Autumn and Introductions: A New Voice For SGT

Weaning time is an autumn tradition around my family’s farm. It’s as synonymous with fall as Football Saturdays and pumpkin patches. Recently, we separated our 2011 calf crop from their mommas. Everything went smooth for the most part. Of course, the calves took it harder than the momma cows but after a day and a half of full-out bawling and whining, peace stepped in and normalcy was restored. As a rancher, I love getting in the new calf crop and evaluating them. 


The weather this fall has been a huge blessing. Weaning time naturally is very stressful for the calves. They’ve depended on their mothers all summer – it’s all they’ve known – and now it’s time for them to depend on themselves. It’s time for them to enter the next season in their lives. The sunshine and heat has made this year’s process much more palatable. 


It’s gratifying to see how the previous year’s mating selections turned out. From an appearance standpoint, calves will begin to show whether or not they’re good enough to save as breeding stock by the time they’re five months old. At this point, we’ll sort off the best males and best females and place them into contemporary groups – or groups that will be managed similarly. Weaning is similar to a parent watching his or her child graduate from high school. There’s still plenty of life ahead of the child but it’s a milestone, a reminder that all of the previous work, discipline, and sacrifice is worth it. 


Why am I sharing this with you? As a young, aspiring rancher, I have a heart for the local foods movement. Part of this movement is keeping a connection with the farmer and the land, as well as sharing some of the challenges we face day to day. Agriculture can be a very risky business. It is not quite as perfect and symmetrical as the grocery store shelves may lead you to believe. Few businesses are constantly at the mercy and whims of Mother Nature to the degree that farmers and ranchers are. This affects not just the products we produce, but our livelihoods. My friends in Texas and Oklahoma are living this fact out right now. The recent drought has decimated their pastures and many have had to sell out their herds. They don’t have a choice at this point – except to pray for rain.


I’ve grown up watching agriculture shift from family-focused operations to larger, more corporate farms. This shift has changed economies of scale and required a greater capital investment for young/beginning farmers; very much akin to the “too big to fail” concept, the small start-up farmer faces another dillemma, namely, "how do we compete". This scenario is a central reason why I believe the farmer/rancher to consumer connection is so powerful. It’s a symbiotic relationship that fuels engagement and accountability. It creates a support network for farmers and ranchers that care about the food people eat and how it’s raised. In turn, consumers get real, wholesome and delicious food. There’s something powerful in this connection.


So, who the heck am I? My name is Andy Peterson. My family and I run Limousin cattle on our farm south of Osceola, Wisconsin. Three years ago, we developed a branded beef company with the label: Peterson Limousin Beef. Today, we sell to a number of restaurants in the Twin Cities. I first became aware of Simple, Good and Tasty at one of those establishments – The Birchwood Café – during their annual Earth Day dinner. I love the heart behind SGT; my wish is to share experiences from a local farm and contribute to their mission to connect people with good food.


My hope is that my ranching experiences can open a window into local agriculture. And in turn I hope you, the reader, would invite me into your world with your comments and questions. So, please ask; I love conversations about good, local food and drink. As we turn a new chapter on the farm, I’m looking forward to starting one with SG&T as well!


Andy Peterson graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a degree in Animal Science and Life Sciences Communication. His family owns Peterson's Limousin Farm, near Osceola, Wisconsin. He is a contributing editor to a national ranching publication, Working Ranch Magazine, and founded a blog covering the Limousin breed of cattle: