*I recently sat down with Christian Brock to discuss being a young generational agriculturalist. This is the third installment of a four-part series on the subject: Generational Farming in Highland County.*
Christian Brock is the fifth generation on the Brock Farm, located in Mill Gap. He lives on the farm with his wife Burgundy, daughter Atlee, and grandmother Phyllis. Plus, Christian and Burgundy are expecting baby girl #2 later this year! Christian also manages and operates their extremely diversified operation, so I wanted to learn more about the life lessons he has gained growing up on a generational farm and how that has helped him become successful.
The original Brock family chose to settle on the farm because they wanted to localize their family. A mill, which offered added benefit, was also located on the property, making this location optimal. Among the rolling hills and high meadow pastures of the Mill Gap Valley, Christian grew up with his grandparents, who loved to tell stories of days gone by. Christian shared fond memories of one of the tales his late grandfather told him: “My grandad always told me stories of how his dad would buy 3,000 to 4,000 head of sheep and drive them over Lance and Allegheny mountains to Bartow and put them on rail cars headed west.”
One of Christian’s favorite memories of growing up was working with his grandad. However, this was also his least favorite. “While working with grandad as a kid I learned so much from old times, such as how and why they did the things they did,” he explains. “It was informational learning how they did the things we do today, but 40 years ago, when technology was not so advanced. On the other hand, working with Dad had its drawback. When I would try to take knowledge I learned in college and apply it to the farm, there was a lot of hesitancy from Dad, so I would disregard the idea.”
During his time in college, Christian earned an Associates Degree in Applied Agriculture Management at Virginia Tech. Since then, Christian has taken over as the manager of the day-to-day operations and anything to do with the livestock. He also works hard as a truck driver and owns a hauling business on the side. However, he says these are not his biggest struggles. “As for challenges, I will be facing the biggest one when my grandmother passes,” he says. “Other than that, trial and error was the biggest challenge.”
Advice to Future Generations
These are the recommendations Christian has for those who would like to enter the agricultural industry, “If you are dead set on being in the ag industry, I have four pieces of advice:
- Be at least one of three: Be big (number of livestock, stockers, sheep, cows/calves, pigs, etc.) Be diversified (own stocker cattle, sheep, cows, and calves) Be specialized, as in selling purebred cattle, sheep, pigs, or any type of livestock.
- If you’re gonna do it, then do it. Don’t try to slowly progress your way up the chain. I mean, don’t go overboard with too many, but start out with a good number that can get you on your way.
- Don’t ever be afraid to ask for advice!
- And lastly, set goals for yourself, and work towards them.”
Christian also added a bit of advice for his daughters. “No matter what career you find yourself in, do it to the best of your ability because working hard for something you want will give you a better feeling of accomplishment once you have gotten to where you want to be.”
About the Author
Carly Thomas, a 2022 graduate of Highland High School, resides in the southern portion of Highland County. Growing up as the seventh generation to live on her family’s cattle ranch, Carly learned the importance of family, faith, and devotion to the land. She is passionate about FFA, agriculture, and supporting Highland County farmers. Carly enjoys being challenged and works in a variety of jobs from writing sports articles for her local newspaper to cooking at a local sandwich shop. She can often be found working on the ranch, riding horses with her father, or working on the next FFA activity.