Carra and Trevor Lane raise cattle while juggling day jobs

Published 5:35 pm Thursday, March 21, 2024

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JACKSON – “There are no holidays with livestock,” said Trevor Lane. “Farming is a commitment, 100 percent.”

During the annual 4-H Livestock Show, Carra and Trevor Lane’s son, Winn, shows a heifer that he raised. The Lanes have a cattle and hay operation in Northampton County, stemming from a long family history in agriculture. Contributed Photo

“It is a very big commitment,” agreed Carra Winn Lane, his wife. “But it’s very rewarding as well.”

The Lane family lives on their farm, located between Rich Square and Jackson, where they currently raise cattle along with a small number of sheep to sell at the market each year. They also focus some of their farming operation on cutting and baling hay.

While Trevor grew up around the farming community in Woodland, it was Carra’s farming background that evolved into what the family does today.

“Livestock and agriculture have been all I’ve ever known my whole life,” she said.

Her parents, Edward and Kay Winn, were independent hog farm operators who relocated the family from Dinwiddie, VA to Northampton County in 1995. The Winns contracted with Smithfield Farms to continue raising hogs.

Though she took a few classes at Roanoke-Chowan Community College after her high school graduation, Carra knew she wanted to work on the farm and shifted her focus to that work, eventually becoming a 13th generation hog farmer herself. She even won the Pork All-American award from the Pork Council in 2009.

“I did that all the way up until I was 38 years old,” she said.

But at that point, with the change in ownership of Smithfield over the years, Carra said she didn’t see as much future in the hog operation. So she switched gears and went back to the community college for a nursing degree in 2020, and now she has a management position with a Home Health & Hospice service as her day job.

And Trevor has worked for Bakelite Chemicals for more than two decades.

But the family manages to balance those jobs with their farming operation.

While hogs were the focus of Carra’s parents farm, they also raised cattle and sheep as well, especially when she was younger.

“In 2012, we decided to get back into the cattle operation,” Carra said.

Their son, Winn Lane, was born just the year before that, and they thought it was important that he would be able to grow up learning about agriculture, including where the food on the table comes from.

In addition to the cattle and a few lambs they take to the market, they also have a few chickens, goats, and horses they keep on the farm. Carra said she had also have several horses in the past where she did shows and riding lessons, but these days she doesn’t ride much anymore, partially because she just doesn’t have enough time for it.

A lot of work goes into caring for livestock. They need daily attention to make sure they’re all fed and watered. Carra said that growing up involved in agriculture has instilled a better work ethic in herself.

“I know that I don’t leave things halfway done,” she explained. “Your job is never done, so you have to learn to prioritize. You can’t procrastinate anything because then you’ll get too far behind.”

Trevor recalled one instance when he was in the hospital with COVID and Carra had a long day as a nurse on-call with her job. One of their heifers was about to give birth to a calf, so when Carra got home that night, she immediately had to jump into action because the heifer was having trouble. With assistance from her son, Carra eventually had to use a rope to pull the calf out herself.

Carra credited her family support system for helping her get through nursing school while also juggling all her other responsibilities.

Along with tending the livestock, the Lanes have been cutting and baling hay since 1998. That started, at first, as an offshoot of the hog operation – using Edward Winn’s old equipment – but they have continued it ever since. They make sure they have enough hay to feed the cattle and extra in case a drought reduces the yield, and then they sell whatever else is left.

Working on the farm, Carra said, provides focus and a sense of accomplishment, like when they’re able to take the calves to market or see the barn fill up with hay.

“We have a lot of good memories, because a lot of our family time is working together, doing something outside,” Carra said. “When you work hard together, it makes you appreciate each other more.”

And they both emphasized the importance of passing on their knowledge to their son.

“You’ve got to leave your legacy to somebody,” Carra explained. “We want him to have a future in agriculture and livestock as well.”

“He needs to see the process through,” Trevor added, explaining that Winn helps with several things around the farm, ranging from the cattle to the hay.

Carra emphasized that farming takes a lot of heart and common sense, but the reward is worth the hard work. Even though she has a second career in nursing now, Carra and the whole family remain focused on the farm.

“My dream was to run that hog operation,” Carra said, referencing her parents’ farm. “But, you know, things change, and you have to adapt with the change. Things don’t always work out to what you think they will, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work out for the best.”