Shoshoni couple keeps farm alive
Shoshoni – “Ranching is a lot of responsibility, but it’s well worth it to take care of God’s land and animals,” says Fremont County Farmer and Rancher Jessica Sullivan.
Sullivan and her husband Tim run a diversified crop and cow/calf operation in Shoshoni with her parents. The family grows corn, hay and pinto beans and keeps a herd of Angus cows.
While Sullivan has been working on the farm full-time, her husband recently left his job at John Deere to farm full-time, as well.
Farming in the family
“I’m a fourth-generation farmer and rancher,” Sullivan says. “This lifestyle is something I’m very familiar with and hope to pass on to our children in the future.”
“The same year I graduated high school, the farm next door came up for sale,” Sullivan explains. “Being 18 years old, I had no credit and no ability to purchase it myself. Knowing I wanted to farm, my parents bought the land, and my husband and I eventually took it over.”
“We still share a lot of equipment with my parents to save on costs,” she notes.
“My parents are planning on slowing down in the next 10 years or so,” she continues. “My husband and I plan to work towards acquiring what they have so they don’t have to do as much.”
Sullivan explains she and her husband were high school sweethearts and attended Casper College together.
“I majored in agriculture business, and he studied diesel mechanics,” Sullivan comments.
She explains even though her husband didn’t grow up on a farm, his experience fixing tractors and other equipment has been an asset.
“Having a live-in diesel mechanic has been pretty helpful on the farm over the years,” she jokes.
A love for cattle
Sullivan explains cattle were historically a part of their operation until a drought in 2013 forced the family to sell the herd. They eventually had the chance to purchase cows again, and she jumped at the opportunity.
“I always really enjoyed cattle,” Sullivan comments. “I always showed in FFA and 4-H growing up.”
She said the experience that shaped her experience with cattle the most was the two-phase show sponsored by Fremont County Cattlemen’s Association.
“The phase one portion of the show includes showing a bred heifer, and the second phase was bringing her and her calf back the following year,” she explains, noting that the process influenced her love of raising cattle.
“My favorite part of being involved in agriculture is watching things grow,” Sullivan comments. “It’s amazing to see a calf being born and then see it grown and possibly become a part of our cowherd.”
Stewardship of the land
Sullivan says that being a steward of the land is something she takes very seriously.
“I truly love being a steward of the land,” she states. “We have to think of sustainability in the long-term, whether it be with crops or practices we use to care for cattle.”
Sullivan notes her family has shifted their operation to utilize a minimal till system for their crops.
“We don’t do any conventional plowing for our crops,” she explains. “This can prevent erosion and loss of moisture.”
When it comes to stewardship, Sullivan believes we have to look to the long-term impacts.
“We may lose some profit in the short-run by operating in a sustainable way but in the long-run, it’s more beneficial,” she comments.
Advice to young producers
“We absolutely need more young people in the agriculture industry,” Sullivan stresses. “Most of the older people in the industry are willing to help in any way they can, and where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
She explains young people in the industry should not be afraid to reach out to more experienced producers and ask for help.
“Asking questions of local producers, bankers, salesman and other agriculture professionals is the fastest way to learn,” she says. “Farming and ranching is a lot of hard work, but young people can’t give up on it.”
Callie Hanson is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.