Next Gen Ag: A calling to work with cattle

by | May 1, 2024

Next Gen Ag is a year long series that will run on our In The Field blog, Facebook page, Instagram page and Twitter account. Each Wednesday, we will highlight a young person pursuing a career in the agriculture industry. Individuals can be in high school, college, or recent graduates who are working to establish a career in agriculture. Stay tuned each week to meet some of our industry’s future leaders!

On a multi-generational family farm, the nature of agriculture is often something that becomes ingrained in your DNA through the generations. Justin Wood is the fourth generation to work on his family’s beef cattle farm, Wood Angus Farm in Willow Spring, and he truly couldn’t imagine a life anywhere else.

At the age of six or seven years old, Justin began helping his family around the farm and showing livestock at local shows across the state. “This farm has been in my family for 125 years or more, so agriculture has always been a part of my life,” he said. “My grandpa bought me my first heifer and my first show pig in elementary school, and I’ve been showing at a variety of livestock shows, including the N.C. State Fair, ever since.” On average, Wood Angus Farm is home to about 100-125 head of beef cattle as well as hogs and chickens. Justin and his sisters, Mary and Ava, grew up in a world where agriculture was as natural as breathing. In fact, they all showed livestock together for many years. Justin recently aged out of showing, but he continues to help his sisters, cousins, and other family members with their animals each year.

Justin’s grandmother also played a large role in his early agriculture education by getting him involved in 4H around the age of nine or ten. “My grandmother got me started in 4H when I was very young,” he said. “She was actually one of the women who helped to start the McGee’s Crossroad’s 4H Club, so she has helped a lot of kids get invested in agriculture through the years.” Following his 4H years, Justin also became heavily involved in his local FFA chapter during high school at West Johnston High School in Benson. “Both of these organizations helped get me even more excited about agriculture than I already was,” Justin said. “Growing up on the family farm, I always knew that I wanted to be in agriculture, but these organizations truly helped me flourish and find my place in the industry.” One of the opportunities Justin had through FFA was livestock judging at the local level. He has continued to utilize and harness this skill through college. “Livestock judging was such an honor for me, and it sparked my passion for agriculture even further,” he said. “It was very impactful for me to see things from another angle and learn more about the showing industry.”

After high school graduation, Justin continued pursuing his agriculture education at Hutchinson Community College before transferring to Oklahoma State University. While there, he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science with a focus in beef production. “I am so thankful for my education at Oklahoma State University because it not only gave me good knowledge in the classroom setting but also allowed me to work on several farms in the area and see how they do things,” he said. “With that knowledge and experience, I’ve been able to bring many new ideas back home to our family farm.” Justin graduated from college last May and has been working part-time on the family farm and part-time at Locust Hill Cattle Company in Pelham ever since. “I get to work with cattle every day on both farm operations,” he said. “For the most part, I am managing the herd, feeding cows, baling hay, and repairing broken fences, equipment, etc. However, on our family farm it can be a duel focus somedays because I am helping with the hogs and the chickens as well as the cattle.” Although he is thrilled to be gaining experience on multiple farming operations, Justin hopes to return full-time one day to the family farm and continue the legacy that his family has created. “I wouldn’t be where I am in agriculture without the help of my grandparents, dad and uncle,” he said. “My dream is to one day take over the family farm and keep it thriving for the next generation.”

In addition to being raised on a family farm, Justin brings a lot of skillsets and talents to the agriculture industry. “I believe one of my biggest strengths is the fact that I did go out of state for college and gained a unique perspective on farming in other areas,” he said. Justin also brings to the table a hard work ethic, strong passion for the industry, livestock showing and judging skills, diligence, and a willingness to teach others. “As a nation, we can’t lose sight of the number one resource that we have in the state…agriculture,” he said. “It feeds the world. All the crops grown and raised are crucial to our economy, our health and so much more. That’s why it is vital that we continue to grow and innovate this industry as well as bring other leaders to the table.”

Although Justin loves the daily challenge that agriculture presents, his favorite part of working in the industry is doing it alongside his family. “I enjoy the challenge of a plan always changing, which is inevitable in the world of agriculture,” he said. “However, getting to do it with the people that I love makes it even better.”

To anyone seeking a career in the agriculture industry, Justin recommends finding ways to get involved in your area of interest. “Not everyone can own a farm, but everyone can be involved in agriculture,” he said. “There are more opportunities now than ever to become a player in this industry, so find where your interests lie and seek out opportunities in those areas. You don’t have to be born in agriculture to make a difference here.” We are so proud of Justin and all that he is doing to not only further his family farm but further the N.C. Agriculture industry as well!