Sam Moffet and his wife Carolyn, with their two young kids, started Shirttail Creek Farm in Brenham, TX at the beginning of 2017. “We had a 2000 sq. ft. house in central Austin. We sold it and for 25% more, bought this old place,” Sam notes, as he gestures at the historic farm house behind him, plus a good 250 acres of land.
Sam’s maternal family grew wheat in Kansas and showed horses, but that’s the extent of his farming pedigree. Instead, he spent the previous 15 years building a digital advertising business.
“It’s kind of a departure from my previous life, where I was very focused on making money to put in my pocket. Here it’s more about being true to the mission and the reason we’re here. And of course, it needs to pay for itself too, but it’s more of a pursuit of passion for us.”
Motivated to raise their kids in the country, with a real connection to nature, Sam started by buying some cattle and rebuilding the fences. As they settled in, he planted sorghum Sudan and began making hay. He found that properly finishing cattle on grass was challenging, so to supplement the beef sales, he added laying chickens for eggs.
Sam was beginning to see the structure emerging for a profitable farm business, in a not so distant future. He remembers, “I started thinking, maybe I can produce enough to make a living. But also, there’s no way that people really do that, right?” Pretty soon he was proving to himself that the theory checked out, working full time on the farm, and watching a lot of youtube tutorials.
“We thought we would be producing mainly eggs, but the margins were low.” So they continued to diversify and added pigs, as well as seasonal broiler chickens. “The key isn’t to get big,” Sam says. “It’s to get good.”
Since Shirttail Creek eggs are a sought-after market item, we wanted the scoop on why they’re better. “I don’t know, the chickens do it,” he laughs. And then the real answer. “It’s important that you get eggs from birds that are living as natural a life as they can. That they’re eating insects and rodents and seeds, and they’re getting supplemented with a high-quality custom milled Non-GMO feed that’s corn and soy free. This is the way chickens are supposed to live, ya know. They’re not supposed to be locked in a little coop or a warehouse, they’re supposed to be in the elements, foraging. And yeah, they get eaten by raccoons and bobcats and stuff like that and it’s not good for our margins but you can’t make a better egg, I don’t think.”
These days, Shirttail Creek Farm has 6 full time employees and life is starting to get good on the farm. The bootstrapped years were a struggle, when their experience level was low and they didn’t know if it was going to work. Now they have established distribution channels, steady help, and a diversified product list that works harmoniously as a regenerative farm.
“At our core, we want to add value to our community. Deliver a good product and maintain our bandwidth to do it well, while not getting lost in the growth. It’s important to us because if the products are not good and it’s not done in the right way, it defeats the purpose of what we’re trying to do, ya know.”
There seems to be living beings everywhere you look at Shirttail Creek, so Sam listed the inventory: 6,000 laying hens, 400 broilers, 25 pigs, 75 cattle, 7 dogs, 6 cats, 20 ducks, 5 geese, 6 goats, 2 horses, 2 rabbits, 9 turkeys, 2 guinea hens, and 1 front yard dairy cow (Sophia Moogara). It doesn’t take long to see the humor that sits just behind Sam’s eyes, a necessary lightness to offset what can be the heavy load of a small scale farm.