POWELL – It’s been a busy year for Tag Thompson. He bought his first tractor, using the money he earned from selling his oxen. He cultivated his first field and signed a contract with Briess Malt & Ingredients for his 10 acres of barley. He also repaid a loan that had helped him finance the purchase of his first two cows while continuing to raise cattle through his own business.
And he turned 12.
For the ambitious young farmer, farming is a way of life. “I was born into a farming family,” Thompson said. “They told me I didn’t have to choose farming, but I was always interested in farming. I eventually got to be part of the farm more and more each year, and kind of merged with it.
At the age of 5, Thompson began showing goats and chickens at the Park County Fair. He wanted to continue with the chickens, but the fair’s poultry show runs alongside the steers.
“I can’t sell a chicken [at the Junior Livestock Sale]so I had to do what I could sell, so I picked steers, ”Thompson said.
Steers take a lot of time and investment as a 4-H project, and for Thompson it has become a daily commitment throughout the year. Rather than settle for just one or two steers, he had bigger ambitions and founded Tag Thompson Cattle Co. in 2020. His brand – T reverse slash T – stands for his initials, TNT.
“He wanted his own brand, because he paid for his own calves,” said Maria Berchtold, Thompson’s mother.
Thompson’s herd currently consists of one bull, two calves, two cows and a heifer. He will soon be added to his herd, as he was recently named the recipient of a NILE Merit Heifer for 2022. Through the NILE Merit Heifer program, breeders give each youngster a heifer and then mentor them.
“I think mentoring is as cool as winning the heifer,” Berchtold said.
Christensen Red Angus of Park City, MT, donates a heifer calf to Thompson and serves as his mentor. After a full year of lessons, conference calls and monthly reports, Thompson will show up at NILE 2022 and then take full ownership of the animal.
Thompson is one of 19 young people selected for the 2022 Nile Merit Heifer program and one of only two recipients from Wyoming.
Young people aged 12 to 16 are selected based on their merit, future goals, commitment to agriculture and ability to care for the animal.
Thompson’s commitment to agriculture is unwavering.
“It’s my lifestyle,” he said.
In his application for the NILE Merit program, Thompson said that “cows are my world”.
“But I would like to add to that – agriculture and animal husbandry are my world,” he said.
Thompson would like to make slogan stickers. Through Tag Thompson Cattle Co., he already sells stickers and hats bearing his brand, and he hopes to sell other merchandise.
The young farmer sets ambitious goals for his business, hoping one day to make himself known nationally. Thompson would like to breed registered seed and sell his bulls and heifers at the Black Hills Stock Show in Rapid City, South Dakota, where he can talk about his business with more people.
He wants to see Tag Thompson Cattle Co. continue to grow, without going into too much debt so that he can “give me a good financial future in the cattle industry.”
In addition, Thompson wants to carry on the legacy of the family farm. The 12-year-old is here for the long haul.
“I want to grow old with this business,” Thompson said.
Earlier this year, Thompson’s grandparents Steve and Julie Thompson leased him 10 acres to farm south of Powell. Thompson contracted with Briess Malt & Ingredients Co. and planted barley. He worked with Farm Credit Services of America to secure his crop.
“What’s cool is that they said I’m the youngest person to buy crop insurance in Wyoming,” Thompson said. “I would say that’s an achievement for me.
Throughout the summer he did all the fieldwork and finished watering the field one last time just before the Park County Fair.
After harvesting the barley on August 10, Thompson was standing in the field as the sun went down, and he said he felt a little sad.
“I grew up all summer, and it’s just touching for the first time,” he said in a video posted to Facebook.
Thompson hired his grandfather to baling straw and then found buyers. He carefully tracks his income and expenses and saves for big purchases. Berchtold helps Thompson manage his finances and she said her son’s entrepreneurial spirit was evident from an early age.
“He was selling buckets of water at a barrel race when he was about 4 or 5,” Berchtold said with a laugh.
One of his biggest investments to date came in the spring: his own tractor.
Thompson had hoped to buy a tractor before his 12th birthday in May, but it was hard to find an older model he could afford.
“I started giving up and then I saw this one in town,” Thompson said. “Grandpa said it was a good buy, and I thought it was a good buy.”
The International 986 was in Thompson’s price bracket, and he bought the tractor in March.
“Her name is Reba, because she’s red,” he said.
Thompson has a knack for coming up with creative names for livestock and farm equipment. There’s Beastbine the combine, inspired by a YouTube video. Thompson named the calves Friendo Nintendo and Fatticus. One steer he featured at the 2019 fair was named BenJammin Franklin Rodriguez the 3rd Cub.
This year he’s kept it simple with his market steers: Frank and Chuck.
Thompson is finishing his fourth year with the Lonestar League 4-H Club, and he remains busy with a variety of activities. Earlier this year he learned to weld and completed his first welding project for the Park County Fair. At the 2021 event, he also had projects in agronomy, veterinary science, public speaking and fashion, modeling in the Revue de mode 4-H.
Thompson took a Limousin heifer and two market steers – Frank and Chuck – to this year’s fair, and sold Frank to the Junior Livestock Sale. Dick and Cody Eastman, owners of Lesco Enterprises, bought the beef from Thompson.
In his 4-H record book, Thompson included photos from the first show he attended with Frank, then said goodbye after the last show. After spending hours a day tending to his oxen and getting attached to the cattle, Thompson becomes moved when he talks about farewell. This is the hardest part of the job, but one that he accepts.
“I raise them to show off and get attached to them, but also to feed a family,” he said. “That’s what Frank went to, and that’s what Chuck went to – they fed a family.”
Prior to the fair, Thompson worked hard to invite buyers to the Junior Cattle Sale, handing out invitations to local businesses.
With the tagline “The Tradition Lives On,” the invitations included a photo of her great-great-grandmother Blackburn at the Park County Fair in the early 1960s, as well as photos of her grandfather Steve, from his grandmother Julie and his mother.
Thompson appreciates the lessons he learned from his parents and grandparents, as well as other family and friends. He spends a lot of time cultivating with his grandfather.
“I want to cultivate with him as long as I can and learn from him,” Thompson said.
As Thompson ages, so does his responsibilities.
“This year, I stepped even on Grandpa’s land more than I ever did,” he said. “I can’t do as much as mom or grandpa. I can do whatever I can, but I can’t do the same.
Berchtold said they don’t want Thompson to be working all the time – they also want him to have fun and be a kid.
As he gets together with friends and plays video games like most kids his age, often times Thompson finds himself on the farm.
“It’s just my job – that’s all I have to say,” he said. “It’s just what I do.”