Published on Thursday, June 29, 2017
After spending five years away from the family farm, Jean Lam returned to Pauls Valley, Oklahoma to continue her family’s tradition of caring for cattle and row crops.
“I went to college for four years and then lived in Washington D.C. for a year. After that, I moved home and realized that I didn't want to go to law school. I wanted to farm. That's my passion.” Jean smiles.
“I've been back since 2014. So, I've been farming full time by myself for two years.” She explains, driving through the pasture. “My dad works in Oklahoma City full time, and he took that about two years ago.”
As a kid, Jean has fond memories of farming with her dad, and is thankful they still get to work and plan together often. “I went to the coffee shop every Saturday morning with my dad when I was in school. I drank Dr. Pepper when all the grown men were drinking coffee and talked about farming. I think that was really special. And my dad and I get to do that now. From seven years old to 27 years old, my dad and I still go get coffee and talk about cattle.”
Since Jean has been back in Oklahoma, she’s taken on a bigger decision-making role. This year she made the bull purchasing decisions for the farm.
“My dad's been really, really willing, generous and patient with me exploring my own legacy, and impression and direction I want to take the farm. I'm very fortunate that my dad is such a good mentor, and a willing business partner. It's not just a hired hand kind of relationship. He's really preparing me to take over the business.” Jean says.
With the future of the farm in mind, Jean is implementing her own ideas in their current management practices. She knows embracing new methods is an essential part of continuing a sustainable farm.
“We're a complete no-till operation, so we don't plow, disk or mechanically break the soil at all. The idea of what we're doing there is 365 days a year, there's something growing on every field.” Jean says with excitement.
“We started to incorporate our cattle and our row crops together, as one sort of cohesive interdependent system. Now we're grazing our cattle on our wheat. And we're letting them put back into the soil what is taken out of the soil and sort of alleviating some of our fertilizer costs. Then we'll bale the corn stalks and feed them corn stalks in the winter.” She adds.
These new practices mean fields that have been only row crops for generations, now have cattle grazing on them. That required new fences to be installed. So, that’s exactly what Jean did.
“Every time I see that fence, it means a lot to me. You're proud of things that your dad did, and you're proud of things that your dad brought to the table, but they were already here before you got here. The things that I did, even if they're small, still mean a lot to me. It's something that changed how our farm operates. I see the fence and I have a lot more pride in it. I have pride in fences that my dad built, fences that my grandfather and everybody built before me, but when it's something you did yourself and your hard work, blood, sweat and tears went into it, you're like, ‘I get it now.’ Things start to click.”
"I farm because it's something I'm passionate about. The land, the cattle, and nature are intricately tied to my personal identity. It's something that impacts my life from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. It's not an 8 to 5 job."
That’s why Jean Lam farms.
Author: Natalina Sents
Categories: Why I Farm, Why I Farm Roadtrip
Tags: Beck's Blog, Why I Farm, Beck's Hybrids, cattle, Why I Farm Roadtrip, Jean Lam, Oklahoma, Agri-Women, pasture