Chris Novak left a water-diving career based in California he began at age 21 to return home in his late 30s to a cow-calf family farming corporation near Tampa.
Novak may have been following a trend for young farm-raised people approaching middle age to return to farm roots, although his brother, Nick, stayed in California.
Novak joined his father, Kelly, who farms full time, and his uncle, Ken, who farms part-time while running a farm chemical business, in a family farm corporation centered on calving and growing improved grade Angus cattle.
The Novaks also share labor and expensive machinery for joint use with a neighboring farmer, Scott David, he said.
Novak’s return to the farm included wife Stevi and their three children, Hunter, 12, Madi, 9, and Cali, 5.
Novak said the farm effort is focused on producing back-grounded Angus cattle, making maximum productive use of cropland plus brome and native pastures.
To accomplish this, he said, pastures are cross-fenced into grazing paddocks centered on one stock tank per four pens to insure maximum and even use without over-grazing.
“All you have to do is honk the horn,” he said, to move the cows to the next pen because they’re always eager for new grass.
The Novaks spring calve from February to April, starting each year with about 90 heifers that were artificially inseminated for herd improvement, and then by 350 to 400 cows.
They stay flexible with marketing calves to maximize earnings according to weights and markets, Novak said, sometimes backgrounding cattle to 800 to 850 pounds.
Novak said the family also tries new innovations to maximize off-season grazing of cropland, usually with products sold by his uncle.
For instance, he said, they may plant a mix of six to seven plants and roots on winter rotation crop ground that cattle like to forage, and pull from the ground like turnips, radishes, fescue and other hardy plants with mixes sometimes altered.
He verified that cattle love turnips so much they will pull the roots from the ground to eat them.
He said the Novaks also have sprayed a sea-salt mineral mix for four years on wheat pasture with cattle especially relishing it, and they seemingly improved the first year.
The mix of plants and pasture rotation has visibly contributed to seeing cattle grow faster, he said.
He said the family’s more standard mix of crops such as wheat, corn, soybeans and alfalfa are all keyed for production of cattle.
Novak finds life on the farm always changing in a predominantly outdoor environment just as his nine months a year diving job centered in California did, although after working in Nevada he preferred living in Las Vegas and commuting back to California.
He dove dressed in wet suit and helmet heated to 70 degrees in lakes as cold as 32 degrees on underwater construction jobs that varied from building water supply for Las Vegas to building a fishery in Montana.
“But I missed it here, too,” he added. “The weather, conditions and work here are always changing, even year to year. I like it here.”