ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A 4-H member is creating a new path for the “farm-to-table” approach in Colorado. Jacob Sorensen raised a steer to become the first from Jefferson County to sell at auction to a local restaurant.
“He just grew up to be a fantastic, amazing steer,” said Sorensen, 17. “I was shocked and amazed.”
Sorensen said animals and the tradition of 4-H helped him develop into a teenager who has thrived in competition and become more social around others. He raises turkeys and cattle, competing in Jefferson County 4-H events as well as participating in the National Western Stock Show. He has won several championship belt buckles since he was a child.
“Since I have autism, animals really help me with calming down and I see the world differently and I just like working with them,” he said. “I think they understand me better than humans do and they’re calming in their nature.”
Earlier in the year, Urban Farmer in Denver purchased the steer Sorensen raised and used the meat at its restaurant. A chance to not only utilize local resources but also highlight a tradition of raising animals in a sustainable way. It comes at a time when some worry about the impact beef can have on the environment.
“People want to know where their food comes from, and they want to know that we’re being good to the earth and good to the environment,” said Diana Altermatt, Sorensen’s mother. “The results are, you can taste the results.”
Altermatt passed on the love for 4-H to her children that she got from her parents. All three generations now live together in a home where Sorensen and the other family members raise animals. In addition to turkeys and cattle, they have chickens and pigs. She says the connection that her son has for animals is similar to what she has heard from Temple Grandin.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him, he’s grown through 4-H. 4-H has been a safe place for him,” Altermatt said. “It’s just beyond my words to express.”
When the steer made its way to Urban Farmer, the family had the chance to visit the restaurant and enjoy the meat they helped produce as part of their meal. Sorensen says it is hard to say goodbye to an animal you watch grow. The meat used for steaks has already sold out but Urban Farmer is still selling some of that beef as hamburgers on its menu.
“It tasted amazing,” he said. “The last day I got to see him, I cried a lot, it was sad.”
The teachings of 4-H encourage humane practices raising animals without steroids or hormones. Altermatt says it’s a tradition they are passing down in their family and it makes them better in their everyday lives.
“4-H has made all of us,” she said. “It has made us better adults, more involved in our community, better leaders, 4-H does that.”
The family calls their property 3G Family Farm now that they all are under one roof. It has been an entertaining adjustment but they enjoy having everyone in one house on a daily basis.
“We have three generations living on one farm together,” Altermatt said. “When you move your father and your husband together, one of them is going to go a little funny.”
For Sorensen, the auctioning of his steer finishes off an experience that he has known for half of his life. But even as he moves beyond 4-H, his love for animals will likely stay with him in the career that comes after as an adult.
“The biggest accomplishment for me is growing and becoming a better person,” he said.