“IN FARMING,” LAUREN MANNING says, bursting into a sarcastic, deep-throated chuckle, “there is no typical day. That’s one of my favorite things about it.”
And maybe that’s partly because the 29-year-old is not a typical farmer. There were never any “farmer” genes in her family. She didn’t grow up surrounded by rolling grassland and droves of cattle. In fact, the only reason the native Californian moved to Fayetteville was to pursue a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in agricultural and food law at the University of Arkansas. That was going to be it. After that, she’d move the 2,000 miles she’d crossed back west. That was the plan.
She can’t explain what drew her to the agriculture industry in particular and what made her decide to stay in Arkansas. But meeting Ann Wells and Ron Morrow—the duo who run Ozark Pasture Beef, where Lauren is now an apprentice—had something to do with it. And as a lover of the outdoors, the gig was more than fitting.
When she’s not tending to things like setting up paddocks or feeding and weighing the animals, she doubles as an adjunct professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law and reports on issues like venture capital investment and innovation in agriculture technology for AgFunderNews. And recently, her status as a “millennial farmer” has earned her press from the likes of Modern Farmer and The Huffington Post.
“You know, you can plan [your future], but you never know where life will take you and what opportunities will come your way,” she says. “So far, it’s been working well for me.”
1. “My favorite movie is probably Dances With Wolves. I don’t even know why that’s my favorite movie, but if it’s on TV, I can’t stop watching it.”
2. Favorite music? “This is probably cliche, but country. Old and new country. The old country, I think, is better. But I listen to Sturgill Simpson. He’s not that well-known, but he’s good.”
3. “I read so much for work and school that I don’t have much time for leisure reading right now, but I’ve been reading a lot about grazing management. And that’s not something that people would voluntarily read about. When I can sneak in a little bit of that, I do.”
4. “Good hamburgers are hard to beat—or steak, too. I love red meat. My favorite place to get a cheeseburger right now is The Farmer’s Table Cafe [in Fayetteville]. They sell our beef, and I might be biased in picking that, but they have a chorizo burger that’s really good.”
5. “I like binge-watching TV shows to recharge and rest. House of Cards is a good one. I don’t know about this new season, though. I didn’t love it as much as some of the older seasons. But Frank Underwood is hard to beat.”
6. “You know what I absolutely miss and can’t wait to eat back home? It’s sushi. And I haven’t had a lot here, so I can’t really vouch for it. But there are a couple of sushi places back home that I’ll definitely be going to when I’m there. Lou’s Sushi [in Sacramento] is probably going to be a stop on my way home from the airport, to be honest.”