Farm

Rocky Hullette

We love getting to know farmers and “horse people” of all types. We recently met Joey McKay and heard about his family farm in the small town of Pass Christian, Mississippi. Here, he shares tips on starting a farm, learning to ride and introducing your kids to the beautiful world of horses.

My son 1st time on a horse

Tell me about your farm.

My family and I live with my father and grandfather on the same property that my grandfather purchased over 60 years ago. I’ve lived on this property my whole life. It’s now 43 acres and we have six Quarter horses and three mules.

How did your farm get started?

My granddad developed a polo habit so that’s what led him to buy horses. He needed property, so he moved 15 miles outside of town. Leaving town to run a farm was a strange move to make in the 1950s!

My 79 year old GrandFather with my 1 year old son

Did your granddad’s interest in polo impact you?

Yes, definitely. I’ve been riding horses since before I can remember. I started playing polo when I was 13 and right after high school, I was hired to play polo professionally and train horses. I played professionally for 5 years. My granddad played longer – 58 years! He’s 79 now and still rides horses.

Do you have any tips for someone starting a horse farm?

First, take the time to think about what you really want and be honest with yourself about how often you want to ride. Your ability to get along with your horse is significantly impacted by the suitability of your match. If you’re mismatched, you may end up with a very athletic horse that may not be the most obedient. Remember that advanced riders make it look easy.

Trail Riding Mule

What about riding tips?

Be light. People drive a horse with the reins, which are touching a very sensitive part of the horse’s mouth. It doesn’t take much muscle to get a horse to understand you.

I also recommend riding often and spending a lot of time with your horse. Even grooming helps you learn about each other. The more time you spend together, the better the experience will be for both of you.

You have a 2-year-old son. What are your tips for introducing kids to horses?

For young kids, the best thing you can do is to have them around you while you work with the horses. Of course, use some caution so they don’t put themselves in danger, but just have your kids out there. I have an old horse that was my granddad’s for about 30 years. I know her very well and can ride her with my son. If you want your kids to ride, you need to be on a horse you trust.

My son at 1 year old feeding a mule

Another great option for kids is mules. We purchased our mules to pull a wagon and riding together is a fun family activity. My wife, son, and myself all ride together and we love it.

Family Wagon Ride

Thanks for speaking with us, Joey. We look forward to seeing what the next generation of McKay’s does with horses!

Rocky Hullette

farmer_mary

Since 1995, Mary Rigdon has been producing award-winning farmstead artisanal cheeses from Saanen goats on her land outside Atlanta, Georgia. Lovingly known as Farmer Mary, she started researching dairy goats and practicing making cheese with books from the library after a trip to England where she ate delicious cheese, milk and yogurt. Soon, she was making cheese for her family and buying land. What started as a 12.5-acre farm is now 40 acres and a thriving business that services some of the best markets and restaurants in the Atlanta area.

Farmer Mary took time out of her day with the goats to answer a few questions about her experience.

 goats_clover

What’s special about your goats?

They are a world-renowned Swiss breed called Saanen, known for their milk production and sweet disposition. The woman I purchased my first goats from was an excellent farmer. She had a healthy, accredited herd with great qualities. Recently, some folks from Saanen Valley in Switzerland came to Georgia and heard about our goats. They came for a tour and even wrote a feature about them to be distributed in their hometown!

baby_goats

Pictured: Three new kids resting on Nature’s bedding, getting ready for a nap.

What’s the most rewarding part of your work?

The same things I found rewarding years ago are what I find fulfilling now. I love dairy farming – working each day to get a little bit more milk, a little straighter leg, or utilizing the land in the best fashion.

Part of the reason I started selling cheeses, rather than making cheese just for my family, was because so many people with allergies and digestion problems contacted me. We do our best to keep our cheese a pure product and many people find that goat’s milk is gentler on their digestive systems than cow’s milk.

I also love that people are using goat’s milk and goat products around the world. At the farm, we receive visitors from so many countries – most recently, from Venezuela and Bosnia. Goats are universal.

goat_market

Pictured: Two of Farmer Mary’s goats relaxing on a bed of Nature’s at a market.

Why do you choose Nature’s Bedding for your goats?

There’s a feed and supply store nearby that has been my go-to for over 25 years. Before I found Nature’s, the bales I bought from them were difficult to separate and use. One day, probably about 10 years ago, I went to another store and saw Nature’s. I gave it a try. I loved it so much that I asked my regular store to stock it. I’ve been using Nature’s ever since.

What I love about Nature’s is that it flakes easily and does a great job absorbing moisture. There are no heavy bales to separate. When my children want to help out, Nature’s chips are so manageable that they can spread them. And I like to stack the packs to create a playscape for our baby goats – they love jumping on and off them!

goats_on_packages

Thank you Farmer Mary for sharing your experience and choosing Nature’s!