The Story of a High Profile Beginning Farmer in Nebraska

What follows is the story of Prescott Frost, a great-grandson of the poet Robert Frost. This modern tale, it turns out, is about a beginning farmer. Writing for the New York Times, Kathryn Shattuck shares with us the younger Frost’s foray into the grass-fed beef industry in “Where Corn is King, A New Regard for Grass-Fed Beef.” Some of the story’s features may be quite familiar to many beginning farmers: researching your market, developing your market, developing your product, finding the right land, the challenge of running a business that in many ways is at the mercy of mother nature. Frost's story may also irk some, and inspire others: “‘If change is going to come to the cattle industry, it’s got to come from educated people from the outside,’ Mr. Frost said, quoting from Allan Nation, the publisher of The Stockman Grass Farmer, considered the grazier’s bible.” Mr. Frost started farming in 2003 after inheriting land in Illinois, though he now makes his home on 7,000 acres in the Sandhill of Nebraska. Since he set down roots four years ago, he has worked to raise and market grass-fed and grass-finished beef, which sets him apart from the predominant way of finishing cattle on grain.

According to Fred Kirschenmann, fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University (and quoted in the same article), “There’s a cultural kind of fear-mongering that is involved… The attitude out there is that grass-fed is for the crazies.” Frost does not seem to mind his doubters. Instead, he has set out to find investors, develop his market (he markets to consumers direct online through a buying club), and he is partnering with Rick Calvo to breed the right cow for the job “Rick Calvo, who fine-tunes their ranch’s two herds: Mr. Frost’s Murray Greys and Mr. Calvo’s Red Angus,” says, “You want a minimum-input type cow, with more depth of body, more thickness, good udder structure and a good disposition,” Mr. Calvo said. “An angry cow is not a very good eating experience.”

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