When Tradition Called - Kentucky Farm Bureau

When Tradition Called

Posted on Jun 30, 2022
San Brown at home in Hopkins county.

In the world of agriculture, tradition plays a very important role, especially when it comes to younger generations becoming part of an industry that is as old as the earth itself.

San Brown, a junior student at Madisonville North Hopkins High School knows well the tradition of the farm coming from a legacy that stretches back for generations.

And he is all about the farm, agriculture, natural resources, wildlife management, and the list goes on.

He has blended all these things connected to the land and the farm to begin a business of his own, to carry on the agricultural tradition set forth by his ancestors, and to look toward the future, not only for the farm but for the nature that is part of it.

“The farm's been in my family for over 150 years, and I've always been involved with it, and I enjoy spending time there,” he said. “We have hay and row crops, but besides that, we have a big wildlife sanctuary for deer, turkey, and ducks which are our main forte.”

Duck hunting has been a longtime family tradition for Brown, but he has learned at an early age to take care of the sanctuary for them first and foster the land they come back to year after year.

“Duck hunting is a big deal in this part of the state, and I've learned a lot from my dad and my grandfather about how to manage them and this property to keep those ducks wanting to come back,” he said.

The Brown family has created a refuge on their farm to ensure the ducks have a place to come to during migratory periods, something that is a lot of work but has turned into a passion for Brown.

“Really, our refuge is to ensure that those ducks want to come back,” he said. “They're not being hunted on the refuge, and they're going to want to come back knowing that's a good food source and a lot of safety.”

The conservation side of taking care of this land is more important to Brown than actually hunting the ducks, he added.

“I enjoy and I love duck hunting, but the wildlife management and the refuge part really means a lot to me,” he said.

That love has turned into a couple of opportunities for Brown, both as a young entrepreneur and as a member of his school’s FFA chapter. 

He has begun his own duck call business while adding in wildlife management as his Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) which is a part of his agriculture studies in school. And while the two sound like two entirely different activities, Brown has woven both, along with his love of the farm and the land into one passion and process.

Brian Welch is an agriculture education teacher at MNHHS and Brown’s FFA advisor. He said the SAE portion of FFA helps students to seek ideas and opportunities they may be interested in.

“What the SAE does for FFA and ag education, it's the extra step that students try to find it gives students an opportunity to explore a sector of agriculture that they might be interested in,” he said. “The SAE component itself is just that project a student takes the initiative with. They go out, and the big goal is for them to, over the four years that we have them, to develop the interest or idea into something more substantial.

Brown’s SAE is wildlife management, but he has taken all the components of his life on the farm coupled with his newfound business venture to get to this point with one really coinciding with the other.

“My interest in wildlife management came much before the duck calls did beginning probably six or seven years ago for me when I started learning with my dad,” he said. “In 2005, the year I was born, my family built two big levies, and they put drain systems in them. The drains and the levies are where, at the beginning of the winter or late fall, we flip the drains so that water can go into the levee but not come out, so the corn we have planted there during the summer, floods (from the nearby Tradewater River) providing free safety and food for those ducks. Maintaining the levies and the land around them is hard and ongoing work but worth it.”

Brown’s passion for this process is evident when hearing him describe it. In doing so and providing a habitat for the ducks, he has learned their language, thus beginning his interest in making duck calls.

“Ducks are really smart whenever it comes to congregation and looking for friends,” he said. “So, if you're wanting them to talk to you and land with you and your decoys, you really have to speak their language. You have to talk the way they talk.

Brown adds that a lot of duck calling isn't just mastering how to duck call. It’s about being in their habitat for hours, listening to them and how they talk to each other.

He said it is a rare day when he doesn’t head to the farm whether it is to do some of the ongoing chores or just study the ducks. In learning from his family and the hours of study he does in the field and through other resources, Brown’s duck call business is beginning to take off.

He even supplied one of his custom-made calls in the gift basket supplied by Hopkins County Farm Bureau for KFB’s recent Clays for a Cause silent auction.  

The work ethic he has learned through life on the farm is as instilled in him as the heritage he carries proudly from past generations enabling him to answer the call of tradition.

“I'm named after Sanford Duncan Brown, my great-great-great grandfather, who actually drove cattle from Texas and Montana while working at Kings Ranch in Texas and I appreciate that a lot,” he said. “I just hope that I can pass all that I know, and all I have learned from my family on to somebody else later. I would really love to keep the family farm as long as possible.”

If you ask San Brown about what it most important to him in life, he lists them in order, “God, family, and the farm.”

And if you ask him what his priority is when it comes to the land that has become so dear to him, his answer is just as simplistic and just as powerful.

“I cherish it and want to figure out how best to preserve it,” he said.

KFB Farming Footnote:
During this year’s Kentucky FFA State Convention, San Brown won in his proficiency contest area, Wildlife Management. The FFA proficiency contest is a record system for a participant’s SAE. Scoring is based on depth in knowledge and skills students show in a variety of writing prompts, along with growth of hours worked over time. His project will now go to the FFA National Convention in October. Congratulations!