Monday, March 03, 2008

Mike Reynolds interview Enumclaw Cattle Company

Out in the rolling hills of Enumclaw -- up the hill from the winding Newauken Creek lies the most efficient cattle ranch in King County.

Run for over 30 years by Mike Reynolds -- attorney and cattle rancher raised 50 cattle a year for beef.

Reynolds owns 30 acres all together -- and to look at his place for the first time, the well cared for house and barns on the hill are beautiful red...

Reynolds moved here and bought ten acres 30 years ago. He knew he wasn't going to be a farmer in real life-- so he went to school and got a job as an attorney so he can pay for his passion raising cattle.

Over 30 years he has bought parcels of land that surrounded his home-- and now has the 30 acres that give his cattle plenty of room to move around.

There are four different areas divided up on his acreage --giving his cattle plenty of room. The maternity pasture has all the moms and calves . There is a sacrifice area, and off to the side in one barn an area where Mike's cattle have a chance to eat under one roof.

The creek on his property runs down to the White River -- and all his land is designed to drain through a number of swales.

With over 50 cattle, four barns, 30 acres -- how many people did he have on staff?

"I do all the care and management of my livestock on my own. I have developed some efficient ways to feed and care for the animals-- and I like the work. It balances out my work as a lawyer. I can raise all my cattle on this 30 acres-- and because the herd is right here in front of our home, it is the best kind of work. I 've done it for a while-- so that helps." Mike says with a smile.

The big man with a beautiful silk tie and suit and his barns, his cattle look like he could be on the cover of "Better Home and Cattle Barns" if there was such a magazine.

But looks can be deceiving. Is raising cattle an inherited gene? Did his love of farm life at Enumclaw Cattle Co. start with is Dad and Mom or earlier generations?

" My father delivered papers for a living. My Mother was a seamstress. We were poor-- and I moved around a lot as a kid. But I remember when I fell in love with farming. My folks had a place next to a dairy-- and I used to go over to the dairy and watch the farmer milk his cows. I loved it. I must have been 4 or 5 years old. I knew then that was what I wanted to be."

The journey to Enumclaw Cattle Co. took a while to achieve.

When I was on my own I penciled out a business plan and just couldn't get the numbers to make sense on my own. I didn't have any money, and credit wasn't going to happen. So I did the next best thing. I decided I would go to college and get a job that paid well enough for me to start a farm on the weekends and evenings."

Reynolds got into Notre Dame for law school, and ended up back in Enumclaw practicing law in the prosecutors office?

" I found out this 10 acre parcel of land and house -- which was really run down-- none of these barns were here-- and bought it with my savings from my law practice. Over the last thirty years I bought back pieces of the original farm that had been broken up and sold. So now I have all the land in front of our home to grow my cattle on." He has slowly added 3 barns and landscaped his yard with apple orchards and native plants. The farm property has a number of swales that run across it to act as a water filter, and keep the stream and rivers clean in the process.

Mike's works out his land so there are 1.5 acres per animal. There are 50 cattle in the herd, and of that 20 are mothers. The Heifers are replaced after they are sold for meat, he has a bull to grow new cattle, and that is it. The animals all stay at his farm the whole time they are alive, so he knows they are raised at the highest standards.

Looks like his dream has come true. He and his wife -- who works at another law firm in Enumclaw -- have put together a beautiful home and farm.

Mike Reynold's passion for farming extends beyond the bucolic Enumclaw countryside, the well kept red barns, the chickens running under foot and his new puppy to keep his family company.

The whole food chain with the Enumclaw Cattle Co. is as clean as you can get. "When I started raising beef cattle, I thought-- we ought to do this the right way. I wanted to be as green as possible, and so I researched ways to make cattle raising environmentally sound. Our beef are grass fed -- which is what they like to eat-- instead of corn which makes them fat and is tough for the ungulates to digest.

I also read enough about the antibiotic overdosing of beef cattle and dairy cows to know we simply had to cut them out -- stop using them with my herd.

"I decided we would not use any antibiotics with my cattle. And it really makes a difference. Whatever the cows eat or get in them is passed on to us. Do we really need to dose ourselves with antibiotics on top of all the other stuff in the environment? No-- there is enough of that stuff in the world.

And Reynold’s attention to treating his animals well has paid off. He is sold out every year for all his beef. And he has people just starting their own small farms buying his cattle for their starter kits. “This is a dream come true for me.”

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