Leading young producers: Sims recognized as an example for young people nationwide
McFadden – When Shanon and Melinda Sims were married in 2000, they were both passionate about the cattle industry and looked forward to being a part of the Sims family ranch outside of McFadden in southeast Wyoming.
Today, the couple has realized their goals and are actively involved in the operation and growth of Sims Cattle Company. Their hard work on the operation and for the cattle industry, in general, earned them nationwide recognition in 2019.
DTN/The Progressive Farmer selected the Sims as part of the 2019 class of America’s Best Young Farmers and Ranchers.
“Now entering its 10th year, the program, sponsored by John Deere, DeKalb/Asgrow and Growmark FS, recognizes young farmers and ranchers who are building successful and innovative agricultural businesses,” says DTN/The Progressive Farmer. “The award recognizes the work they do to promote agriculture and have a positive impact in their communities.”
For both Shanon and Melinda, the recognition by DTN/The Progressive Farmer was unexpected, and they both note it is humbling and an honor.
“It was so humbling,” describes Shanon. “They flew us to Chicago, where we spent a lot of time with the four other recipients. As we spent time getting to know those people, we couldn’t help but think about the incredible things they were doing.”
He adds, “It’s neat to be a part of a group like that. This recognition tells us that the sacrifices we made and the struggles we went through were worth it. It’s hard to articulate what this honor means.”
For Melinda, it was humbling on a different level. Initially, Shanon won the award, but after a senior editor for DTN/The Progressive Farmer came to the ranch to capture him in action, the publication decided to recognize both Shanon and Melinda.
“It was humbling that Shanon and DTN felt like I was also deserving and worthy of this award because we have such a strong partnership,” Melinda says.
For Shanon and Melinda, ranching as a couple is rewarding on many levels.
“Shanon is my best friend, as well as my husband and day-to-day work partner,” describes Melinda. “Any issues I have – whether it’s frustration over the livestock or family issues, I feel like I can always go to Shanon and find someone who understands or at least is a listening ear.”
She adds, “He might say I’m off base or let’s work through something, but it’s nice to have the best friend aspect, as well as a working partnership.”
Shanon says he appreciates the ability to talk about work or family whenever.
“I have a lot of friends who have wives who may or may not work with them. I’m very thankful that we can talk business 24/7, and Melinda never gets tired of it because she’s just as passionate about the ranch as I am,” he explains. “We’re not set on only talking about business until five. We can talk about whatever we want, whenever and never get bored.”
He adds, “That goes the other way, too. It might be two in the afternoon when we decided to drop everything at the ranch and do family things. Being on the same page is so important for us.”
While the couple agrees that things aren’t always perfect, they’re able to work together well because of their ability to communicate.
In everything on the ranch, the Sims believe in the importance of communication in making the ranch successful.
When the couple returned to the ranch, they both worked for wages.
“I thought it was critical to prove myself, and I spent six years working as an employee on the ranch to prove I knew what I was doing,” Shanon says.
He began working on the ranch full-time in 2001 after graduating from college. Melinda returned to the ranch in 2000 after she graduated.
“Slowly, my Uncle Olin, dad and grandpa began giving us more responsibility and more control,” Shanon explains. “Then, in 2007 when grandpa decided to retire, I was invited to be a full partner.”
Today, Shanon and Melinda are partners with his parents, Scott and April.
As the ranch moves forward, Shanon and Melinda have focused on sustainability and their family.
“We’re in a transition time right now,” he explains. “We’ve implemented some new strategies with our cows, and we’re focused on the marketing side of raising cattle. We’re going to continue to learn and adapt to what happens with the weather.”
At the same time, their son is 15 and daughter is 12, so Shanon says they are focused on preparing their children for their next steps.
“Our next 10 years is going to be geared toward getting our kids ready for life,” he says. “If they want to come back to the ranch, we’ll make that happen, and if they don’t, we’ll make that happen, too.”
When Shanon and Melinda look back at their success, they note that continual learning and sharing the ag story are both important.
“Everyone involved in our ranch is open about what we do,” Shanon says. “Talking to other people – whether they’re ranchers or strangers – has opened up so many avenues and great conversations.”
“Being able to share our story is important,” Melinda says. “It not only brings our perspective to someone else, but it brings their perspective to us. Sharing is super important for both sides of the conversation.”
“The best advice I can give is advice that was given to me,” Shanon comments. “After his first year of college, my dad decided that going to school wasn’t for him. He wanted to go back to the ranch, so he came home. My grandpa told him, ‘It’s fine if you want to quit school, but don’t ever stop learning.’”
Today, Shanon continues to follow his father’s advice and example by attending as many workshops as possible and continuing to learn on the ranch.
“My dad is at every workshop and takes every opportunity he has to learn. He took that information and that perspective and passed it on to me,” Shanon says. “That’s what I tell everyone coming into business. We also have to keep learning.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.