This story originally appeared in the May 12 issue of the Community Voice. For your own subscription, call 270-384-9454.
Trent Miller was just a freshman in high school when his father, Danny, was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Danny needed to take care of his health, but someone needed to take care of the family farm, JMS Polled Herefords, which is located on Caldwell Ridge in Knifley.
“I really got into it in ninth grade when my dad was diagnosed with cancer,” Trent said. “He was taking chemo treatments, so he was out of commission for awhile. I like farming, but from that point on I kicked it up a gear. In farming, you can’t stop; things have to get done. It was a lot for a kid, but there was just something telling me I needed to do it. I love working with my dad.”
And Danny Miller realizes how special that connection can be.
“When I was down, the feeding and the chores and everything that went with it, Trent really stepped up and matured,” Danny said. “It probably caused him to grow up quicker. I think he probably realized the severity of the situation, and he took it on himself to do it.”
Though Danny is still very active on the farm, Trent, now 33, is the general manager of operations for JMS. The farm has focused on building a straight bred herd of R .W. Jones’ RWJ Vic- tor Domino bred cattle since 1975. The Millers use five sire lines in their line-breeding program, which includes a heifer base that has been closed to outside females since 1987. They typically turn out about eight bulls a year with their herd of 150-160 females, with calving done strictly in the fall.
JMS beef is known around the world for milking ability, calving-ease ability and the animals’ slick hair for the summer. JMS animals can go anywhere in the United States and do well.
The local farm started four generations back with Trent’s great, great grandfather, Enos Miller. His son, Harold Miller, passed the farm on to his son, Jack. Danny then took ownership from Jack. Trent will own the farm someday as will his son, Glen, 3.
“Farming is in my blood,” said Trent. “My dad worked publicly for 40 years at Fruit of the Loom. When it shut down, he came out here full time. I was always with him as a child, running around the farm. The farm was always a place for me to come and be free.”
The Millers own a lot of property on Caldwell Ridge, totaling around 900 acres. They also tend around 1,300 acres on leased ground. Trent said they have probably 200 mama cows and around 500 total ani- mals. One thing that makes JMS stand out is their beef has no hormone or growth shots. They are strictly grass- fed freezer beef.
“I think doing our beef this way gives the consumer a peace of mind as to where their beef comes from,” Trent said. “We take our steers and we feed them up to a certain weight. Then, we get them to the butcher...I know exactly what I am feeding these animals and I know the people butchering my animals very well. I think this provides peace of mind to know your freezer is full. We are straight from the field to the table.”
Trent said buying beef whole likely cuts the cost per pound in half. He also said by freezing it, the meat will last a lot longer. The animals feed on free range grass and will probably reach 800 pounds before harvest.
“If the feed prices keep going up it can be tough for farmers,” Trent said about the future. “A lot of people don’t understand what goes into that calf, even before it is born. It is a long process. There is the feed bill, vaccination shots. It takes a lot to get that animal to the size and the look we want it to be. This is nothing to play around about. This isn’t a hobby.”
Trent keeps working hard, alongside his dad, and the goal is to be able to pass the farm onto the next generation.
“It would mean every- thing if I can pass this on to my son,” he said, looking out over his property. “I hope he is interested in it. He seems intrigued when he comes out. When he is ready, I will give him the reins. But I don’t know if I can ever get out of it. God willing, I will keep going.”
By Scott Wilson