Kerry and Gail's involvement in the ox world began in 1975, when they were living on their first farm in Rhode Island. After a bull calf was born to their Jersey cow, Kerry decided it might be fun to try to train a team of working steers, so he found and purchased another Jersey calf to pair with it. "Duke" and "Dave" became the first of nine teams that Kerry has trained. These teams have included Jersey, Holstein, Brown Swiss, Devon, Shorthorn, Gloucester-type Linebacks, and 3 teams of Randalls. In the summer of 1985, Kerry purchased a pair of Randall steers from a cattle dealer in Vermont who had earlier purchased them off of the Randall farm not long after Everett Randall's death. It became immediately apparent that the pair, "Jess" and "Jake", was going to be a real challenge.
Jess and Jake made it known from the onset that they were not interested in becoming an ox team. Months of hard work to get them settled down yielded no discernable result, so Kerry took the pair to the Fryeburg Fair in Maine that fall to try and sell them. There were no takers. Back home they went to Greenfield, NH (the farm where Kerry and Gail were living at the time), where Jess and Jake were to spend the winter preparing for their next job as freezer beef. In the spring, just for "fun", Kerry decided to yoke them one last time. To his total amazement, Jess and Jake accepted the yoke and responded to his commands. In Kerry's words, "It was if someone had come in over the winter and trained them".
Jess and Jake quickly settled in to the tasks around the farm, collecting sap, skidding logs, and doing anything else that was needed. For many years they were an attraction at Drumlin Farm's "Harvest Days" event in Lincoln, MA, where Kerry used them to give wagon rides to the visitors. Jess and Jake made an appearance at the NOFA Summer Conference one year, and Kerry has used them to give several logging workshops. Twice Kerry entered Jess and Jake in the log skidding contest at the fair in New Boston, NH, winning both times. According to Kerry, "They were the best team I ever trained".
Kerry and Gail are now owners of two Randall teams, Lyle and Maestro and Salt and Pepper, both acquired from Howland Homestead Farm in Connecticut. The teams are put to use at the "Yankee Farmer" farmstand in Greenfield, NH, where a big seasonal attraction is a huge catapult (also known as a "trebuchet") built for "launching" pumpkins. Kerry and his "boys" are often on hand to give wagon rides at these events. Kerry works part time at the farmstand and has accompanied "Yankee Siege" and its owner to a national pumpkin throwing ("Punkin' Chunkin") competition in Delaware, where they took top honors in 2004. In the winter, Kerry puts the teams to work at a nearby Christmas tree farm giving wagon rides, and both pair have made appearances at Hancock Shaker Village's Rare Breeds Weekend in Pittsfield, MA.
Farm Profile: Backyard Farm
Kerry and Gail Smith
Hancock, New Hampshire
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