Paul Moss is a fifth generation family farmer. Like many of the people who serve on the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB), farming is a long-held family tradition but, in his case, it was moveable. The original place was near Franklin, Tenn., now a fast-growing and very upscale suburb of Nashville. It's a place that he worked with his dad, learning the business while he was still a youngster.
"I partnered with him until his death in 1990," said Paul, " then we moved the operation to Cottage Grove in the northwest corner of the state. It's in the 'land between the lakes' region. My son, Will, and my wife, Sarah, are partners now and we have 489 acres and 150 cows. We also raise corn, wheat, oats and sorghum sudan grass for forages for the cows."
The original farm is still family-owned, in spite of some very generous offers by developers. "My mother still lives there and she says she wants to stay for the rest of her life," he said.
Moss wanted all three of his children to have college degrees and leave the farm for at least five years. "Will left but came back a little early. He showed up after three years and said he wanted to be a part of the business. Will plans to double everything in the next two or three years. We'll need to get to about 300 cows to support two families."
Although Paul is a fifth generation farmer, he's just a second generation dairyman. "We raise Jerseys," he said. "Our herd dates back to 1950. Dad bought a few Jerseys when he came home from World War II and started milking them."
Will is one of three Moss children, all of them college graduates. He has an ag degree from Murray State University. Paul's daughter, Laura, graduated from the University of Tennessee and Elizabeth attended Virginia Tech. Laura teaches ag subjects at a local high school and Elizabeth is an appraiser for the American Jersey Cattle Association.
"Elizabeth was raised with Jersey cattle so she knows them well," Paul said. "She travels a lot in her job, but whenever she's home, she spends a lot of time here. She knows more about our cows than anyone."
Moss is 59 and has been farming all his life. When I asked about his retirement plans, he answered with some satisfaction in his voice and a little pride in what he does. "I don't see any end to this life," he said. I don't know anything different; I don't recall not being a dairy farmer. I'll probably die farming."
It's a lifestyle that's thoroughly ingrained in the way he lives. "I get up early to milk those cows every day. Even if I'm away from the farm, there's some kind of internal clock in my head that still wakes me up early. There will always be cows to be milked and calves to be birthed."
Like all of the CBB members, Paul is very active with industry associations. He's president of the Tennessee Dairy Herd Improvement Association. He's southeast councilman for Dairy Farmers of America and serves on the boards of the Tennessee Dairy Promotion, Tennessee American Dairy Association, Tennessee Southeast United Dairy Industry Association and the Tennessee Dairy Producers.
"Last year I got a call from Dairy Farmers of America asking me if I would accept a nomination to the CBB," he said. "I said sure and didn't think much would come of it. I filled out a form and sent it to them. I was surprised when I got a letter from the USDA early this year telling me I had been accepted."
He attended an orientation meeting in April and his first full meeting was the July Conference in Denver. "I learned what the Board was all about at that orientation meeting and I was appointed to the Freedom to Operate Committee.
“I've met some great people, too. Everybody is a little bit different but we've all got the same goal - to improve the way we do business."
Asked about the work of his committee and how it might contribute best practices to the beef and dairy cattle business, he talked about Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) and Veal Quality Assurance (VQA), two important programs that fall under the Freedom to Operate Committee's guidance.
Both the BQA and VQA are national programs that provide production guidelines. They're designed to raise consumer confidence through developing proper management techniques and a strong commitment to quality within every segment of the industry.
"What the CBB does is lead the way for the cattle and dairy industry in research, education and advertising. It's a great organization. I've enjoyed being a part of it and I've made some good friends, too."