Yates Adcock seeks to continually improve the land so it will provide for generations to come.
Yates Adcock and a ranch hand were out on their horses, under the big blue sky, checking cattle on both sides of a canyon. The day was much like any other, until Adcock cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled: “Not everybody gets to do this!”
The other man, a known jokester, rode on the far side of the ravine. After a few beats, Adcock heard a laugh and another echoing shout: “Not everybody wants to!”
Years later, Adcock still laughs at the story. He has retold it countless times, ending the tale with a note of seriousness: “I want to. I’m thankful and blessed to be able to do this.”
Yates Adcock came to Middle Creek Ranch near Dustin, Oklahoma, in 1987.
Adcock came to Middle Creek Ranch in 1987 after graduating with an animal science degree from Oklahoma State University, where he met his wife, Nancy. It was her father who had encouraged him to submit his resume to the ranch, which, today, stretches across 15,000 contiguous acres in southeastern Oklahoma.
The rocky prairie is adjacent to the South Canadian River and home to wildlife and cattle. Adcock, a fifth-generation producer, manages the property alongside family and employees, who he describes as like family.
It’s a fragile land, he says. The thin soil is prone to erosion, bluestem is easy to overgraze, and every decision they make has implications for other areas of the ranch. Adcock has sought Noble Research Institute’s expertise in a variety of disciplines, from forages to soil health, throughout the past 20 years.
When it comes to mentoring students, Yates is the kind of guy we want to support. He genuinely cares about people and the land, and both his actions and attitude are truly noble. He does everything with integrity and gratitude.”
— Hugh Aljoe
Director of Producer Relations
“There’s always a more productive, more profitable, more beneficial way to manage our natural resources,” Adcock says. “Noble Research Institute has been like a friend that we can run questions or ideas by as we’re trying to make the most positive impacts out here.”
Adcock is quick to say stewardship is far more than just the plants and the animals. It is also about people.
“Not Everybody Gets To Do This”
Yates Adcock says he is thankful for all the ranch has done to provide for him and his family, and he is committed to doing right by the land so it can continue to provide for generations to come. He and his team manage cattle on 15,000 contiguous acres in southeastern Oklahoma.
There are his now-adult children, Nichole and Colton. He and Nancy reminisce at diaper changes in feed trucks and breakfasts together at 4 a.m. Most mornings, they now send Colton, a pilot, off into the sunrise from a grassy airstrip across from the cattle working facility. And Nichole travels back and forth from Tulsa, where she works as a nurse.
There is also Mike Handley, who has worked at Middle Creek since he moved to the area from Missouri eight years ago. The plans he and his wife, Wendy, had to adopt one child turned into the opportunity to raise four siblings, now ages 5 to 10, on the ranch.
Austin Witmer, a former Middle Creek Ranch intern, now works full-time on the ranch.
In 2007, Adcock saw the opportunity to bring more young people to the ranch. There were special projects, like taking quail counts, in which he was interested but did not have the time to undertake. The rancher, who once toyed with the idea of becoming an agriculture teacher, thought these projects might make good internship opportunities.
Over the next several years, Noble Research Institute consultants helped Adcock find interns, often from their own pools of summer scholar applications. For the summer of 2014, Austin Witmer’s name came up on a list. The Virginia Tech student was looking for an experience of the day-to-day operations of a cattle ranch, and the consultants knew he would be a good fit for Middle Creek.
“When it comes to mentoring students, Yates is the kind of guy we want to support,” says Hugh Aljoe, Noble’s director of producer relations. “He genuinely cares about people and the land, and both his actions and attitude are truly noble. He does everything with integrity and gratitude.”
Front: Yates and Nancy Adcock; Back: Austin Witmer (left) and Mike Handley
During his experience, Witmer cowboyed up on the ranch in addition to taking 100 forage samples. He checked for forage quality as well as quality of the regrowth in pastures. He returned to Virginia that fall but the following June had the opportunity to return as a full-time employee of Middle Creek.
Witmer says it was the Adcocks’ willingness to “do things out of the box” that drew him back. They focus on enhancing the native pasture while reducing inputs through their management practices, which include moving cattle every day and using high stock density grazing.
“I’ve become more ecologically minded after working here, more focused on the soil and grasses,” says Witmer, who is now working toward a master’s degree in integrated resource management with support from the ranch. “And the Adcocks are like family. I can ask them anything about ranching or about life.”
Gentle Does It
Yates Adcock uses low-stress cattle handling techniques while working a set of heifers that he and his team have brought closer to the house. They checked the heifers over before leading them to fresh pasture, where they would calve in the coming days.
Adcock maintains that he and Nancy get as much or more out of their relationships with interns and other employees. They swap ideas, experiences and laughter. They learn from what has worked and what did not, and they adjust to make the next day better.
“It’s not like you’ve ever got it mastered,” Adcock says. “That’s what’s humbling. But this land provides for people, and we want to make sure it can continue doing that long after we’re gone.”