Sanders Farm keeps traditions alive
Mornings come early for Kasey Sanders — they always have. He grew up on his family’s farm in the shadow of the rolling Appalachian foothills in the Paint Rock Valley, oftentimes getting up before the sun to tend to the cattle.
Being a cattleman is in his blood. Kasey inherited both his love for the land and a deep connection to cattle from his parents, Robin and William Earl Sanders.
But farming isn’t Kasey’s only job. He’s been filling hungry bellies with tasty home-cooked meals for years. Growing up, he would often cook for his siblings while his mother, a military wife, worked. While he’s feeding more mouths these days with his catering, his belief in the importance of a good meal hasn’t wavered.
Where there’s smoke, there’s barbecue
Kasey says his love for smoking meat came as he got older. “My buddy and I always had big Fourth of July get-togethers,” he says. They would smoke whole hogs, pork butts, ribs and more.
Eventually, he started entering competitions and even building his own grills. “Everyone wanted us to cook,” Kasey says. “We won some awards, but not a whole lot. It’s really just about the camaraderie.”
As years passed, Kasey and his wife, Jennifer, decided to open a restaurant. They owned and operated KC’s BBQ in Scottsboro for almost 10 years. Everything they offered was homemade from the barbecue sauces to the award-winning banana pudding. But, like most businesses over the last few years, the surge of COVID-19 changed things.
“The restaurant was good to us, but after a while, we decided to take a step back,” Kasey says.
During their time owning KC’s BBQ, the Sanderses did a lot of event catering. Even though they no longer own the restaurant, they still have plans to continue catering special events. “We really want to continue doing these events and form long-term relationships with people in our community,” Jennifer says.
The couple’s catering menu options include so much more than just pork barbecue. “We can do just about anything,” Kasey says.
They offer steaks, fried fish and fried chicken fingers, which are usually cooked on-site, along with turkey, chicken and, of course, barbecue. A popular crowd favorite is the loaded baked potato and nacho bars.
Farming for the future
Kasey always had responsibilities around the farm when he was growing up and those responsibilities haven’t changed much over the years. In the mornings during the winter months, the cows had to be fed and watered. During the summer, working in the garden was one of the first chores on the agenda, followed by breaking the beans in the kitchen with his mother.
“It’s a lot of hard work. There is never a dull moment on the farm,” he says. “There’s always a fence to be repaired, cattle to feed or something else that needs to be fixed.”
About 150 head of cattle, which the Sanderses raise for beef, live on the farm.
Even though their restaurant days are behind them, the couple looks forward to the future and what they have to offer the community. They are still in the early stages of planning but have a vision of a storefront at their farm where people can come purchase beef, pork and farm-fresh eggs. “We have a lot of ideas and possibilities in the works,” Jennifer says.
At Sanders Farm, the work is still a family affair which includes Kasey and Jennifer’s children, Bailee Usrey, Morgan Sanders and Eli Sanders.
Eli, who is 16 years old, says that farming is a lot of hard work, but it’s a way of life for him. “It’s just a lifestyle for me. I’ve been riding with my dad in the combine since before I could walk,” he says.
While Eli’s responsibilities include checking the cattle, a big part of his job is cutting and bailing the hay. Cutting hay consists of long, hot and dusty days but Eli says he will always farm, even though he is considering a career as a diesel mechanic.
“I’ll always farm. It’s just part of me,” he says.