OYFF Beef: No More Snacking . . . Tribbles Beef Up For Full-Time Farming
Chad Tribble had decided enough was enough. He was tired of snacking, and was ready to dive into something more filling — something like chicken and beef.Well, that’s the lite version of the story anyway.The full-flavor version is that Chad Tribble of Limestone County, sick of his job as a route salesman for a large snack company and sicker still of the 100-mile daily work commute and lack of quality time with his family, longed to be a full-time farmer the way other people — people like his friend Jessie Hobbs — were able to do.”We’d get those Neighbors magazines every month because we’ve always had Alfa Insurance, and I’d be reading those articles in there about other guys who were farming full time,” said Tribble. “I remember when Chad (Henderson) and his cousin (Stuart Sanderson) first started competing in the Young Farmer contests. I didn’t have a clue about who they were, but I knew Jessie and I’d read about him in there a few times. And I thought, ‘It would be great if I was like these other guys here and able to do that too.”Today, Chad Tribble’s wish has come true. Not only is he farming full time, but the entire Tribble family — Chad, wife Stacy, daughter Gracie (8) and son Gabe (4) — is recognized in Neighbors as the Outstanding Young Farm Family in the Beef Division.”It’s been the greatest thing to happen to either one of us, especially with the kids,” says Chad with a big smile. “We get to do more stuff together and more things with the kids. It’s worked out pretty well.”But it didn’t come easily. Even before he quit his job with Frito Lay, Chad had amassed a herd of about 100 brood cows, but found himself short on time and energy.”That was a full-time job just trying to go to work, come home and take care of the cows before dark, especially in the wintertime,” he said. “So we got to looking at everything and knew we’d never get any bigger in the cattle business as long as I had that job. I got to thinking about it and checking on it, and the next thing you know we’re building four chicken houses.”That was three years ago, and the four 42-foot by 500-foot broiler houses have helped support the Tribbles’ cattle operation for two years now. “If I’d had a choice I’d like to have had two or three hundred brood cows,” says Chad, “but we couldn’t find enough land to run cattle to where I could make a living doing it.”Even today, finding enough land to graze cattle remains a big concern for the Tribbles. “We were always saying that we don’t have to worry about this land around here because ain’t nobody ever going to build subdivisions around here,” said Chad, whose herd has now dropped from a high of 160 head to about 100. “I’d like to get bigger, but finding land is a problem. Right now, I’m just trying to hang onto what I’ve got.”When one landlord decided to put 55 rental acres up for sale, the Tribbles had little choice but to buy it because that’s where their hay barn and catch pens were located.More recently, Chad was forced to reduce his herd because another landlord sold 80 acres of his leased bottomland to a physician who wanted it solely for deer hunting. “It has no water, no power, and it cost $3,000 an acre!” marveled Chad.Land worries aside, Chad is focusing on improving his herd and trying to get his calving seasons better synchronized.
Ironically, most of Chad’s farming experience has come after he met Stacy, director of imaging at an Athens hospital but who was practically raised on horseback by her dad, a former rodeo roper and cattleman.She’s thankful that her kids will be able to enjoy the kind of childhood she did. “We like it because Gracie and Gabe can grow up the same way we did,” she said. “You give them a certain shovel in that barn and they’ll haul dirt from one side of that barn, to the other. They’ve got kittens, and they help with the bottle calves and help fill up calf feeders. Gracie wants to start showing calves. When we work cows, we all do it.”