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August 7, 2019

Faces of Fauquier: Young cattleman likes farm “smell”

Photo/Don Del Rosso
Sixteen-year-old Sammy Leach hopes to earn bachelor’s degree in agribusiness and work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
I like going to shows and showing other people what you spent your hard work doing and how it pays off.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The Midland teen got an earlier introduction than most to the beef cattle business.

Beginning around age 3, Samuel “Sammy” Leach dutifully puttered alongside of his grandfather — Melvin Chambers, who owns a 300-acre farm at Midland, where a son today keeps about 75 head.

The two seemed inseparable — with Mr. Chambers eager to instruct his young charge in the ways of agriculture and Sammy ripe to take in all that he had to offer.

“I was 8 or 9 when I drove my first tractor there,” recalled Sammy, a 16-year-old rising junior and hard-hitting varsity infielder for Liberty High School. “I was driving an 18-wheeler (on the farm) at 10 years old.”

Inspired by his grandfather, Sammy three years ago started a beef cattle operation at his family’s 25-acre farm near Midland. Borrowing $10,000 from his parents, he bought a running shed, tack shed, water troughs, fencing, feed and a Charolais steer.

He since has built a herd of 10 steers and heifers, including Charolais purebreds, Charolais crossbreds and Angus crossbreds. When mature, each weighs about 1,300 pounds.

His first sale — a couple of steers — yielded about $10,000, half of which the budding entrepreneur tucked in a certificate of deposit, with the rest plowed back into the business.

During the summer, Sammy works 40 hours or more a week at Harvester Farm, a beef cattle operation near New Baltimore. On weekends, after school resumes, he hopes to put in about 20 hours a week at the farm.

“I work mostly outdoors, feeding cattle, working cattle, painting fences,” he explained.

He uses the income from the job to buy feed and other supplies and to enter cattle in shows.

At night, Sammy “volunteers” a combined 20 hours or so per week at his grandparents’ farm and with Fauquier beef cattleman Rob Farmer.

“He teaches me a lot of things,” he said of Mr. Farmer, for whom he has worked since 2016. “Without him, I wouldn’t really know what I was doing.”

In June, Mr. Farmer, his wife Naomi and Sammy rode 20 hours to Fort Worth, Texas, so the youngster could enter two Charolais purebreds and a Charolais crossbred in the “Showdown in Cowtown” junior national competition.

His parents and older brother flew to Forth Worth for the weeklong activities.

“It was a good experience,” Sammy said of the Texas trip. “I met new people and saw really good cattle.”

In 2018, his Charolais breeding bull took Grand Champion honors at the Fauquier County Fair.

As much as he might view beef cattle farming a calling, the economics of the enterprise pose a big career hurdle, suggested Sammy, who holds various leadership positions with 4-H, FFA and the annual Fauquier County Show and Sale.

So for him, “It’s mostly just a hobby. If you think about it, you can’t live off of it.”

Besides, “My mom won’t let me do it” as a profession, he added with a laugh.

Long-term, Sammy plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness from Virginia Tech or Kansas State University and then work for the United States Department of Agriculture.

But a day job won’t stop him from also raising beef cattle for as long as he can, Sammy said.

Farming means too much to him for that to happen.

• Age

• Home 
Near Midland

• Work
Helper, Harvester Farm, near New Baltimore, June 1 to present.

• What do you like about raising beef cattle?
Just riding out in the field and looking at them. I can walk out in the field, and they’ll come up and let me touch them. One in particular (a 1,300-pound purebred Charolais heifer named Ivory) likes to head-butt me.

It might sound weird, but I like the smell of it.

I like going to shows and showing other people what you spent your hard work doing and how it pays off.

• Family
Parents, Carolyn and Jeff; brother, Drew, 19.

• Education
Rising junior, Liberty High School; Cedar Lee Middle School, completed 2017; C. Hunter Elementary School, completed 2014.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
16 years

• Why do you live here? 
My grandparents live right next door. We’re neighbors with most of our family. I was born and raised here.

• How do you describe this county? 
It’s not really agricultural anymore. It’s starting to get more developed, which is not great. It’s well-maintained, and it’s very beautiful

• What would you change about Fauquier?
I say we should have more farm markets, like Messick’s (along Route 28 near Bealeton). You’d have more produce from the county that stays in the county. And more people would buy from you.

• What do you do for fun? 
Show cattle; play baseball; farming. I like to go to tractor pulls.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
Glanamman (farm just northeast of Warrenton), because there’s so much beauty there. Driving by the fake white bull, before you turn in to the farm, really makes it fun to look at.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years? 
Farms disappearing, more housing getting built.

• Favorite TV show?
“American Pickers.”

• Favorite movie? 
“Toy Story 4.”

• Favorite book?
“Farmers’ Almanac.”

• Favorite vacation spot? 

• Favorite food? 
Chicken tenders

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom? 
Rob Farmer. Hard work always pays off. I think no matter what bridges you might cross, if you always try your hardest, you’re always going to end up where you want to be at the end.

• Who’s your hero and why?
My dad. Without him, I wouldn’t be able to go to cattle shows, because he’s the one who drives the truck and trailer. He helps me load it all the time. He’s helped me be the person I am today — hard working, respectful, caring.

• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery? 
Probably spend it on some show cattle and help my family, if it’s needed.

Have a suggestion?
Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? Don Del Rosso at or Lou Emerson at 

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Truepat · August 12, 2019 at 7:09 am
I posted earlier but it did not make it, but my thoughts were this is a great situation very typical of 1960's/70's Fauquier County!! I did my share of farm work growing up and the smell is an acquired like, LOL
RGLJA · August 8, 2019 at 2:57 pm
Great kid with a good attitude. I wouldn't be surprised if does very well in whatever he pursues.
Linda Ward · August 8, 2019 at 1:00 pm
There is nothing like the scent of freshly mow hay! Animal poop, well, it's an acquired ability to actually get past the smell.
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