By Marlee Jackson
Armed with a chainsaw, open-cab tractor and vision for his family’s future, Whit Lovelady commenced clearing pastures long reclaimed by trees in 2013.
A decade later, cattle dot Lovelady’s land — a testament to the Talladega County farmer’s perseverance.
“I don’t think I’d farm if it wasn’t challenging,” said Whit, 32. “That’s why God made a farmer. Only certain people could take the beating and challenge and weather, the things out of your control. I’m not saying I’m special. It’s just challenging and different from any other career.”
Whit and wife Amanda manage 1,200 acres of hay fields and pasture around Alpine. Last year, they baled over 6,000 rolls of hay destined to feed their herd; stock local farms and stores; and supply producers out West. Equipment investments have increased efficiency, reduced labor and opened the door for custom farming.
Whit and Amanda cultivated appreciation for the land on respective family farms before meeting at Auburn University. Whit’s grandfather taught him about cattle, while Amanda grew up on an Autauga County cattle and row crop farm.
The duo set goals before marrying in 2015: Grow Whit’s 10-head herd and raise their family on a farm.
Achieving those goals was a lesson in patience, Amanda said.
Whit worked off farm for six years, first at Blue Bell Creameries and then as an ag teacher. Amanda taught ag, too, as they invested salaries and summer vacations into the farm, steadily clearing land and increasing cattle numbers.
Their progress and passion paid off in November 2018.
“Whit came home and said, ‘You know that Charolais farm off Highway 76?’” said Amanda, 29. “He said, ‘We need to talk to them tonight. They want us to buy them out starting tomorrow.’”
Wallis and Martha Schuessler were renowned Charolais breeders. They were aging and down a farm manager, and the herd was in decline. The Loveladys were a godsend, Wallis said.
“The whole operation would have fallen apart if it hadn’t worked out this way,” Wallis said. “Whit does a wonderful job.”
The Loveladys poured buckets of sweat equity into the farm, often heading there after school and working until midnight. They gradually bought the herd and equipment while learning the intricacies of registered cattle. Renting their mentors’ land was an answered prayer in an area known for rocky ridges and longtime leases.
Since 2020, both Loveladys have farmed full time. Whit directs daily production for their hay fields and herd, which includes 130 registered Charolais, 23 registered Angus and 120 commercial head. Amanda manages the books, helps in the hay field and checks cows, often with 3-year-old Annagrace and 1-year-old John Luke in tow.
“This farm won’t run without Amanda,” Whit said. “I’m proud of that.”
The Loveladys’ innovative spirit is spreading Cedar Roost Ranch’s name ID. Last year, they rented the farm to a music festival, where concessions included Cedar Roost Ranch hamburgers and sausage. They sell those products and more to local consumers, too.
While farm goals include expanding their herd and hosting a cattle sale, the Loveladys channel former careers when advocating through the Alabama Farmers Federation. Both have served as local Young Farmers chair and on the State Hay & Forage Committee. Amanda serves on the local Women’s Leadership Committee, while Whit is a county board member and leads local Cattlemen.
The Loveladys are quick to note their work, while important, isn’t for them.
“We’re generational builders,” Whit said. “We might not reap all the benefits, but that’s not what we’re here for. We’re building and expanding to where this can be an operation where you have an office, a meat store, a hay headquarters. We want a company, not just a farm.”