Sheltering Generations – The American Barn highlights 40 barns and farm families across the U.S. with images and stories documenting the role of this American farm icon.
In homage to the families whose stories are told in the book, 100 percent of proceeds from the book go to supporting farmers and ranchers in times of need. To learn more or to order a copy, visit certifiedangusbeef.com.
Here are two of the stories, excerpted from the book.
Olson Land & Cattle
Most people don’t have Hereford, Texas, on their vacation bucket list. A feedyard town in West Texas, surrounded by wind turbines, it’s not a traditional tourist destination.
Yet many of the world’s most prominent chefs have made their way to an Angus ranch just outside Hereford city limits.
The cattle graze green grass (when the rain cooperates) and are tended by caring hands. What sets this place apart is the people who raise them think all should know where their beef comes from. That’s why Steve and Ginger Olson open their gates, their kitchen and barn door to curious minds.
“We’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of production agriculture, to live on the land, to raise our family, to take care of God’s resources, and to interact with other people and share with them what it’s like to be here and to do this,” Steve says.
No tour of Olson Land and Cattle is complete without a key stop. “This barn is the essence of what we do,” he says.
“It is the centerpiece—where we work cattle together as
A newer addition to the ranch, it was built with care for the cattle and people. The pens, alleys and chute that flow in and out of the barn are crafted from the ideologies of leading animal welfare expert Temple Grandin. It keeps the elements of Texas weather outside when the animals need extra attention.
The place looks different from the land Steve’s ancestors cultivated, but as the third generation to tend the land his family homesteaded, he won’t be the last. What may appear as simple fencing upgrades and new water sprinklers and ponds fade into the normal scenery. However, each is placed with strategy, coordinating what is best for the land and will use the least amount of natural resources.
The seven Olson grandchildren can be found throughout the pastures doing chores (some with years enough to help, others just there to learn).
“Pa, are you going to have enough land for all seven of us?” Colter questions his grandfather. “I didn’t know that was my assignment!” Steve replies in jest.
But each investment in the livestock and land is mindful
of the future for his grandchildren and the environment.
“Sustainability is really about four segments in my mind, the first one being taking care of the animals that are on the ranch,” Steve says. “Their welfare as far as health, nutrition, and all of the elements they need to be comfortable.
“The second part is taking care of the land and natural resources that God gave us. Not overgrazing but continuing to nurture and conserve the water resources and utilize those products with good stewardship.
“The third is taking care of the people. People are family and how we treat each other and certainly the people that work for us, their time here needs to be one that’s good for them and also their financial wellbeing.
“The fourth part of that in my mind is it takes a profit to maintain all of these things and to keep it going, and the Certified Angus Beef brand has helped us to do that.”
His vision for a ranch that accomplishes all these tasks paints a picture of a destination all can put on our lists.
Yon Family Farms Barn
Ridge Spring, South Carolina
It was on a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive that Kevin and Lydia Yon had a fated encounter. From the backseat of the pickup, 3-year-old Drake complained they must stop for a potty break. Kevin was certain he just wanted a snack but chose not to risk the consequences of refusing the request. He pulled the truck into the gas station in Ridge Spring, South Carolina.
For years, they’d worked managing someone else’s herd, about 50 miles away, but recently that owner had decided to get out of the cattle business. Kevin was a young rancher with no land and no job, just a dream of raising cattle for a living.
He’d barely stepped out of the pickup when a familiar voice called out.
Small talk with a bull customer from the same town led to deeper discussion. Ironically, this customer mentioned that he had thought of them just a few days earlier. He had a 100-acre tract that he and his brother might be willing to sell, a few miles down the road, and the next day Kevin was back and the deal was made.
Decades later Yon Family Farms is both work and home for multiple generations. Kevin and Lydia started from scratch, building fence, cattle working facilities and slowly growing their herd.
Their barn is a piece that’s grown with their family, sitting on the original 100 acres they bought when they first moved to Ridge Spring. The front section acts as a feed and livestock supply store—serving both their ranch needs as well as neighbors. Its walls are festooned with vintage farm signs and art from bygone days.
It even features a mural of the farm, hand-painted by Kevin’s mother.
Walk through the swinging doors toward the back and it takes on a different mood. Twinkle lights dangle from the ceiling. Designed as their sale barn, it plays host to two cattle sales each year, but has also been the reception venue for two of their children’s weddings.
It’s 6:45 a.m. when Kevin, Lydia, Drake, Sally and Corbin Yon along with several other top hands gather to start the day in the barn. Farm tasks are divided up, then all the heads bow, a prayer is said and it’s off to work on the ranch.
What started as the dream of a young couple blossomed into a business that’s a family affair, day in and day out.
“I think of our farm as a rough piece of art,” Kevin says. “As we go along, we’re just working on our masterpiece.”
This excerpt originally appeared in the September/October 2020 issue of Hobby Farms magazine.