The Deals' father grew up on a dairy farm in Missouri and their mother, Gracie, was a city girl who eventually took a liking to farming and became quite keen on it. She didn't step into the barn much but she was a handy business woman who partnered nicely with their daddy. Eventually they moved from Missouri to Texas in 1974 when their farm was crowded out by urban expansion. "Unfortunately," Johanna says, "the same thing has happened to us here." Just a few years back a national home building supply store chain built a huge distribution center that directly abuts the Deals' land. "It just about killed our father," Johanna says. "Part of our farm is now within city limits."
"Our parents were the ones who decided to make our farm completely organic. Our dad signed the letter of intent shortly before he died." Johanna says. "Al and I kept going to the meetings to work out how to accomplish the final transition with the feed. Mom had to sign letters of intent again. Sadly, we received our certification five days after we buried our mom."
The Deals continue their parents' good work. "We all have our specialty niches, but no big decisions are made without all of us agreeing," Johanna says. "I mainly handle the cows. In fact, everybody's main complaint is that I see to the cows and the land before I see to the people."
Al takes care of pasture fertility and helps manage herd health, specializing in homeopathy. Lately he's become somewhat of a guru in touch therapy. "If a cow's shoulder is out of joint, he can put it back," Johanna says. "The cows just melt when he works on them. He works on race horses, too."
Jesse manages the pastures as well as the farm infrastructure. "He can fix anything," Johanna says, a critical skill in farm management. And there's a fourth Deal sibling, Luke, who has his own dairy down the road and who can always be counted on to help out on the home place.
Johanna counts her blessings on more fingers than she was born with. She went to school and worked in New York City for a few years where "you may not even see your neighbor until the EMT's come to tote them away. And then you ask yourself: What is wrong with this life? There's nothing to replace the joy of watching a little calf nursing and waggling its tail and the sun's coming up and the birds are singing.... There's nothing that can replace even one spring day once you have that experience in your soul."