Spotlight: Hunter Cattle Co. in Brooklet, Ga

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Nestled on the dirt roads of southern Bulloch County is a venture rich in faith, family, and farming.

Operated by the Ferguson family, Hunter Cattle Co. prides itself on its reputation as a sustainable family farm dedicated to animal welfare and creating the highest quality products for both ‘better flavor and better nutrition.’ But it’s much more than that, from an operational and an ideological perspective.

The operation, run by parents Del and Debra Ferguson, their son Anthony Ferguson, and their daughter Kristan Ferguson Fretwell, among others, dons an expansive and diverse farming enterprise, complete with a store front open to the public, where you can purchase

At a decade and a half old, Hunter Cattle Co. touts the certifications of Georgia Grown and ‘American Grassfed’ as well as a number of Flavor of Georgia titles. But most notable is their reputation in the community.

Their journey down both the dirt road on which they sit and the one that led them to a life of agriculture can only be described as divine. 

A Divine Foundation

The family used to be in the real estate industry. When the market was booming pre-2008 recession, they purchased 900 acres outside of Stilson. But in 2008, they fell on hard times and the real estate business that once afforded them the family farm was no longer sustaining either venture. Ultimately, they lost two-thirds of the farm, among other things, and a home to a massive fire.

As the Ferguson family looked to rebuild, they collectively sought to put all of their efforts into the farm. Parents, children, grandchildren – everyone made the property their home and they invested fully into the farming operation. 

Kristan Fretwell talked with TGV News about their start:

“We were losing everything left and right. We would have family meetings talking about what houses we were giving back to the bank. 2008 was rough. What we see now, looking back, is that what was happening to us was we were being pruned and all the dead weight and all the dead branches that were sucking energy, time, and money ended up being for the best. But at the time, we felt like failures.”

Fretwell’s dad was determined to raise meats that she was able to eat. For most of her life, she could only eat chicken because of a reaction she had to beef and pork. So with the first herd of cattle, Del Ferguson had his eyes on healthy preservative-free grass fed products.

“I had no idea what I had been missing all that time,” she said.

Quickly, people heard they were raising cattle and grass fed beef and they began showing up at the farm, asking to buy their own share. So, Del, Debra, and Anthony started taking a cow or two at a time to a processing facility a few hours away. Initially, they were only able to sell whole, half, and quarter cows, but before long, they obtained labels to sell the beef in cuts.

But even still, the family continued to look for other ways to ‘grow a business.’ 

“We weren’t farmers, we didn’t know what we were doing,” Fretwell said. 

She shared a story about the first time they had bred heifers. When delivering the first baby cow on the farm, the heifer went into distress. Worse, even though they were able to finally deliver the calf, it wasn’t breathing. Not knowing what to do, they relied on friends at other farms and even a Raising Cattle for Dummies book to walk them through the process. 

“It was a rough first year, but we learned a lot,” she said. Shortly thereafter, they funneled raising pigs into the mix. It was the production of their sausages that really put them on the map. They ended up winning Best Made Product in Georgia with their ‘Hot Georgia Night’ sausage.

“The meat is only ground twice, it’s not really emulsified and I think it reminds people of how their grandad used to make sausage, more old time.”

Thus, the farm store was born in 2010. With the increased foot traffic coming to the farm for beef and pork, Moo Ma’s took off. People wanted to take farm tours, have birthday parties, and even stay the night for a ‘Day in the Life’ experience on the farm. 

The success of the farm, the processing facility, and the farm store all came at the hands of a supportive community that facilitated the growth by word of mouth. Hunter Cattle Co. And, of course, God’s grace.

Operations Today

Currently, the facility at Hunter Cattle processes beef, pork, and poultry. The animals are all raised on site or at a nearby farm that works in partnership with Hunter Cattle. The products are available for sale on site, online for shipping, at farmers markets, and large retailers like Whole Foods.

They also raise bees and make honey, maintain a sprawling garden with fruit orchards, and raise livestock on their farm.  

One component of sustainability is the use of byproducts created during processing. That’s where the idea of Meadow Bloom Soap came into the picture. The soap is made from tallow, a form of beef fat, which has little to no value in terms of consumption, but offers an incredible product for the skin. It’s rich in vitamins A, D, E, K, and B1 and has a number of anti-inflammatory components. It’s crafted on site at Hunter Cattle and comes in 10 different scents, representing each of the 10 grandsons on the family farm. Meadow Bloom, the name of the soap line, is the name of the only granddaughter. 

But it isn’t all business. The ambiance at Hunter Cattle Co. is more family oriented than anything. In 2020, they began cooking lunch every day for staff so they didn’t have to venture off the property. Post-pandemic, it’s part of the day-to-day to see all of the staff gathered around a large table every day at noon for delicious homemade lunch and even heartier conversation.

Big Plans for Growth

Growth at Hunter Cattle has come in increments as doors have opened. And as Fretwell said, the farm has grown by demand – people wanting and their desire to meet that want and need. 

Recently, the doors opened for a substantial expansion on which the family decided to capitalize.

“It’s taken lots of prayer and thinking and talking and planning,” Fretwell said. The family is currently in the process of building a much larger USDA processing facility on site. 

“Because we have lost so much and we’ve been through a time when we’ve seen the economy really have an impact on us, and then really help us, we don’t know what tomorrow holds. So us building this new facility in such an uneasy economy right now, there’s a lot of faith in, ‘Okay, Lord. You brought us here. You’ve been with us the whole way,” Fretwell said.

But the expansion only means more room for the roots that tie the Ferguson family to the land. Faith and family.

In the new facility, there will also be a larger kitchen for lunchtime fixins’ and an opportunity to offer classes to the public, such as the process for making tallow for soap or breaking down a chicken. 

“It’s really beautiful what we have here. All of the grandkids get to work on the farm and we feel really blessed to be here and do what we do.”

Hear from Kristan Ferguson Fretwell, part owner of Hunter Cattle Co. She discusses the family-owned and operated farm, the day-to-day, the power of the local economy, and voting with your fork.

“I think it helps us remember how simple life is, working with the dirt and working with nature…it’s a really beautiful thing.”

Find Hunter Cattle on the web.
Follow Hunter Cattle on Facebook.
Visit Moo Ma’s & Hunter Cattle: 934 Driggers Road – Brooklet, GA 30415

Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast.'

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