This Determines How I Eat
Karen Haralson, who owns and operates Griffin Flat Cow Co., knows well the challenges that face cattle farmers today.
Still, there is no other life she would rather lead.
“I thank God every day that I found something I love, and I absolutely love working with the bovine animal. I’m the luckiest person in the world.”
Karen raises 140 commercial cattle and 40 registered Simmentals on 500 acres north of Atkins, Ark., in Pope County. The land has been in her family since 1949 and 300 acres at Hector that she leases to a family has been in her family since before the turn of the 20th Century.
She had grown up around cattle, but didn’t start in the cattle business herself until 1977.
“I was grown and married, and we were encouraged by my father to get cattle.”
They started their cattle farm and then added eight Simmental cows and one bull.
When those cows “weaned calves up to 50, 100 to 150 pounds heavier on the worst pasture we had,” the decision to add more of the breed was an easy one.
The temperament of the breed is important to her, as well.
“They are as docile a breed as you will find,” Karen said.
She decided to stay in the cattle business after her divorce six years ago, and said she is now “a minority. I’m a single woman farmer. But I decided to stick with cattle because that’s really all I know.”
Karen is quick to point out that she still has plenty to learn in the cattle business.
“I learn every day. Really, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something.”
Some things she learns, of course, through experience and trial and error. But she is quick to credit others for her education, as well.
“I have so many good friends and good advisers in this business,” Karen said. “And I rely heavily on our local Extension Service staff. I don’t make any decisions without asking them for their advice.”
She said the Farm Service Agency is another important resource for her. “I’m their biggest question-asker,” she said.
She may be asking more questions in the future, because Karen said some of the challenges farmers are facing these days may convince her to make some changes in her farming practices.
Some farmers, she said, may use cattle to supplement the incomes they receives from other jobs.
“But this is my income. This determines how I eat,” Karen said.
With challenges like the cost of fertilizer, diesel fuel and land facing farmers and prospective farmers, “we have to stick together,” Karen said.
She said she encourages cattle farmers to join cattlemen’s associations at the local, state and national level “because we’re in times when we are forced to deal with national issues.” When those issues are considered by legislative bodies, having a unified voice to speak for the cattle industry is vital, Karen explained.
“There is a quote by Theodore Roosevelt that goes, ‘Every man owes part of his time and money to the business or industry in which he is engaged. No man has a moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.’ I agree with that. When there is an organization that is trying to promote what I do, I’ve got to put as much time as I can toward that organization.”
Karen is true to her word, with more than 25 years of service to the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association, in addition to her service in her local association.
She also serves on the Arkansas State Fair Board and the Pope County Fair Board, in addition to the 4-H Foundation.
“I love the kids and I love working with them,” she said.
Karen is also an honorary lifetime member of the FFA.
“We’ve got a tremendous group of young people in this area,” she added. “The only thing that could possibly stop them would be the financial burdens of the 21st Century.”