Sullivan owns, operates multiple farms
Shoshoni – Young entrepreneur and recently married Jessica Sullivan is on her way to running her own operation at the youthful age of 19. Many people know Sullivan by her maiden name of Pingetzer, but anyone who meets her knows she is very passionate about farming and agriculture.
Sullivan grew up on a farm and feedlot outside of Shoshoni, and this is the place she wants to continue to farm.
“From a very young age, I knew I liked to farm,” says Sullivan. “I’ve always helped my Dad with the farm since I can remember, and it’s what I want to continue to do.”
Sullivan’s career began during her senior year of high school when she devised a plan to purchase her neighbor’s 350 acres to start her own operation.
“I had to make a couple of different business arrangements to get the down payment money,” she explains. “Since then, I have obtained operating loans through a local bank, and I am working in conjunction with my Dad to work on his place and mine.”
Sullivan began a crop rotation on her farm because most of the farm’s acres were covered in old hay stands in need of replacement. She planted 160 acres of corn the last two years and has seen good profits from it.
Along with tending to her corn, she also has wheat and alfalfa fields, as well as a small herd of 25 Angus cows – a herd that she started through her FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) project.
“I would show the animals and then keep them, as well as the replacement heifers from them,” describes Sullivan. “I’ve been able to grow my herd quite a bit since I first began, and I use the money from selling my calves to help with my operation.”
“We don’t utilize conventional plowing anymore,” states Sullivan. “Everything we do is minimum tillage or strip tilling for the corn. The strip tilling has helped with our inputs by saving three to four passes across the field, which saves on fuel and hours on our tractor.”
Sullivan notes she hasn’t seen any decrease in crop yields by utilizing strip tilling. In fact, she’s noticed an increased population of earthworms and amount of organic matter in her fields.
“The built up of organic matter helps contain the soil in our fields better instead of having it blowing elsewhere,” says Sullivan. “We are located right by Boysen Reservoir, and it’s really sandy here. Plus the wind likes to blow a lot.”’
When asked what motivates her, Sullivan replies, “Everyday is different, and that to me is exciting. I never know when something is going to break down or what the day will hold.”
Sullivan chuckles when she mentions that even when she does make a plan for the day, the plan never goes as intended.
“Being involved in agriculture also motivates me in that there is not a huge number of young people going back into production agriculture, let alone females in production agriculture. I’m definitely a minority,” she states.
“However, I think it is fun being that minority to prove to others a girl can do it, too,” says Sullivan. “It’s just not guys in agriculture.”
Like any business owner, Sullivan notes securing the financing and capital to start her own business is tricky. One of the ways Sullivan has been able to secure capital for her operation is by renting and utilizing her parent’s equipment.
“It takes a lot of capital just to get land – whether a person leases, rents or tries to buy their own,” comments Sullivan. “Then it takes quite a bit of money to operate the land.”
One of Sullivan’s long-term goals is to take over her family operation.
“My parents aren’t just going to give me their land and everything that they have,” explains Sullivan. “I’ll have to buy it from them, so they can retire off the money I give them to purchase the farm.”
“I’m nowhere close to being able to do that right now and operate everything,” says Sullivan. “Hopefully with the partnership between my Dad and I, he can slowly give me the reins, so it’s not a rapid transition.”
When asked what advice Sullivan would give a fellow young producer, she says, “It’s not always going to be easy, but it’s definitely going to be worth it. It’s also important to be humble and be willing to learn anything and everything because that’s the best way to go about trying to do something on your own.”
She reiterates educating the public is very important, and even one person can make a huge difference.
“Young people are definitely needed in agriculture,” she added. “Whether it be in production agriculture or as an ag teacher, we need to tell our story. It really bothers me some people think their steaks and milk come from the grocery store. They don’t understand all of the hard work it takes to get that food on their plate.”
Madeline Robinson is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.
“My parents, husband and the community around Shoshoni have helped and encouraged me to get to where I am today,” says Jessica Sullivan, a 19-year-old agricultural producer. “Being involved in 4-H and FFA fueled my fire for agriculture.”
Sullivan was the Wyoming State FFA Vice President in 2012-13, and she notes FFA and 4-H tremendously helped her to meet more people in the ag industry and learn more about agricultural in general.
“In 4-H I mostly showed steers and breeding livestock, specifically breeding cattle,” comments Sullivan. “Plus, I was involved in ag marketing, ag issues and livestock judging.”
Sullivan earned her agriculture business degree from Casper College. She notes, while accounting was one of her least favorite classes in school, it has ended up being one of the more beneficial classes she uses to manage her operation.
“The business part of my degree has helped me to see different aspects of the industry that I was not aware of before that are very important in agriculture,” comments Sullivan.