OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, FOOD AND FORESTRY
2800 N. Lincoln Boulevard, Oklahoma City, OK 73105-4912
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Aug. 9, 2018
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Betty Thompson, 405-522-6105, email@example.com
Significant Women in Oklahoma Agriculture
Highlight: Frankie Meadows
By: Kaylee Travis
MARIETTA – Springtime in Oklahoma means warmer weather, blooming flowers and thunderstorms.
It is also calving season, and for farmers like Frankie Meadows, it is their favorite time of year.
“I love to watch baby calves run and play, kick those tails up in the air and jump around,” she laughed.
Meadows was raised on a farm in Tillman County and recalls memories of playing in her father’s wheat fields.
“Of course back then, a lot of time the girls didn’t go out in the field and plow,” she said, “but I always went with Daddy to check on the cattle in the winter.”
Regardless, a love of agriculture was instilled in her from the start. Meadows, who now owns and leases about 2,700 acres, started her own agricultural operation by raising bottle calves in the mid-’70s.
After relocating to Marietta, Meadows did not own many acres, but she did have a big barn that was perfect for housing bottle calves.
“At one time I had about 38,” she said, “and some of those were on nurse cows. Some cows would accept calves. Other cows you had to separate them. Keep the calves away, and just turn them in with the cow twice a day.”
She had moveable racks with stalls and brackets that held the bottles.
“After a group of calves, about 20-24, finished their bottles, they would be put in another pen, and more calves could come in to have their bottles,” she said. “A calf is easily trained to come into the stall after a couple of feedings. I used these racks under an open side of the barn called the milk shed.”
As cattle producers know too well, caring for bottle calves is no easy task, but Meadows was the right woman for the job.
“I hand fed quite a few,” she said. “As a matter of fact, some of my neighbors around, when they lost a cow that had just had a calf or had a calf that the cow didn’t want, they’d bring them to me, and we had pretty good luck raising them. The secret to that is don’t feed them too much.”
As the calves grew and became comfortable around the nurse cows, they were let out into the pasture, Meadows said.
“At one point, we had approximately 20 nurse cows with 50 to 60 calves that were grafted on to these cows,” she said. “We turned cows and calves out in this particular pasture together since they were accustomed to each other. When a cow stopped to graze, calves immediately gathered for a meal. One neighbor commented on the number of calves versus the number of cows.”
She laughed as she recalled one of her bottle calves adjusting to life in the pasture.
“Every time you would either go out in the pasture, or go out in the barn or get out of the vehicle, well here she’d come running,” Meadows said. “She thought she was going to get a bottle, and she got to be 500 to 600 pounds. She’d just butt the daylights out of your derriere until she thought she was going to get a bottle.”
As the calves grew, so did Meadows’ operation, but it was gradual.
“Fifteen or more years ago, we didn’t have a lot of equipment,” she said, “so when we hauled hay, sometimes several hundred bales, I moved and stacked them one at a time with an old Ford 1 ton.”
She began leasing more and more land, growing wheat, baling hay, and eventually expanded her bottle calf operation to a 230-head Brangus cow-calf operation.
“Wheat is the thing to plant up here,” she said. “You either make hay out of it, graze it, or both, and that’s what I did.”
She continued, “On the pasture, we move cattle around and cut hay on it, and after it grows back a little bit, we’ll put cows back on it. You just have to work with Mother Nature. That’s all you can do.”
Meadows’ goal has always been to grow with opportunity, and she continuously watches for leases coming open.
“I’m usually right there Johnny on the spot trying to get it,” she said. “Sometimes you do, and sometimes you don’t. That’s kind of the way it goes. By the grace of God something has helped us along.”
Meadows lived in Fort Worth for a short time when her four children were young. While in Texas, she worked at an airplane plant, and although she enjoyed her job, it did not compare to agriculture.
“When we had the opportunity to move here, … that was the ideal thing to have some land for my family to be on,” she said, “and it just came natural that that’s what I did.”
Since then, Meadows’ career has been exclusively agriculture but not just on the farm.
“At one time I was working at three different livestock sale auctions,” she said.
She worked at sale barns in Ardmore, Okla., and in Gainesville, Texas, for more than 10 years and in Marietta, Okla., for about five years. She calculated sale prices for livestock sold and wrote tickets as the auctioneer sold the livestock.
“It was interesting,” she said. “You see all kinds of animals, and you get acquainted with the farmers and the cattle buyers too.”
Of Meadows’ four children, she has two sons, Mike and Daryl Meadows, and a grandson, Lenny Meadows, who raise cattle. She has a total of eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Meadows has fond memories with her family on the farm, like the time her granddaughter, Jesi Hoppert, wanted to ride with her in the tractor.
“I hadn’t made two rounds ’til she decided she needed to go to sleep, so I had to hold her with one arm the whole time I was raking that field of hay,” she laughed.
She is thankful for her small town and the community that surrounds her. Meadows used to have a big garden and was also involved in garden clubs.
“That’s not exactly [animal] agriculture,” she said, “but it is an excuse to get outside and dig in the dirt, and that’s something I thoroughly love.”
She was also on the Farm Service Agency County Committee for a term until she was diagnosed with cancer. She is now fully recovered.
In years past, she ran the operation by herself, but she has been blessed to have the help of Jerry Burnett for the past 20 years who has truly “made this place work.”
“He is a fantastic worker, a long-time farmer,” Meadows said, “and he works from sunup to sundown.”
Since her health has declined in recent years, she does more of the “light” work – raking hay, going to town to buy parts, keeping the lawn and the fencerows mowed. It has not slowed her down much.
Meadows has faced challenges in life and in agriculture, but she has prevailed.
“No two years are exactly alike,” she said. “Some people may think that in farming, but that’s not true. The weather and the price and cattle market – everything dictates what you need to do, and those are always challenges, trying to decide which way to go.”
Not surprisingly, her favorite – and not-so-favorite – memories involve agriculture.
Like the time she was checking on two newborn calves, only to find one without its momma, or so she thought.
“I thought I’d go pick that calf up and bring it to the barn, so I could make sure it was okay,” Meadows said. “Evidently it was the cow’s twin calf because I was picking it up and carrying it to the pickup, and something hit me from behind and just knocked me for a loop. It was that cow, and she had had twins.”
She learned her lesson but still finds herself trying to reunite lost calves with their mommas.
“I’m sure they probably would’ve found each other,” she laughed, “but you know when you see a little calf out there by itself for all day long you kind of worry about it.”
Those calves pull on Meadows’ heartstrings, from her early days with bottle calves to the ones in her herd now.
“I love the fact that nature dictates what happens to you when you’re out there,” she said.
Meadows loves the risk with farming and enjoys growing crops and livestock on the land, improving the land and grass, and building good fences.
“It’s your life,” she said. “Being out in the outdoors – and the fresh-plowed ground, how it smells, and the fresh-cut hay – there is no better place to be with baby calves running around. That’s the best it can get.”
Editor’s note: This is part of a continuing series of stories on Significant Women in Oklahoma Agriculture. The project is a collaborative program between the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry and Oklahoma State University to recognize and honor the impact of countless women across all 77 counties of the state, from all aspects and areas of the agricultural industry. The honorees were nominated by their peers and selected by a committee of industry professionals.
Photo Caption: Frankie Meadows of Marietta is being recognized as a Significant Woman in Oklahoma Agriculture. Meadows, who now owns and leases about 2,700 acres, started her agricultural operation by raising bottle calves in the mid-’70s.
Photo Caption: Meadows is shown here with her granddaughter, Jesi Hoppert.