Published on Sunday, April 23, 2017
Everyone who meets Patrick Robinette knows he isn’t afraid to pave his own path. While he didn’t grow up on a farm, that didn’t stop him from diving into the industry. As a young man, he joined the rodeo circuit and worked on ranches in the summer. Agriculture was a great fit for Patrick’s high energy personality.
“I loved agriculture. When I was in school, they labeled you ADD, but they didn't have an answer other than a big ol' butt whoppin'. They didn't have all this medication and stuff. Anyways, ADD and agriculture kind of work together because you never do the same thing twice and you never have the same day twice. And so, that's where my drive into agriculture began.” Patrick laughs.
Patrick’s wife, Amy, has a very different story. “Her daddy farmed tobacco, cotton, corn, and peanuts, the standard staples of North Carolina.” Patrick explains. She went to college to get away from agriculture. “And then our worlds collided.” Patrick recalls.
For the first few years of their marriage, Patrick and Amy lived in Nebraska managing a feedlot. Right after their daughter, McKayla, was born they found out Amy’s dad had cancer. “All those pieces came together and we decided to move back home to North Carolina. The deal was, when we moved I told Amy, 'That's fine, but we're going to have cattle.'” Patrick smiles.
A few weeks after moving to North Carolina, Patrick met up with a long-time mentor. Over lunch he said, 'Patrick, you need to look at grassfed beef.' At first, Patrick pushed back. It went against everything he learned in the Midwest. But after more reading and research, he began to realize that grassfed beef could be a great fit in North Carolina. In 2000, the family started raising their cattle on Amy’s family’s land.
From the start, they knew they were doing something different. The family has worked hard to improve their genetics and grass combinations over the years. “We're really evolving agriculture and we're putting a mark on the change in agriculture. There are people out there that ride the waves and there are people out there paddling ahead of the waves. And that's what we're doing.”
In 2012, while on a family vacation, Patrick got a phone call that changed the course of his business forever. A meat packer they were doing business with made a very expensive mistake, cutting their order wrong. “This is a comital business. There's no gluing it and starting over. There was no, let me remix this. No. I told Amy, 'You know, if we're ever going to be sustainable with this whole deal, we have to take that out of the equation.'” Patrick recalls.
Patrick and Amy knew their goals would take sacrifice and perseverance. “We didn't have inheritance. We had hard work. We went back into the college days, the macaroni and cheese with the powdered cheese, not even Velveeta.” Patrick smirks. “We went and we said, we're going to make a goal. We're going to make a run at it. If we fail, we fail. Even if we fail, it's still not a failure because you're going to get successes along the way and are moving things forward.”
Patrick got to work looking for a solution. “I ran across this place.” He says sitting in the Mircro Summit Processors office. “It was shut down. We brought it in.” On their own, the family modified the former pork processing facility to handle beef.
Now, in addition to teaching, Amy oversees the processing plant. Because of their sanitation and humane handling success, the USDA actually made Micro Summit Processors one of the training facilities for the inspectors.
Patrick manages the cattle. “We started with that semen and that egg and we know everything about it. All the way, how it was raised, through the slaughter, through the processing, through the further processing, through the distribution. The only time another hand has touched it is when it hits your plate.”
When they’re not working on their own farm, the couple is investing their time in the next generation of agriculturists through organizations like American Agri-Women and FFA.
The Robinette's children, McKayla and Caden, are following in their parents' footsteps by taking on leadership roles and their own livestock projects. "I'm very proud of my kids." Patrick smiles.
"There's a lot to it. You don't farm to get rich. You farm because of the lifestyle. It isn't just producing food. We also farm because we want to make a difference in the world."
That’s why Patrick Robinette farms.
Author: Natalina Sents
Categories: Why I Farm, Why I Farm Roadtrip
Tags: Beck's Blog, Why I Farm, Beck's Hybrids, Natalina Sents, North Carolina, Why I Farm Roadtip, Micro Summit Processors, Patrick Robinette, Amy Robinette, Harris-Robinette, Beef, grassfed beef