Story by Meredith Bernard
Some people go their whole life never really finding or following a passion, and then some people like V. Mac Baldwin realize their passion early and work their whole life fulfilling it. Some people might also let circumstances keep them from following their dreams, but V. Mac didn’t do that either. When he was just 10 years old he knew he wanted to own a calf and even though he didn’t live on a farm he didn’t let that stop him. Instead, he saved his money, bought a calf, halter and rope and tied it out to graze the two acres of land where his family lived in Durham, North Carolina – sealing what would become a life-long journey in the cattle business.
Through early years spent in 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America) he learned animal husbandry, fenced in his family’s land, and ended high school with an FFA prize winning polled Hereford that became the foundation for his first herd. V. Mac took every opportunity to learn the most efficient way to feed his cattle and one of his biggest lessons came through his high school job as a bag boy in a local grocery store. Seeing all of the vegetables being wasted and thrown out the back door not deemed “good” enough to sell, he knew they’d be good enough for his cattle if they’d eat them. They not only ate them, but thrived on them and this became the foundation for his continued alternative way of feeding cattle today, using by-products besides hay to supplement their diet. By the time V. Mac left home for the Navy, he had 7 head and a desire to get back and pick up where he left off, and eventually that’s just what he did.
Home from the Navy
When V. Mac returned from his stint in the Navy, he enrolled in electrical engineering at NC State University, where he met Peggy Oakes. She won his heart and soon after took his last name. With a college degree, new wife and a great job with Bell Laboratories under his belt, V. Mac and Peggy moved back to her hometown of Burlington. After ten years, the desire to get back into the cattle business became too hard to ignore, and while continuing his engineering career, V. Mac and Peggy began their cattle journey together. In 1969 they purchased a few head of Angus cattle and registered Charolais bred heifers and housed them on Peggy’s home farm. For the next twelve years, V. Mac worked hard learning the cattle business inside and out, learning to do artificial insemination, renting more farms, and retaining his own bred heifers, growing the foundation of the herd they maintain today. In the meantime, the couple added to their family through the adoption of their two children, Craig and Patti. Today, Craig is General Manager and his son Stephen is Herd Manager.
Moving to Yanceyville
In 1981 the Baldwin family moved from Burlington to Yanceyville, NC with the purchase of a 331-acre rundown farm and have since expanded the total operation to 2300 acres. What initially began as a Registered Charolais breeding operation under the name “Baldwin Family Farms” is now known as “Baldwin Beef,” where they specialize in the sale of grass-fed, antibiotic free, all-natural beef. In 2003 they opened an “On Farm Beef Store” where they sell beef on site, as well as through their website and through various retail locations, including select Whole Foods locations in North Carolina and Virginia. The Baldwins credit their repeat business and satisfied customers to the “sweet grasses” that their cattle graze in winter and summer, giving their beef an unforgettable flavor.
North Carolina Farmer of the Year
In 2008, V. Mac was given the honor of being named the North Carolina Farmer of the Year. He has and continues to be very involved in all aspects of North Carolina agriculture, having served as the 2009 President of the North Carolina Forage and Grassland Council, as a member of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension State Advisory Council, NC Farm Bureau Beef Commodity Group and the NC Agriculture Commissioner’s Roundtable. He also currently provides support for his local agricultural community as a Caswell County Farm Bureau board member. In addition to cattle, the Baldwins also own and operate eight poultry breeder houses, producing about 16 million hatching eggs per year, and 2400 tons of composted poultry litter annually that they use to grow their amazing pastures. Between their herd of over 2000 head and their poultry operation, farming is a year-round, family shared responsibility. Today V. Mac focuses more on marketing, while his son and grandson handle the day-to-day operations.
A Little Advice
During his early years of learning the business, V. Mac had a mentor that he attributes helping him lay the groundwork for success prior to buying his own ground. If he could give anyone advice that wants to get into farming today, it would be to get a good education, partner with someone who has the same desires you do, and then lay your farm foundation through buying what you can, when you can, and continuing to add to it as you can. This formula worked well for him and he believes it can and will work for others, too.
Leaving a Legacy
When asked what legacy he hopes to leave, V. Mac says he wants to be known as a man who loved the Lord, loved his family and loved his cattle. He is an active member in Gideons International, he fully believes his mission is to use opportunities and connections with people he meets everyday to share how God has opened his eyes to salvation and can open theirs. He says, “God’s providence is always at work. No matter what you are doing, God is always at work.” Living a life believing and living into that has proven to be a life well lived and a legacy well built for V. Mac Baldwin and his family.
Find more information on how to order or where to find a local retailer for Baldwin Beef through their website www.baldwinbeef.com, or plan a visit to their farm’s retail shop at 5341 NC Highway 86 South, Yanceyville, NC. (336) 694-1620 or (336) 344-2333
Meredith Bernard is a photographer, writer and farmer living and working with her husband and two children on a beef cattle farm in Milton, NC. Connect with her online at thisfarmwife.com.