Balancing Cattle With Fencing Firm, Children

5/24/2014 7:00 AM
By Lisa Z. Leighton Central Pa. Correspondent

ALLENWOOD, Pa. — Tommy Hamm has a lot on his plate. The young farmer recently celebrated two milestones — turning 30 and witnessing the birth of his second daughter.

He and his wife, Megan, spend much of their time caring for their two young children, a 3-year-old and their recent addition, a 3-week old. But they also manage two full-time businesses, a 100-plus acre, 40-cow-and-calf operation and a business that specializes in animal fencing.

Tommy Hamm is used to the balancing act that farming requires. He grew up on the farm that he now owns and is proud to say that soon Elim Springs will be a century farm, having been passed down in his family for several generations.

Hamm purchased his first commercial beef cattle when he was just 12 years old. And now, with a business administration degree from Penn College of Technology behind him, he manages a herd of mostly registered Angus and Simmental cattle.

When asked about his future goals for the farm he quips, “To make it sustainable.”

But it appears as though he’s already achieving that goal, as he has just enough beef cattle to meet the local demand.

“I don’t need to actively market (my beef cattle). ... Word of mouth helps me provide just enough for the local area,” he said.

Innovation is key on his farm — he has instituted a variety of advanced management practices, including intense rotational grazing, moving the cattle every day or every other day from spring through fall.

Given the intense grazing, Hamm plants cool season grasses, fescue, clover, sorghum and oats, depending on the soil and water conditions in each area.

His farm isn’t without its challenges, though. It is traversed by a road, but fortunately the cattle are able to pass under a small road bridge using an underpass.

Hamm quickly points out that quality is important to his beef operation. He is certified in artificial insemination from Select Sires and evaluates with an emphasis on growth and carcass merit.

Although some farmers are leery of radio frequency identification, or RFID, tagging, he embraces it because it helps him operate more efficiently, even auto-loading information about each cow directly into the scales.

Thanks to the advantages of several USDA cost-sharing programs such as CREP and EQIP, he has converted some wooded areas to wetlands and cropland to grassland pastures.

Programs like EQIP have even allowed him to economically create a terraced diversion area for runoff.

While the farm is blessed with access to spring-fed areas (Elim Springs literally means many springs), he takes pride in his advanced watering system. He also has plans to build a manure storage unit this fall.

Hamm’s second business, T-Fencing, started around 2004 and employs two full-time workers.

Hamm said he is grateful for his expanding list of clients, because it provides steady income for his family and allows him to meet and network with farmers across central and north-central Pennsylvania.

In fact, he calls some of them mentors whom he can bounce ideas off of or ask for help in troubleshooting an issue.

In addition, Hamm views those one-on-one interactions as opportunities to help those farmers take advantage of special funding initiatives that have helped him improve his farm.

Community certainly seems to be a common thread. Hamm said he is grateful for the mentors, neighbors and family members who have helped him get started in the farming business, so he gives back by being active in the Lycoming County Farm Bureau and the county’s 4-H program.

He takes pride in being able to sell youngsters their first beef cows “at a reasonable, but fair price,” Hamm said with a smile.

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