Markie didn’t set out to be a first-generation cattle producer, but it’s exactly where she ended up. Markie started her journey in the beef industry through advocacy. Her biggest accomplishment to date has been growing her “Girls Eat Beef Too” brand on social media where she uses her sense of humor and knack for content creation to share about her life as a beginner cattlewoman and the beef industry.
Krysta: Can you tell our audience a little more about yourself and how you grew up?
Markie: I grew up in Tulare, California, surrounded by dairy, tree crops, and plenty of agriculture. My parents weren’t involved in production agriculture. My mom grew up around horses and had retail or office jobs for ag-related companies and my dad grew up working on dairies, but when my brother and I came along, we lived in town and didn’t have much involvement in agriculture. I started riding horses early, and we showed some animals in 4-H when we were older, but to me, agriculture wasn’t anything I concerned myself with in the beginning.
In high school, I didn’t participate in FFA and became really disconnected from my horseback riding passion. I focused a lot more on socializing, yearbook, journalism, and moving to Los Angeles after I graduated. I had plans to attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. At that point, my parents had since divorced and my mom remarried. We moved to a property where we had horses, goats, sheep and roping cattle, but again, I was too distracted with my angsty teenage years to be curious about the agriculture industry and why it was so important.
Krysta: What initially led to you wanting to major in fashion?
Markie: My strength is creativity, and my interest in the obscurity (for lack of a better term) of high fashion art drew me in. I loved the idea of being at New York Fashion Week, designing my own line of clothing, and being glamorous and ingrained in city life. We didn’t grow up poor exactly, but my parents were both very young when they had my brother and me (we are twins) so they had to raise us while still trying to finish school and get jobs when most kids were graduating and going off to college. It stemmed from growing up, being insecure about having Walmart clothes when my friends were wearing brand names. Looking back, I am so thankful for that life now and I know my parents really sacrificed to give us an amazing life, but when you’re a kid you are more concerned with what you don’t have than what you do have.
Krysta: How did you transition from majoring in fashion to deciding to become a first generation cattle producer?
Markie: My mom knew that moving to LA was going to be a huge transition for me. She presented me with the idea that maybe I needed to prioritize what was important to me in life. I knew that animals were something I loved more than anything else in life. That’s when I was introduced to animal science. While I ultimately graduated with my agribusiness degree, I have always had a passion for animals. I was introduced to the beef cattle industry when I was about 26 and that’s when I learned about the struggles the industry was facing with consumers.
Krysta: Being a multi-generation cattle producer is not an easy task in and of itself, what has it been like going through the motions as a beginner?
Markie: For me, it has been trying to establish myself and my herd. You don’t just go buy cattle one day and have a successful beef operation, especially here in California. While it does feel a lot like I just bought cows and launched my business, the truth is that we are still in the early stages of building a foundation we can grow on. We have a lot to learn in terms of how to manage our animals the best way possible, how to be efficient, and how to successfully market our animals/ beef. We are as green as they come and finding resources for true beginners is very limited. Water, money, feed, pasture land, or land in general, are all things we struggle with and will continue to struggle with for years to come.
Krysta: Agriculture is an interesting place right now, with information being so readily available online, there is a lot of misinformation out there. As part of the 1.5% feeding America, how do you combat that misinformation and then go about educating consumers?
Markie: I like to connect with consumers, not educate. Just a handful of years ago I was also a consumer who didn’t know anything about the food system. I didn’t know how cattle were managed, or what the difference was between grass-fed and grain-finished, so I know that there are a lot of confusing things about our food that need to be cleared up. Sharing my journey, and being vulnerable to the fact that we all have different perspectives, stories, experiences, and levels of knowledge help me relate to those who aren’t as well connected. I don’t think advocacy has to be complex, it just needs to be a willingness to listen and to share without being pretentious or defensive.
Krysta: What one bit of advice do you have for anyone that might be interested in becoming a first-generation cattle producer but isn’t sure where to start?
Markie: Beef Quality Assurance. I completed this as one of my first steps to get into the beef industry. I learned about the different sectors and what it took to manage that animal properly. Now, I follow those guidelines to ensure I am practicing animal welfare standards. I also think getting involved in your cattlemen’s associations like the USCA, NCBA, and local chapters will help you to connect to others in the industry who can be great resources. I got involved without having any cattle so don’t feel like you aren’t valuable to these organizations as an aspiring producer. Without the connections I made through these, I wouldn’t be where I am.
Krysta: In your opinion, what does the connection between western lifestyle and agriculture look like to you?
Markie: To me, they go hand in hand. I think there are values that we all share like hard work, sacrifice, humility, stewardship for our land, and honoring tradition while still being present in today’s world.
Cowboy Lifestyle Magazine
This article with Markie Jones was created for the Spring Issue of the Cowboy Lifestyle Magazine which was released in April 2023. You can catch this article and many more by checking out the full issue. For more information on Cowboy Lifestyle Magazine, visit the website here.
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