Larry Hash, Alleghany County
Written by: Amy Ager
They told me this is one of the coldest areas of the state nestled in those high mountains at 2700 feet and has seen temperatures as low as -24. Almost everyone remembers that day, how hard it was to start the tractor and feed and how that UPS drivers shoes stuck right to the bottom of his metal truck. Farming in this pocket requires a different level of skill with a shorter growing season and cooler temperatures but this is exactly where we want HNG cattle to be in the summer months. The cooler mountain pastures minimize stress from heat and the grass grows at a steady pace. Stockpiling fescue is a methodology that is used by many of the HNG farmers in the mountains. For those unfamiliar with it, this is an annual strategy used by graziers to accumulate pasture without cutting it for hay to be grazed directly by the cattle in winter months.
Wearing a pair of red wing boots and overalls with clever patches that have clearly walked many acres of this land, Larry and his wife have four grown children. All of his kids learned the critical observation skills of farming and solid team dynamics of playing ball, all kinds of sports (anything with a ball that bounced, he said) and took that into their professions; an attorney, a rehabilitation physical therapist, a vet and a teacher who is also a new mother. Sometimes the birth of a new grandchild (of which they are up to five), have been a part of the conversation and logistics that need to be considered when Larry is about to ship a load of calves. We are glad his family comes first and that he is such a good communicator about keeping us in the loop when the babies are about to arrive. All good farmers have a sense about those things.
Larry’s steers were seeking shade in the wooded areas of a pasture that overlooked the mountains of the Virginia state border. They curiously watched the three of us and he reminded me that they weren’t too used to such a crowd so we walked slow over that way. His steers were smooth coated and shiny and almost up to harvest weight. The summer grazing and abundant grass and low stocking rates had proved to grow healthy pasture and steers.
A dog aptly named Sam and a conversation about how to override the beeping of the seat belt sensor of an old Ford Ranger when driving on the back farm roads, wrapped up our visit with this diesel mechanic and Wilkes Community college teacher who is at the helm of this family farm business.