It’s winter and the harvest is in, but that doesn’t mean farmers take an extended holiday.
For crop farmers, winter means equipment maintenance and replacement, evaluating crop yields and field management. For livestock farmers, winter involves taking steps to care for the animals during cold weather – making certain water supplies don’t freeze and carefully monitoring nutrition. In addition, livestock farmers often implement artificial insemination breeding programs during the winter months. And across the board, all farmers deal with taxes, budgets and projections for the coming year. For two Mississippi farmers, diversifying their operations have helped keep them busy – and profitable – through the winter months.
Some years, it’s nearly December before Cal Trout finishes harvesting his family’s cotton crop on their 150-year-old Trout Valley Farm in Tallahatchie County, where they also grow soybeans, corn and milo. For the next three months, he pivots and uses the land for something else entirely: Trout Valley Quail Preserve.
For Trout, the quail preserve is the result of a dream he envisioned during a challenging period in his life. In 2007, within the period of just a few months, he went through a divorce and then a serious car accident that left him with multiple spinal fractures. Between those two incidents, his college friend, Nat, seeking to cheer him up, took him quail hunting.
“We had a really great time and watching that bird dog work was something special,” Trout says.
By 2010, he bought his first bird dogs and started taking customers on hunts. Trout took 11 people the first year, then 40 the next. By 2018, with the help of his father, father-in-law and some friends, he took more than 200. He now has seven bird dogs, which are the key to the success of the preserve.
“Quail hunting is a social type of hunting,” he says. “You don’t have to be quiet and you don’t have to hide. The dog is doing the hunting. Your job is to be where the dog tells you to be and to make a good shot.”
Over the years, Trout Valley Quail Preserve has provided enjoyable memories for couples, fathers and sons, friends and business associates. People come from all over the United States, the U.K. and Canada to enjoy “a day afield.”
Fall calving season means that by December, calves are nursing and growing on Remington-Lott Farms. Co-owner Greg Lott says it’s important to make certain the cows are getting the right supplements and hay to keep them healthy. By January, it’s time to implement the artificial insemination program for the next fall’s calving season.
Lott is a third-generation livestock farmer and has been in business with the Rowell family (the Remington side of the business) since 2007. He and his son, Will, run approximately 850 head of cattle and participate in various sales throughout the year, including January’s Central Mississippi Bred Heifer sale.
About four years ago, the farm added a new aspect to the business – selling their own beef.
“I had no idea if it would work,” Lott says. “But it’s been great for everyone. People like to know where their food is coming from these days. We’re producing it right here on the farm and then dry-aging our beef for direct sale to customers.”
Lott produces all the beef sold at Remington-Lott stores in Flowood, Madison and Gluckstadt. They also sell at the Jackson Farmers Market on Saturdays.
The beef is dry-aged, a method typically used for beef served in high-end steak houses.
“The bulk of mainstream beef sold at grocery stores is wet-aged,” Lott says. “Dry-aging gives it more flavor and makes the beef more tender. We age for 18 to 21 days, and the beef tastes better because of it.”
This new endeavor means everyone at Remington-Lott Farms are working around the clock – even in winter.
“With the stores running year round, we’ve got to have cattle ready to be processed all the time,” Lott says.