TUSHKA, Okla. — Toni McCornack’s birth certificate shows she was urban born. However, her heart was rural all the way, and she couldn’t be any prouder of that fact.
Today, in addition to running 80 head of black baldy beef cattle, McCornack and son Travis milk over 100 head of registered goats and ship milk to two different creameries. Plus, she has horses and enjoys “a foal or two in the spring.”
Breann Buie is a USDA–Farm Service Agency program technician for three counties, including Atoka County where McCornack lives.
Buie has come to know and highly respect McCornack.
“She owns several hundred acres in Atoka County and works full time tending to her land and livestock which includes cows/calves, bulls, horses, and goats,” Buie said. “Ms. McCornack has milk production from her goats and she produces forage for her cattle, and pecans for commercial sale. She is a very hard worker and has a wide range of knowledge in many different areas of farming/ranching.”
Her path to Oklahoma not only was long and winding, it included beaches, vineyards and a trip to Kansas City.
Ag at heart
Born to Pasquale and Leona Mastan in the Los Angeles area community of Gardena in 1962, McCornack’s parents moved to a small rural community in the Santa Monica Mountains area when she was 7 years old.
“I was in heaven, I got chickens, rabbits and we even got a horse,” she said. “I spent all the time I could riding horses with my friends in the mountains and we would even ride to the beach. We joined a local riding club and participated in shows, play days and trail rides.”
Life got even better. During her freshman year of high school, her family moved to an even more rural area of California near Paso Robles. There, they planted a vineyard and built a winery. For McCornack, moving to that area opened up the opportunity to be a part of a high school FFA program.
It could be said that through this, her sheer, or rather “shear,” love for agriculture became evident.
“During high school I built up a herd of around 50 registered Dorset sheep,” she said. “I attended a sheep shearing school sponsored by the New Zealand Wool Board.”
This was in a pre-Facebook era, but word spread quickly.
“It seemed like everyone knew,” McCornack said. “I got calls about shearing people’s sheep all around Paso Robles. The next year when I went back to the shearing school I was invited to attend a shearing school in New Zealand.”
Did she go? “Of course I went.”
“I spent four months in New Zealand shearing sheep on a stay out gang,” she said. “The crew would travel to the different properties and stay until all the sheep had been sheared. We didn’t get days off unless it rained and we never got to town. To keep my spot on the gang I had to shear at least 200 head per day.”
Upon returning from New Zealand, McCornack received her American Farmer Degree from the FFA and drove from California to Kansas City to walk across the stage. During that trip she passed through Oklahoma.
“I was taken with the sheer beauty of this state and decided that if I ever left California it would be to move to Oklahoma,” she said.
Move ahead several years. Both Travis and her other son Levi became involved in FFA while living in Paso Robles.
“Levi attended a cattle clipping clinic in Oklahoma and when he got home, he said, ‘We have got to move to Oklahoma,’” McCornack recalled. “Two years later we packed up and moved to Oklahoma. My mother decided to move with us and here we are.”
McCornack and her mother sold their ranches in California and were able to purchase two places not too far apart in Oklahoma. They’ve been here 11 years now.
Levi and wife Stormy, who he met after moving here, have two children and run about 100 head of registered Angus cows.
McCornack and Travis remodeled a dairy barn on their Oklahoma place that had been equipped for dairy cattle.
“Travis had started with a goat in 4-H in California and this is a 4-H project gone wild,” she said with a laugh.
Plus, remember that Oklahoma, McCornack’s home state in recent years, leads the nation in native pecan production.
“The 300 or so native pecans trees on our place sure help with the winter income,” she said, “and we always seem to have plenty firewood.”
Anywhere and everywhere has its challenges. One of their properties is along Clear Boggy Creek and McCornack said flooding can sink a person’s hopes in a hurry. However, “the good bottomland saved us during the drought. We had hay to cut. Not much, but enough to help.”
Every once in a while, she thinks back to her FFA trip when she passed through Oklahoma and thought it would be a great place to live.
“I love living here in Oklahoma,” McCornack said. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else or living any other lifestyle.”
Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry
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