Life on the Farm

For Daniel Carter, second-generation farmer and owner of Carter Farms, farming isn’t just a hobby or a job – it’s a way of life.

Nestled in the Sequatchie Valley just over the line into Jasper, Tennessee, Carter Farms sits quietly, not far from the main road. Founded by Bobby Brad Carter in 1958 and currently run by his son Daniel Carter, Carter Farms raises Angus cattle and Katahdin sheep.

With more than 200 acres of pasture, 22 paddocks, and two separate farm locations, the Carters could easily spread out. But given the strong familial bonds, when it came time for Daniel to take over the farm, settling down just a few hundred yards from the childhood home where his parents still reside felt right.

By Lucy Morris | Photography by Emily Long

Learning Life’s Values

Growing up on a farm meant long, blissful days spent exploring the outdoors for Daniel. “My dad bought the farm in 1958, and I was born and raised here. Growing up, it was really the idyllic farm life that you read about in novels,” he reminisces. “All the kids wanted to be here. We were always on horseback, in the mountains, in the creek bottoms. Friends regularly stayed overnight, and we coon hunted, we fished, we wrestled goats – typical kid stuff,” he laughs.

His passion for the outdoors only grew, and it didn’t take long for Daniel, the youngest of five children born to Bobby Brad and Gwendolyn Carter, to take to farm life. “All of my best memories are on the farm,” he says. “I was always wanting to be around the animals, to play with them and take care of them.”

His love for animals was evident to his family, who enjoyed nurturing his enthusiasm. “Each Christmas, my present was an animal for the farm,” he recounts. “My favorite Christmas ever, my dad bought me a nanny goat named Barbara. Dad had gotten her from a friend that had named her after his wife, and she had a red bow around her neck. I built an empire with Barbara over the years!” he laughs. “I was definitely an animal kid, and I think my dad was too. He always had an animal in his hands.”

This shared love for animals bonded Daniel and his father; it was days spent working in the fields and feeding cattle that created an environment ripe with opportunity to pass along some of life’s most important tenets. “One of the biggest values I learned from my dad is the importance of taking care of your animals. You have to feed them, check up on them daily, and make sure they have their vaccines,” he explains. “It’s not cheap, and if you’re not willing to put in the work and the resources, you shouldn’t do it. If my dad didn’t think someone would take care of the animals, he wouldn’t sell them to them.”

Today, Daniel and his wife, Rachel, along with their two teenage sons, Ollie and Harry, have about 100 head of cattle, 100 sheep, 10 to 15 laying hens, a couple of roosters, a goose, a llama, a pig, some guinea fowl, horses, peacocks, a few dogs including Daniel’s righthand man and farm dog, Ace, and a turkey – to name a few – which means checking the animals can take some time.

“You can’t do that well if you’re just out a few days a week. It’s gotta be seven days a week,” says Daniel. “But I don’t see it as work. It’s a lifestyle. The moment you start trying to count hours or days, it loses something. It’s not about return on investment. These are just the things you do because they’re your lifestyle, and you love it.”

 

I don’t see it as work. These are just the things you do because they’re your lifestyle, and you love it.”

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The Carters

Daniel Carter with wife, Rachel, sons, Ollie and Harry, and father, Bobby Brad

 

Forging Community Relationships

Part of the lifestyle you grow akin to as a farmer encompasses the relationships you develop with others in the community. For Daniel, this can mean rushing to help a fellow farmer move his horses when extensive rain has caused flooding that’s affecting his land and livelihood, or it can simply involve making connections at the local co-op. “There is so much camaraderie with the other farmers. They become part of your community, part of your family,” he explains. “We like to catch up and talk, compare notes and stories.”

One story that sticks out to Daniel involves his rescue pig. “My pig got out one day and was running toward the post office down the street,” he recalls. “I didn’t know what on earth she was trying to do, but I raced to catch her before she went too far. My friend Wally Shadrick saw it apparently, and he called me and was quite serious about his question – had he seen me chasing my pig on a bicycle?” he laughs. “We always laugh about it because it reminds us of that Jeff Foxworthy routine, ‘You Might Be a Redneck If…’”

The connections formed in the community mean everyone is willing to lend a helping hand. “A couple of times a year, I’ll have some guys come to the farm to help me out. I’ve got teachers from the local high school helping, coaches, all types of guys,” he explains. “We laugh, get dirty – we make it a fun time. The ongoing joke is that whatever goes wrong, like a gate being left open or a goat getting loose or something, is the fault of the person who’s not there,” he laughs.

But with all the joking and horsing around aside, everyone is there to put in a hard day’s work. “Our time spent working on the farm feels like a throwback to an older way of living. There’s something quite pleasing about being exhausted from a day of working cattle.”

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Feeding Time

When Daniel and his dog Ace first arrive to the second farm to feed the bulls, they race each other to the barn, Ace on foot and Daniel in his truck. It’s a tradition they both enjoy.

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On the “Moove”

Daniel checks in with his cattle while rotating them from one pasture to another with fresh grass.

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Passing Down Life Lessons

Daniel, in addition to working on the farm, has served as a faculty member and rugby coach at Sewanee for more than a decade. For students eager to learn more about civic engagement and environmental responsibility, he’s got knowledge to share.

“A lot of students I teach at Sewanee want to learn more about what we do here at the farm, and they’ll come stay with us for a couple of months and help out.
Rachel and I have really enjoyed getting to know these young folks over the years. While many of them have grown up, gotten married, and moved on, they’ll often come back in the summers to visit. We’ll have homecooked meals, eat on the porch, and go swimming in the lake,” he says.

The time spent together has had a positive effect on everyone. “It seems like their time here had an impact on them, and they have all been influential on my own children,” he explains.

When it comes to Daniel’s teenage sons, who both attend McCallie School, time spent together on the farm means everything. “I love when I get to see them out being boys, getting dirty, running around in the open field,” he explains. “Boys, man. They are so caught up in technology that they can forget to notice a butterfly or a bird or just nature itself. So, when I see my boys pausing to recognize something, I always enjoy that.
I hope those are the things they will look back on and appreciate.”

Daniel would be happy if his kids wanted to take over the farm one day, but he recognizes that desire may come later in life. “We all go through different phases in life,” he explains. “Even I had a period where I lived away. So, if it’s not their thing now necessarily, I think as they grow older, they may start to realize that a lot of great memories were made here.”

 

There’s something quite pleasing about being exhausted from a day of working cattle.”

 

For now, Daniel is content. “As with anything in life, there are those moments when everything is settled. The sun is shining, the cows are laying down. The calves are happy, and the birds are chirping,” he says. “There’s a certain contentment about that.

“There are always questions, you know, about whether you can make a living as a farmer,” Daniel says. “But it really comes down to how you think about what it means to make a living. Are you trying to make a certain amount of money before you can call it a career? Or can you focus on whether or not your family is happy and able to get by? For me, I plan to hold onto the farm as long as I can and do this until I can’t anymore. I tell people all the time, whether I’m Coach Carter, Dr. Carter, Daniel, or Dad, you all know where to find me. I’m at 150 Carter Farm, and I don’t plan to go anywhere.”

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