Ryan Pace is a military pilot and officer, but he’s always been a cattleman at heart

The front porch is the perfect place to visit with Ryan Pace in northern White County, Ark., overlooking his farm and cattle as they graze.

It is that “laid-back, easy feeling” of a guy who loves raising cattle and is dedicated managing his natural resources and maximizing his philosophy of sustainable agriculture. But Ryan’s life is divided into two very separate worlds. While life on the farm maybe laid-back, Ryan’s off-farm life is anything but laid-back. Ryan is a Brigade Commander in the Arkansas Air National Guard, flying Blackhawk helicopters. He returned home in May from his second tour of duty in Middle East, where he was deployed for a year. While Ryan considers himself a Blackhawk pilot, he has flown Apache AH64 attack choppers and Chinooks. Ryan’s “other” flying job resumes this summer as chopper pilot for Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s Angel One med-flight services.

“I am a fifth-generation cattle farmer,” Ryan said. “There was never any doubt in my mind I wanted to raise cattle. There is nothing like it. I really believe in the sustainable farming and grass fed approach. It just makes more sense to me.”

The Paces have a 160-acre cattle farm in northern White County, Ark., where they grow grass-fed Angus beef cows. As one might expect, making preparations for a year-long deployment is not easy, especially for a cattle farmer. In Ryan’s case, the major farm related question was what to do with the cattle. Ryan decided to have all of his cattle processed before his deployment to take that responsibility off of his wife Tish and their three teenage children.

“We talked about it before I left and felt it was the best thing do,” Ryan explained. “Tish and the kids have active lives off the farm. So, we processed all our beef with the plans to rebuild the herd once I returned. That’s what I’m doing now.”

Raising cattle is not the only profession passed down from the previous Pace generation. Ryan’s father was also a helicopter pilot in the Missouri Air National Guard and the father-son chopper team actually flew together briefly in the Missouri Air Guard.

“As a kid growing up in Missouri, everything my dad did was so interesting. I mean helicopter pilot, state trooper, cattle farmer. That’s what I wanted to do,” Ryan said.

The farm consists of 80 acres owned, and 80 acres rented from a neighbor. The pastures are seeded with a good mixed of warm and cool weather grasses and a good legume base of white clover. Fertilization is maintained using precise application of chicken litter.

Ryan is a big believer in using every natural resource he can. With the help of long-time friend Steve Elliot, barns, corrals and fence posts have been built using timber from the farm. The barn is a throw-back to the old days of barn-building using wooden pegs and timber joist, not a single nail in the barn. When needed, timber that had been saved from Ryan’s grandfather’s barn from the 1920s was used to complete the barn.

Ryan is very active in encouraging and assisting veterans in getting into farming. He is involved with Arkansas “Arm to Farm” Program and the National Center for Appropriate Technology.

“It’s no secret, nobody comes back from deployment the same person (as they left),” Ryan reflected. “Some handle it differently and better than others. Bottom line, farming is good therapy. Getting your hands dirty, working with animals, being close to nature. It’s the best therapy one can get. It certainly helps me, and I want to help as many veterans as I can make the adjustment to coming back home.”


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