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From the Field: Agricultural Diversity in Central Texas

From the Field: Agricultural Diversity in Central Texas

Earlier this week, Farm Credit customers Capitol Land & Livestock and Johnson’s Backyard Garden hosted nearly 100 people from Farm Credit’s Idea Share conference, an annual gathering of the communications professionals for nearly 90 local Farm Credit associations and regional banks.

At Capitol Land & Livestock, the flow of cattle is constant. Operating 24 hours a day and open every day but Christmas, the Schwertner family’s operation started with a small cattle auction back in 1947. Since then, careful animal stewardship, conservative business practices and an unwavering commitment has built this family business to an impressive scale, buying and selling 400 head of cattle every day. Purchased by one of 15 full-time buyers, owner Jim Schwertner says, “We’re not done until every head is sold.” In addition to the 125,000 head bought and sold throughout the year, the company offers a 45-day pasturage program to wean about 40,000 calves a year, an approach that reduces illness and morbidity once the animals reach the feed lot. Animal health is closely monitored, with vaccinations mandatory and swift medical attention.

Johnson’s Backyard Garden is a 200-acre organic farm raising 300 varieties of 60 different fruit and vegetable crops. Origunally founded in owner Brenton Johnson’s 30 foot by 50 foot backyard, this growing farm sells directly to consumers through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, through Farmers’ Markets, through major grocery chains such as HEB and Whole Foods, and to Austin restaurants for which they harvest to order. Produce is grown year-round and harvested almost daily to ensure freshness and is delivered with Johnson’s fleet of trucks. In all, the farm employs nearly 100 staff in the field and on the road. Recognizing the lack of agricultural workers and farmers in the Austin area, Brenton recently founded Farm Share, a seed-to-sale education program to help other aspiring organic farmers. “I thought engineering was a tough job,” says Brenton, referencing his former career. “Farming is hard work. It’s stressful, and it’s underappreciated.”

Capital Land & Livestock and Johnson’s Backyard Garden are two very different operations -- beef and produce, large and small, family run and community supported -- yet they share many of the same challenges, including ensuring food safety, building and maintaining strong customer relationships, and effectively managing risk. They also share a strong financial partner in Capital Farm Credit, their local Farm Credit lender.