, but farming in general, to get the world to be more into agriculture because there are very important cultural values to be learned from just being able to take care of a cow," Isaac said.