In Profile: AEC alum, cattle rancher featured in new 'Farmland' documentary
Brad Bellah always knew he'd be back home one day, operating the family ranching and farming business in Throckmorton County. The sixth-generation cattle rancher didn't think, however, it would be right after his 2009 graduation from Texas Tech with a bachelor's degree in agricultural communications.
"That's just how it worked out and it's been a good deal so far," Bellah said. "(My parents) always had a place here for me but they wanted it to be my decision as to when and if I came home. But I knew there would always be a place and there was never any pressure."
By joining the family business at such a young age, however, the 27-year-old-Bellah became part of a select group of young individuals trying to forge a career in a profession that is not only aging "" the film says the average age for a farmer in America is 60 "" but lacks all the glamour or promise of wealth that engineering, business or the oil and gas industry offers. Yet, farming and ranching remains essential to the good of the country, and Bellah was recently featured in the documentary film "Farmland," which was directed by Academy Award-winner James Moll.
The film shows the successes and struggles of several young farmers and ranchers who represent the next generation of food and textile producers in the United States. "I really, really liked it and thought that the producers of the movie did a really good job of depicting things that people who have decided to farm go through," said Erica Irlbeck, an assistant professor of agricultural communications at Texas Tech. "It's not easy to just one day say you're going to start farming. I thought it was a very accurate representation of what farmers and ranchers go through, and the thing that I like is they had a lot of different geographic areas represented."
In addition to Bellah's ranch in Throckmorton County, located approximately 180 miles east of Lubbock, the film also featured farmers and ranchers in Pennsylvania, California, Nebraska, Georgia and Minnesota, all with their unique challenges to making ends meet. Bellah, like most farmers and ranchers, grew up in the family business, which has holdings in both Throckmorton and neighboring Haskell counties. Bellah's family business operates about 75 percent ranching, with between 5,000 and 10,000 head of beef cattle depending on availability, and 25 percent cultivation. He said it's much different, however, when you have your own money on the line.
"It's always rewarding with the markets and the decent weather we've been having," Bellah said. "It's even been rewarding through the drought that we're still in "" hopefully on the tail end of it. There's definitely been some changes and when you grow up there's going to be some changes. You see different sides, the good side."
In terms of the movie, Bellah said he was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out, knowing only that the film crew asked to come out to his ranch to watch him work without hinting at the tone the movie would take. The drought was a big part of the movie that Bellah talked extensively about. "I was very pleased with the final result," Bellah said. "It told my story perfectly, but my story is the same as a lot of 20-somethings who return to the family ranch. We all have a lot of commitment there, and I think the movie told our story right."
Written by George Watson
CONTACT: Steven Fraze, Chair, Department of Agricultural Education and Communications, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2816 or firstname.lastname@example.org
09114NM14 / Editor's Note: For full text of story, go to http://today.ttu.edu/2014/09/alumni-spotlight-cattle-rancher-featured-in-farmland-documentary/