Ashton Atteberry has always been able to find her own way in life. For her, it’s always centered around a love for her milk cows and small town values of hard work and dedication. A 2nd generation farmer from Conway, Missouri, she remembers her family farm starting out with a few cows, a milk barn and a hay loft less than 20 years ago.
“I’ve always grown up being a part of the dairy,” Atteberry said. “At a very young age, I was always helping feed calves and began showing bottle calves.”
Showing her independence in 8th grade, at just 13 years old, Atteberry took out her first loan from USDA to buy her very own milk cow.
Today, she’s just 21 years old and studied at Ozarks Technical College before taking on a leadership role at Atteberry Dairy. It’s important to Ashton that she takes her role in the dairy business seriously, building her skills and herd simultaneously. Just three years ago, Atteberry was able to add another 30 milk cows to her herd.
“I think it’s important young people get involved in agriculture,” Atteberry said. “I encourage any young person to get involved – don’t be scared. If farming is what you want to do, then I think you should do it. If that’s your dream, you need to chase it. This is my dream.”
One of her favorite parts of the day is waking up at 2 a.m. to go and be with her cows. Being around the herd daily, she said, keeps them calmer and helps farmers pick up on subtle queues about what they may need.
“We interact very closely with our animals,” Atteberry said. “You’re with them twice a day, seven days a week so you’re always around them. That’s something I’m very passionate about, even though it takes a lot of hard work.”
As a dairy producer, Atteberry loves going into a grocery store and seeing consumers purchasing milk, cheese and other nutritious dairy products.
“I enjoy the whole process on our farm,” Atteberry said. “From seeing milk go to the grocery store and the wide variety of dairy foods we contribute to, I love it. It makes you feel good because you’re helping feed a community, the state and even the world. It’s a lifestyle.”
For her, agriculture is a connection to a person’s quality of life.
“I wish consumers knew the passion and hard work that goes into dairy,” Atteberry said. “There’s a lot of misleading information about dairy. I wish consumers could come visit a dairy and see what it’s truly like. I love talking to consumers and getting their perspective. I also get to share the hard work it takes to produce safe, high-quality food.”
In 2017, she was recognized on the National FFA Convention stage as one of four finalists in the Dairy Production Entrepreneurship Proficiency Award. She proudly represented Missouri standing side-by-side with students from the dairy powerhouse states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.
One of the people most proud of that accomplishments was her dad, the man who taught her everything she knows about dairy cattle.
“My dad started farming when he was my age, so when I grew up it made me want to follow in his footsteps” Atteberry said. “I’m excited to keep our family farm going.”