Guest Editorial: It’s the dirt that makes us

Kyle Morris (Sweet Grown Alabama)

The Bible tells us that we are all made of dust, and to dust we shall return. Well, I think the Good Lord must have made me out of Alabama red clay and river bottom silt. I was born and raised on a cattle operation in Cullman County, Alabama, the grandson of a sharecropper, and only the third generation of my family to even attend high school. My grandfather was the fifth of five children born to sharecroppers in the Blount/Cullman/Jefferson County area. His mother passed away when he was 6 years old. He was basically orphaned, living with his older siblings at times, and his father and stepmother at other times. In 1963 he and my grandmother saved enough money to purchase their first farm, in the Arkadelphia area of Cullman County, and that was the Genesis of Mulberry Bend Cattle Farm.

After 16 years building his farm in coal country, the strip mines came for his land, and then along with my mother relocated north of Hanceville and bought 100 acres and the house that I live in today. In 1981 he purchased our farm’s namesake and 280 acres along the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River. As I came along in 1987, our family’s farm was in full swing, and I grew up learning the trade of cattle farming.

I graduated from Cullman High School in 2005, then attended the University of Alabama, where I graduated in 2008 with a bachelor’s in business management. Upon graduation, a friend and I bought 10 Angus heifers, and began our own farm for the first time. After three years, I felt called into education, and sold out my half of the cattle and began my master’s in education at the University of Southern California. Upon graduation I was hired at my high school Alma Mater, and nine years later, I’m still teaching and coaching at Cullman High School. 

However, during that time I always felt the draw back into cattle. Both my grandfather and my stepfather helped me learn cattle and how to tend the land growing up. We had often based our herds around Angus, but a longtime friendship with Tinney Farms was pulling me towards Santa Gertrudis. So, in 2016 I began building towards using what we have grown here since 1963, but with my own twist.

My wife, Ashley, and our children Avery (7) and Luke (5) were determined to build upon what was given to us and keep it going to future generations. We knew that raising a family on the hard work and lifestyle associated with farming was a top priority, so making sure our kids learned the values of farming was paramount to us. They have each been assigned chores on the farm- gate openers, helping mix mineral, help count cows, and of course the bottle-feeding duty when needed. They have learned that early, cold mornings demand work just like the sunny, fun June days.

Working with Tinney Farms has allowed me to build an exceptional herd of Santa Gertrudis influenced cattle that I sold as replacement heifers for other farms, but I still felt like I was missing something; too many people were paying too high of prices for average to below average beef. After prayers and discussion with my wonderful wife, Ashley, we decided to start offering farm-raised beef. 

We do so because we feel we can offer our neighbors a superior product, at a competitive and sometimes lower price. We treat our cattle humanely and ethically. We treat our pastures to give them good grazing, and we feed the herd our own hay to ensure quality forage. We worm and give mineral shots twice a year and keep high quality mineral available free choice year-round. We supplement their hay and pasture forage with free choice 12-14% protein feed as well. 

We only offer to sell beef to our neighbors and family that we eat ourselves, so you can be sure of the high quality and standard to which we hold ourselves. After all, nearly 60 years in business, three generations, and the love and caring of a family farm is in this land.

And it’s in the dirt that makes us.

Kyle Morris, Mulberry Bend Cattle Farm, via Sweet Grown Alabama News