The land stretches wide and far in the Platte Valley district. Cattle graze corn stalks and many fields lie dormant until spring planting begins. For 33-year-old Paul Orr, you can see the spark in his eye as he explains his heritage on his North Platte farm.
Clearly passionate about what he does, Orr admires the bovine in his fields as he points to the registered bred heifers he’s recently added to his cow-calf operation.
“I think they look real nice,” he said. “They will be going into the commercial herd and I know they will do well.”
Orr farms with his parents Jeff and Peggy Orr. His dad is in charge of the row crops — soybeans and corn — and Orr takes care of the cow-calf operation and hay sales. He grows prairie hay that he feeds to all his own cattle, and he grows alfalfa hay that he sells to neighbors.
“If I had the manpower, I could sell more alfalfa,” he said.
The Orr Farm started in 1945 when Orr’s grandfather first leased the ground. Orr shared a unique story of how the family ended up settling in the Platte Valley district. It goes back to his mom’s dad.
“Grandpa ran away from home when he was about 13 years old and ended up in the Platte Valley,” Orr said. “He worked for Charles Frye, one of the bigger farmers in the Hershey area. Then Ethel Hood, daughter of one of the railroad workers (Boss Hilbert Waechter) needed a young renter.
“My grandpa had a good reputation in the valley and he eventually had the opportunity to buy the farm.”
While many farmers and ranchers were eager to see 2019 go, it was a good year for Orr.
“Corn and soybeans were up for us across the board,” he said. “We were very fortunate. Didn’t get the large rains other parts of the state received.”
His farm benefited from windows of rain with enough dry weather to complete planting and other field work.
“It was a cool and wet spring by Mother Nature, but it was right on schedule and a good growing season for us,” Orr said.
He knows he’s always at the mercy of Mother Nature, but also juggles time management and optimizes resources on his family’s farm to cut costs.
“I utilize feed in the fields,” he said. “I have all the groups of cows and calves on good stalks.”
In addition to caring for his livestock and managing his hay business, Orr also enjoys giving back to the community by volunteering his time on the local cattlemen’s organization. As a member of the Lincoln County Cattlemen’s Board of Directors, he said it’s very important to him to stay informed and keep other beef producers informed of challenges and changes in the industry.
Speaking of challenges and changes in agriculture, Orr would like to see farming and ranching get back to basics.
“We are taking the human element out and have replaced it with technology,” he said. “The human element is why we are here, and we need to focus on that and we need to take a step back — especially if we want to keep future generations involved.
“Getting back to basics and producing a product from the earth, we need to get back to that.”
That might present a challenge, but it’s worth the effort, he said. The challenge for Orr, like all involved in agriculture, is the time commitment. Little time is left for him to get to do things he’d like to do sometimes.
Still, Orr is pleased to be living in the Platte Valley.
“Farming here is ideal for livestock and crop production,” he said. “It’s a perfect blend.”
As a third generation farmer, he believes he’s continuing a legacy started by his hard-working grandfather.
“I guess I think about the extraordinary hard times other generations went through, and that translates to me and the countless opportunities for other generations,” he said.
Orr said he is looking forward to being a Producer Progress Reporter for the Midwest Messenger, something he was inspired to do after a neighbor contributed.
“I think it’s a good publication, and look forward to sharing what’s going on in agriculture in my area,” he said.
Becky Chaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.