• Kayla Jennings

A Dream Made Reality

Bear Creek Farms gains traction in the Angus breed, aiming to propel themselves and the breed forward.

Lush, green pastures dotted with black-hided cattle, and quaint small towns full of history and

character shaded by trees as old as the towns themselves signal entrance to the farming and ranching

country of Northeast Texas. Off the blacktop, a dated barn with Bear Creek Farms branded on the

rooftop signals road warriors to the turnoff to headquarters.

Passing by a home, undoubtedly full of stories of family, love and hard work, the dirt road continues

toward a converted horse facility complete with a ranch office and a soon-to-be cattle sale facility.

Across the dirt drive from pipe cattle traps, David Johnson; wife Jeannie; and adult grandkids Blaine

and Katelyn Alexander drive over in committee to welcome guests to their family Angus operation.

The Kansas native, transplanted to Texas for work in 1971, knew he wanted to come back to his

farming roots by finding property in the country. After much consideration, Leonard, Texas, fit the bill,

and the Johnsons found themselves all moved in by January 1975.

“All I ever wanted to do was be a farmer,” Johnson says. “All I ever wanted to do my whole life was do that. That’s all my dad ever wanted to do. He never got to. When we got the opportunity here, I just decided that’s what I’m going do. I just love doing it.”

First steps

From a humble beginning with a handful of sheep for their daughters to show and a few cows, they began to grow not only on their operation, but also in the community. The Johnsons bought the century-old weekly publication The Leonard Graphic soon after the move and ran it for 22 years, along with their ranch and David’s corporate career.

By 2005, Bear Creek Farms had grown to 150 head of commercial cows, but the trials of agriculture hit in the form of drought. Selling out was their only option. Their cattle focus fell more to developing show heifers for Blaine and Katelyn.

As a next step, considering the Johnsons’ passion for agriculture and the community, they decided to fill a need in the area by building a feed store.

“One day David said, ‘I want to have a feed store,’ and so he got a feed store,” Katelyn shares.

In 2007 the Purina feed store was initially intended to serve a small clientele, primarily in the cattle business. However, as is the case with many enterprises Johnson leads, it was not long before the small business grew into a widely popular store. It expanded to a second location, carrying everything from nursery items and backyard chicken supplies to feed and equipment for ranchers.

After graduating from Kansas State University in 2017, Blaine came back to manage the Bear Creek Country Stores full-time. The stores operate as a platform to serve the community and grow relationships with other agriculturists in the area.

“I like the aspect of us being able to help the rest of the community out through the store,” Katelyn says. “There are new people coming in from the city, and they want to buy a couple of cows. I love to be able to sell them good quality animals, help them through the store to get them on the right nutrition program and educate them.”

Business breed

As the feed store grew and the cattle market improved, Bear Creek expanded into another enterprise — registered Angus cattle. In 2008 they got to know American Angus Association Regional Manager Radale Tiner and truly jumped headfirst into the registered Angus business.

“We began to grow our herd,” Johnson says of the first few head purchased from Double Creek Farms, Meridian, Texas. “Then that’s when we began to do a lot of AI (artificial insemination), flushing and really began to get serious about the Angus.”

Their involvement and passion for the Angus breed have escalated ever since. In fact, Johnson developed such a passion he chose to run for the Texas Angus Association board of directors in 2016, serving in that capacity for three years. Still today Bear Creek Farms opens its gates to the association for field days and other events.

Even with their desire to grow a registered herd, Bear Creek maintains a commercial operation where they sell branded beef and compete in the Fort Worth commercial pen show — earning champion honors in 2018. In fact, the show exposure has led to customer demand and repeat buyers for their commercial females.

“That makes you really feel good, because he’s told us how much he liked those cows,” Johnson shares. “I think that says something for the cows, that people keep buying them year after year.”

From the seedstock side, their success has recently been highlighted by the sale of a bull to stud at ABS.

“You could tell from pretty early on that he was just built like a bulldog,” Blaine recalls of BCF Jet Stream 827. “His numbers were off the charts, and once he got weaned, you could really start to tell that he was a lot better.”

The best of both worlds within their operation will collide come November for their first-ever on-farm sale. With Blaine back to manage the store and head up marketing for Bear Creek on the cattle side, and Katelyn back from Tarleton State University to play an instrumental role in data management, David knew it was time to begin an annual sale.

“We really need Blaine and Katelyn because we started out with two or three hands and a few cows,” Johnson says. “Then we bought more land, more cows, and we were raising all of our own hay.”

With this growth, Bear Creek Farms plans to offer registered Angus bulls, potentially some elite registered females and a special offering of commercial females in their upcoming sale. From a marketing perspective, Blaine says he is thankful for the Angus breed and its efforts.

“I think raising Angus helps us separate ourselves, because the American Angus Association has separated themselves from a marketing standpoint,” Blaine explains.

When selecting a bull battery to develop cattle being offered for customers in this sale and replacements for themselves, Johnson and his grandkids have strict criteria. Phenotype, docility and balanced expected progeny differences (EPDs) rank toward the top.

“We want a bull that looks like a bull,” Johnson describes. “We follow the EPDs, but we don’t just breed for low birth weights or one specific trait. He also needs to have a good frame, good body, good legs and good feet.”

It is this desire and target for excellence that has proven valuable to Bear Creek Farms in all their enterprises thus far — and they do not plan to change. With more of the family back at the operation than ever, they are continually setting their sights on the next step to produce the highest-quality Angus cattle possible, as a family, for generations to come.

“I feel very lucky because I’m getting to do what I wanted to do,” Johnson concludes. “I’m lucky to have Blaine and Katelyn and good friends working on the farm. That’s my passion. It’s just a life dream made reality.

Editor’s note: Kayla Jennings is a freelance writer from Throckmorton, Texas.

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