By Paige Campbell
At Shiny C Farm in Fall Branch, Texas Longhorn cattle graze, corn reaches toward the sun and 7-year-old Cheyenne Cox rides the tractor with her father, Brent, as he works the land.
The “C” is for
Brent and Jeri Cox’s daughter, who has taken her special seat on her dad’s
tractor ever since she was a toddler. The “Shiny” is for her bubbly
personality, a happy energy both parents say motivates them as they work to
establish a sustainable family farm.
Successful farming nowadays is no small task, says Brent from their Jonesborough Farmers Market booth, where he sells his Shiny C Farm’s signature grass-fed Texas Longhorn beef – especially when you also work full time. Brent and Jeri both work at Eastman Chemical Co. in
Kingsport. That leaves little time to devote
to their long-term goal of building the farm into a self-supporting enterprise.
“If I’m not at work, I’m out there on the farm,” Brent said simply.
For the most part, though, he doesn’t mind. “I used to hunt a lot. And some of the guys I work with like to go out and golf or fish. I just like to farm.”
“To be blunt, it’s in his blood,” Jeri said. “If he lives long enough, he will make this dream a reality.”
That dream has deep roots. Brent spent much of his childhood growing up on his grandfather’s dairy farm, not far from the Fall Branch land where Shiny C Farm operates today. “I grew up milking cows and doing farm work,” he said. “And I’ve always had a few head of cattle of my own.”
That hobby evolved into a business plan shortly after Brent’s grandfather passed away. Soon, the family began taking on different projects at the farm. It made sense, Brent said, to try a variety of farming strategies to see what would work best on that particular land, so in addition to raising standard commercial beef cattle, they also began to specialize in direct-to-consumer sales of distinctively lean Texas Longhorns.
“I have high cholesterol,” Jeri said. “But he’s a beef-eater and doesn’t care much for chicken. We needed to find a middle ground.”
Longhorn meat has just a fraction of the fat found in typical ground beef, and about half the calories, according to data from
Also on the Coxes’ 700 acres is a second-year crop of corn, another one of Brent’s efforts to diversify the farm’s offerings to build long-term stability. When that crop nearly failed last summer during a long dry spell, the hard reality of the agriculture business hit home.
“You’re so dependent on the weather,” Brent said. “Even if you’re knowledgeable, it can always throw you curveballs.”
But luck was on the family’s side. “We got rain in our area just in the nick of time,” Jeri said.
The first years corn crop was a success. This year the Coxes have doubled their acreage in corn and added 400 acres of hay.
Another new venture they have tried was to sell their products through the online market for the first time this past winter. “I wasn’t sure what I was getting into—honestly I was hesitant to try it. But it turned out to be really easy to manage and we gained lots of new customers. And it helped us keep some farm income during the winter,” said Jeri. “Seems like we’re learning something new all the time.”
The Coxes are both very grateful for their good fortune. Brent puts it this way: “We feel very blessed that we’ve got the good health to farm, and have been rewarded in our efforts.” Jeri says, “It’s long hours, great risk, and a loss of leisure time but the end result is great, when things come together just right. It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while all the dots connect.”
At home with his animals, especially the Longhorns, Brent also sees great reward in the day-to-day work itself. “It’s relaxing, to me. And [the cattle] are just pretty to look at,” he said. “I’ve had times where they’re looking at me with the sun setting between their horns and I’ve wished I had a camera. And I have some that are like pets. They’ll come right up to me.”
Jeri laughed. “Sometimes I wonder which is better, being his wife or being a cow,” she said. “He talks so sweet to them.”
Find Shiny C Farm products, like steaks, roasts, briskets, ribs, and hamburger at the Jonesborough Farmers Market. If they’re not in their big trailer, you will find Jeri sharing booth space with Chris Wilson of Clover Creek Farm. The market is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon on Courthouse Square. Contact Shiny C Farm at 423-384-1171 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recipe: Cowboy Beans
Recipe: Cowboy Beans
by Jeri Cox
This is a recipe that was passed from my grandmother to my mother and then to me. It is easy, perfect for summer picnics and a real crowd pleaser.
1 lb. Shiny C Farm Ground Beef
1/2 cup of chopped onion
2 - 16 oz. cans of Van Camps pork and beans
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. Tabasco Sauce or Worcestershire Sauce (I prefer Worcestershire Sauce)
2 Tbsp. Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Sugar
Brown ground beef and onion in skillet.* Add the rest of the ingredients to the pork and beans and then add browned ground beef and onion in a casserole dish and bake for 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
*Longhorn Beef cooking tips
Grass fed Texas Longhorn meat has less fat, so it cooks quickly. If you cook lean beef as fast as feedlot beef you will overcook it and the meat will be tough.
For best results, brown longhorn ground beef on medium heat.
Burgers will also cook quickly with little shrinkage. Cook on lower heat and watch them closely.
When grilling Steaks, sear on high heat to seal in juices and turn meat frequently until reaches desired doneness (160 degrees on meat thermometer).