Following up on our post from Tuesday about SAGE's partnership with Liberty Delight, we talk with livestock farmer Shane and his partner and marketing guru Lauren about their circuitous paths to the farm, their day-to-day life, and how they keep their animals happy.
Shane, how did you come to the farm?
I grew up on a small farm in Carroll County, MD. I was your typical kid growing up on the farm, and getting to play with the animals. I was fortunate enough to be a good athlete with decent grades, so I had the opportunity to go to college. I got an accounting degree from Salisbury, then moved to Annapolis, where I worked in public accounting for 7 years. I decided I wanted to move closer to home, so I started a job with Legg Mason in Baltimore City as manager of their mutual funds.
This farm’s been in my dad’s side of the family for five generations—we still have the original land grant from the King of England. My elderly cousin was living here by himself without any kids to leave the farm to. I talked him and his sister into selling me the farm. I was still working at Legg, but I had the itch—had about 20 head of cattle, and started raising them as a hobby.
In 2008, when the financial markets crashed and everything went haywire, I’d been at Legg for 13 years and worked my way up to vice president and treasurer of the mutual funds. At that point, we had to make some restructuring decisions. I had to lay off my team in Baltimore and I was being moved to New York. I declined and took a severance package instead. I said, “I’m going to do this farming thing full-time for a year or so and see how it goes.” And here we are.
And you, Lauren?
I was in the corporate world, traveling three weeks of the month. I managed digital advertising for retail for The Washington Post. I was so tired, and it turned out I had some cancer on my thyroid. I got to the point where I didn’t love my job anymore. At that time, Shane and I were dating, and he said, “There’s life after corporate.” I came home from the hospital—he scooped me up and brought me here; I never left.
What’s your favorite thing about your new life?
Shane: This—being outside, beautiful day, being your own boss, and just being with the animals. Raising the animals, keeping em happy, healthy. Providing a healthy, good product for people. I just love it. The end of that Legg Mason story is if they call me tomorrow and say, “Come back, same responsibilities, name your price,” and I’d be like, “You couldn’t pay me enough to go back.” I just love this lifestyle. It’s long days. I work hard; it’s a seven-day-a-week job. But you do something that you love, and you don’t really consider it work.
What’s the trick to keeping your animals happy and healthy?
Lauren: One of the things Shane’s very passionate about is making sure that all the animals have shelter, whether it’s from rain or sun or snow. So he thinks of it that way—not how much pasture do I have, but how many can I fit in a barn? Because we want them all to have the opportunity to be safe and be sheltered.
Shane: When I was a little kid, my grandfather always told me, “Boy, you put a fence around it, you better take care of it like you want to be taken care of.” So I give them plenty of food and shelter and a clean environment.
You’re obviously animal lovers—how do you balance that with raising livestock for slaughter?
Shane: On Wednesday morning, something leaves the farm, whether it’s pigs or calves. And that’s the hardest thing, because they’re so happy and content, and they trust you. It doesn’t get easier. But I take pride in knowing that they had a great life while they were here. That’s what they’re here for, and they had a great, happy, healthy life.
What’s your take on antibiotic-and hormone-free meat?
Lauren: Shane believes in natural husbandry. No artificial insemination, no antibiotics, no growth hormones, no steroids, nothing like that.
Shane: The drugs that we use if they get sick, the longest one has a 30-day meat withdrawal. We vaccinate the calves. As soon as they’re born, within 48 hours, I give ‘em a little nasal vaccination, and that’s all they get until they’re six months old and we wean ‘em off of their mothers, when I give them another vaccination. And that’s all they get, unless they get sick. And then we’ll treat ‘em for the sickness. If an animal’s ready to go to the market and he gets sick, I’ll hold him back and make sure that he’s healthy.
What would you want our audience to know about Liberty Delight?
Lauren: Our farmer is at the forefront of agriculture and sustainability, and he’s passionate about making sure his animals have the happiest, healthiest life. We really work hard to do it right.