Looking forward: Ezell following in footsteps of previous generation

by Becky Whisenant

For 62 years, beginning in 1957, the Cherokee County Soil & Water Conservation District has recognized local people in agricultural pursuits who demonstrate conservation of natural resources. Traditionally, honorees were selected based on their record, years of experience, and accomplishments. But things are changing.
It is well known that the last few years have seen many changes in agriculture and in the cattle business, but one of the most significant facts is that the average age of today’s cattle producer is close to 60.
More and more farming and ranching land has been taken out of production because farmers and ranchers are getting older and, oftentimes, children who inherit the property do not choose to stay in the business.

This year, instead of looking back to recognize a conservationist, we are looking forward, to someone committed to a strong future of conservation in agriculture, following in the footsteps of his family before him.

Tanner Ezell is the son of Patrick Ezell and Rebecca Kelly, grandson of longtime Maydelle residents, Glenn and Wanda Ezell and the grandson of Dr. and Mrs. Ira Stephens, veterinarian.
Mr. Ezell said, “My dad really helped put the love of this in my heart. And my grandfather [Ezell] helps me stay focused and on track with what I need to do. I run my cows on some of his land, he spots me fuel and is always there to tell me I can figure it out. He taught me all about taking care of cows and pastures. My other grandfather has helped me build fences including a really good pipe fence working pen and chute. And I learned the other end of it from him, all about giving shots and animal care. I’ve learned so much from both sets of grandparents and gotten a lot of experience. They all take care of me. I couldn’t do this without them,” said Mr. Ezell.
He got the best of both worlds, hands-on experience which he is putting to practical use in his life choices.

“I can’t tell you just how much the older, more experienced people have helped me, not just in my family, but in the community, too. It would be awful hard to do this alone. I don’t know how you could succeed in this without family assets and help. And I’ve found that your neighbors look out for you, too, and help you if they can,” Mr. Ezell said.

Mr. Ezell qualified to participate in USDA’s Beginning Farmers Program which enabled him to purchase his first 18 head of cattle. He currently runs 80 head and has since qualified for a loan through the same program to purchase his first piece of equipment, a tractor.
He bales hay for his own cows and for other people; he does custom baling as well and sells hay. He sold 130 bales recently to a registered Brahman operation.
Mr. Ezell prefers running Brangus cattle but also has a few longhorns.
He said, “Black cows are just usually worth a little bit more.”
In the near future, he plans to purchase more cows and continue building his herd.
The Texas A&M University Beef Cattle Short Course, a 3 day course offered on campus, provided Mr. Ezell with practical knowledge on nutrition, reproduction, genetics, selection, research, marketing and handling. He attended classes on topics of forage, range, business tips and associations and resources.
The courses are designed for everyone, from the newest member of the industry to the most seasoned producer. He has also completed several courses on beef quality, hay & forage, and spraying through the Agri-Life Extension Service.

Soil conservationist Jeff Brister (Natural Resources Conservation Service), advises him on appropriate grass types, when to lime and fertilize, rotational grazing, spraying, overseeding and fencing and crossing fencing, all designed to help implement better conservation practices. Mr. Ezell said, “I remember being told that if you take care of the land, the land will take care of you. I’ve really started thinking in that mindset lately.”

As for diversification, Mr. Ezell is training to manage his family’s timber tracts and works with his father to provide guest hog hunts on their property to control feral hog damage.
He helps his grandfather manage their wetlands for duck hunting and the wooded sections for deer harvest.

“I know it sounds crazy, but I like baling hay and working with cows,” said Mr. Ezell. “That’s all I want to do. I could have done other things but I chose to be with hay and cows. I think I was about 7 years old the first time they let me get in granny gear and rake hay behind the square baler -- I could have jumped off and walked faster. But from that point on, all I thought about was hay season and feeding the cows. When I got older it came time for me to seriously consider what I wanted to do. Everybody else in my family had all been to college and they were looking to me to continue that but I decided not to go to college. This was still what I wanted to do, cows and hay. Then I found out about USDA program and that’s how I got started.”

Mr. Ezell will be honored by the Cherokee County S&WCD at the 62nd annual awards banquet in Jacksonville May 4 at the Norman Activity Center.
Tickets are $10.50 and the public is welcome.