Cattle rancher. Cowboy poet. Farm Service Agency county committee chairperson. These are just a few of the hats Betty McCarthy wears daily, and they all fit nicely with her agricultural background.
Raised on a cattle ranch in eastern Montana, McCarthy became a veterinary technician after college and worked for a local veterinarian. But she soon felt called back to her true passion — ranching.
“I really always just wanted to raise livestock,” McCarthy said.
She and her husband, Sean, wanted to expand their operation. They moved from Montana to New Mexico and then settled in Dallas County. Now they operate McCarthy Cattle Company, a commercial Angus operation where they background spring calves and raise sheep and goats.
The McCarthys were recently recognized by the Missouri Angus Association as 2018 Commercial Producer of the Year.
“My experiences have helped me be very objective because I’ve been involved in agriculture in three different parts of the country,” McCarthy said. “You have to learn to adapt.”
At times, ranching can be tough with weather events like drought, impacting their ranching operation. The McCarthys participated in programs offered through their local USDA service center to help improve their resources.
“Drought assistance is terribly important,” she said. “We buy our hay for the winter, and anytime there’s a drought, hay gets expensive. It’s nice to have a little back up during those times.”
Some of USDA’s FSA disaster assistance programs include the Livestock Forage Program, Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program and Livestock Indemnity Program. Each program is designed to assist livestock and crop producers during times of drought or other significant weather events.
The McCarthys also worked with the local Natural Resources Conservation Service to enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, both designed to assist producers in conserving natural resources while also improving agricultural operations.
“Through these programs, we’ve been able to improve our ranch over the years,” she said.
McCarthy’s involvement with her local FSA goes beyond disaster assistance. She is currently serving her third term as chairperson of the Polk and Dallas County Committee, a role she says has been enjoyable and helps her keep in touch with the agency’s programs and services.
“I have learned a lot, especially about dairies and row-crop operations here in Missouri,” McCarthy said. “It’s been fun sharing knowledge of my own diversified ranching operation as well.”
In addition to her daily duties on the ranch and her service to FSA, McCarthy has found time to write poetry. Recently, she was one of 15 poets nationwide invited to participate in the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering held in Elko, Nevada.
This was her seventh time presenting her work at this event. She first participated in 1986 and, since then, has traveled across the U.S. and Canada presenting her poems at state and national events.
"I write for release from the pressures of this lifestyle,” McCarthy said. “I write to express joy or to work through grief. When someone else finds comfort in my words, that is the best reward of all."
For more information and to find your local service center, visit farmers.gov.