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Meade family

Meade Family

 

Jacob Meade creates his farm legacy by fostering key relationships as doors open to new ventures.

By Joann Pipkin

In like a lion, out like a lamb, so the saying goes. Yet, this early April afternoon the lion still roars. Today our journey finds us trekking north through the quiet countryside of west central Missouri. As we swing left from the four-lane, the route reveals shear bounty from the Show Me State’s husbandry. While cattle line the pastures as far as the eyes can see, fallow ground anxiously awaits the season’s crop. Remnants of springtime showers push fieldwork to another day as workers anticipate their toil.

unwrapping big bale

A turn here, a jog there, over hill and dale, we venture deeper into the heart of rural Bates County. Around the bend from Ballard and back north down a narrow country lane, we find young farmer Jacob Meade atop a hill tending his cattle with a trio of helpers in tow. Daughters Allison, 12, Kimber, 9, and Hannah, 2, ride shotgun in the farm truck as they await mom, Jenna, to join them after work. 

As quiet and uneventful as the afternoon seems, this beginning farm is a plethora of activity. From cattle to crops to custom farming, Jacob’s days are long and packed with projects in between his regular, off-the-farm job. All the while, he embraces each as an opportunity to grow a business he hopes to someday pass on to his girls.

Getting His Start

Growing up in the small community of Ballard, Jacob got his start raising cattle on his parents’ farm. After graduating high school in 2009, he began farming while also attending State Fair Community College in Sedalia. Jacob earned an associate degree but the opportunities for him to farm kept circling his way.

baby calf eating hay

Doors opened for Jacob to begin row cropping, and then a few neighbors also presented opportunities for Jacob to rent their land. 

“I was able to convert a lot of that into row crops while keeping some of it in grass for cows,” Jacob explains. 

Jacob owns some cattle in partnership with an aunt and uncle, and also sharecrops with his parents. From there, he has been able to grow steadily by acquiring land as owners exit the business. 

With the retirement of his wife’s uncle this past year, Jacob was able to rent one of the larger tracts of land he farms, which is about half pasture and half row crop.

Early on in his farming career, Jacob’s role as a custom operator helped build his operation into what it is today.

“I did a lot of custom harvesting,” he says. “We do a lot of custom still to this day. It all started out with me getting a bulldozer for myself and to do a little side work. Basically, it’s turned into doing a lot of full-time jobs.”

From custom hay to dozer work that involves clearing fence rows and building terraces or ponds, Jacob says those opportunities are key to the operation. 

Meating Up With Local Demand

mama cow and calf

After building his commercial Angus-based, cow-calf operation to more than 200 head of momma cows, Jacob has his sights set on a new beef cattle venture.

As consumer demand continues to grow for local, farm-raised meat, Jacob is hoping to capture a share of the market by raising Wagyu beef and selling direct to consumers.

While the project is still in its infancy, Jacob purchased a set of Wagyu bred heifers this past winter.

“They’re Angus-Wagyu cross bred to a full-blood Wagyu bull,” Jacob says. “So, we’ll be selling 75% Wagyu calves the first time.”

From there, Jacob hopes to purchase some full-blood Wagyu to further expand his herd. 

mama cow eating hay

“A lot of my interest in this stems from the fact that I don’t ever get to see the finished product,” he explains. “We wean calves to 650, 750 pounds, and I don’t ever get to see the result.”

Jacob already sees a local demand for the product, even though he’s months away from having meat available. “I want to make sure the product is marketable above traditional grade and can see a noticeable difference in the quality,” he says.

Although Jacob has finished out beef before, he expects to modify his feed ration to ensure he achieves high-quality marbling, a trait Wagyu beef is known for.

“It’s a very niche market,” Jacob notes. “I did some research, and I knew I wanted black Wagyu because those genetics are a little better than red Wagyu and the meat is higher quality.”

The young cattleman expects to start off small with his new beef venture, especially since the return for cattle doesn’t always cover farm expenses like fertilizer, hay, and equipment.

“If I can sell the same amount of meat for more money per pound, it’s making my operation more efficient,” he says.

Building His Network

Jacob in the field

From traditional corn, soybeans, and wheat to cover crops like canola and rye, diversity is key as Jacob farms more than 1,300 acres that spans about 25 miles from end-to-end.

It’s a network, of sorts, he says. 

“There’s not one farm that’s more than a couple miles away from another farm,” he explains. “So, it sounds spread out. That’s why I must plan a year ahead of what I’m going to grow, so that when we start rolling with the equipment, we’re not moving a bunch of people, chemicals, and fertilizer around.”

Jacob says he enjoys the crop side of his operation, from planting crops to experimenting with new chemicals or exploring ideas on how to make the operation work. 

pasture

“What do we do to produce the best hay crop, the cleanest pastures, and the overall scope of what we do?” he asks. “It changes every day.”

Adapting technology to the row crop segment of his operation helps Jacob maintain efficiency.

For example, grid sampling is key to ensuring each field receives the desired nutrients through fertilizer application. 

“When we hit the field to start planting, we might run 24 hours straight or longer,” Jacob explains. “Because the planting windows have been so tight and with the grid sampling this year, we’ve been able to save, I would say 50%, on fertilizer just because the areas that needed the nutrients got it and the areas that didn’t need it so much, we basically bypassed.”

Soil fertility is important to the young farmer as he sets the production bar high, aiming to raise 200-bushel corn, 60-bushel soybeans and 100-bushel wheat. It’s a goal he sets with each new piece of ground he acquires.

Partnering for the Future

FCS Financial loan officer, Tara Vermillion, discusses the farm with Jacob Meade.

When Jacob first got his start in farming, he looked to FCS Financial for assistance on an equipment purchase as he created a partnership with an uncle. As his operation has grown, he’s come to depend on the ag lender for assistance with additional equipment loans as well as farm operating expenses and real estate purchases. 

Over the years, Jacob says he’s come to appreciate the interest rates offered at FCS Financial, and he likes working with the cooperative because they understand his needs and his business. 

“The patronage dividend lowers your interest even more than you realize,” he adds. “There are a lot of things FCS Financial does different than banks and other lenders that are farmer friendly. And they understand agriculture. That’s a difficult thing.”

According to FCS Financial’s Tara Vermillion, working with young, beginning farmers like Jacob is exciting because she gets to witness the growth of an operation firsthand.

“I’ve known Jacob since he was young, so I was super excited to learn what he’d been doing,” Tara says. “We were able to help him with low interest rates to get started and then a couple of real estate purchases to help him grow.”

FCS Financial’s Young, Beginning, Small Farmer Loan Program partners with Farm Service Agency to help lower down payments and interest rates as producers start their business. 

Cultivating Good Relationships

Meade family with their cattle

Securing reliable workers during the Covid-19 pandemic has been a constant, and farming is no different. Jacob says it’s been especially challenging. Today, he’s fortunate to find help from two retirees who work on the farm with him full-time. His wife’s cousin also helps some, and occasionally he’s able to secure high school students although they often require extensive training.

“It’s hard to get anybody to work, especially in agriculture with the number of hours you have to put in compared to a city job,” Jacob explains. “And I still work full-time myself.”

A maintenance employee at a soap plant in Harrisonville, Jacob works off the farm to help keep costs in check. With his schedule he’s able to manage farm projects and regular duties but staying organized and maximizing time are critical.

Fostering positive relationships with both local businesses and neighbors are key.

Both time and price are valuable to Jacob as he works with local businesses for securing farm inputs like fertilizer, seed, chemical, and feed.

It’s not all about money,” Jacob explains. “It’s about timing and whether the business can do what I need when I need it done. That’s worth a lot.”

At the end of the day, for young farmer Jacob Meade cultivating relationships has worked in tandem with the doors of opportunity that have opened for him along the way.

“A lot of (this business) has come from opportunity and being thankful and grateful for them,” he explains. “It’s about networking in just about any business, but the opportunities must be there. We do the best we can everywhere. We try to turn the farms around, improve fertility. We’re relying on a lot of people for about 80% of the land we have. So, it’s important to have good, long-term relationships.”

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