Salute to Agriculture 2018

Lori Potter, Kearney Hub SIMON WAGONER and his wife, Mandi, decided to build a wean-to-finish pig barn on their property northeast of Shelton and work with The Maschhoffs to diversify their farm business and to leave a legacy for their four children, including Taylon, 11. The project’s name is 4R4K (For Our Four Kids). Dared to diversify By LORI POTTER Hub Staff Writer SHELTON —As Simon Wagon- er studied the numbers for his farm business northeast of Shelton soon after the 2016 fall harvest, he was concerned about being able to leave a legacy for his children if they want to be ag pro- ducers someday. He farms 1,000 acres of corn, soy- beans and alfalfa and works with his father-in-law, Larry Puttergill, who also has 1,000 crop acres. Wagoner also helps his dad, Dan, manage 140 Angus crossbred cow-calf pairs. The biggest issue is Wagoner owns only 80 of the 1,000 acres he farms and has no guarantee that he can lease all the rest for the long term. His solution was to build a wean-to- finish swine barn on approximately 5 acres of his property and work with The Maschhoffs, a family-owned business headquartered in Carlyle, Ill., that is one of the country’s largest pork producers. “It probably started five years ago,” Wagoner said about his idea to add swine production to his farm. “But I Simon Wagoner, courtesy THE WAGONER pig barn is 81 feet wide and 225 feet long. Ground was broken Sept. 18 for construction and an open house was Dec. 19, a week before the first just-weaned pigs arrived. Wagoners of Shelton add swine for The Maschhoffs for their children’s future DARED TO DIVERSIFY, PAGE 3 Heritage breeds fit farm business movie, was the first among several new faces in an Alma farm couple’s growing farm-to-table business. “We’re meeting a growing demand,” Jessica Swanson said about their grass- and cover crop-fed beef. “We grow high-quality beef in this state, whether it’s grain- fed or grass-fed.” She and her husband, For- rest, are using an intensive grazing system to feed their beef cattle, primarily Angus crossbreds and a growing number of Scottish High- lands. Jessica still farms with her parents, Ron and Bretta Robison, who grow food- grade white sorghum and sunflowers in addition to irrigated and dryland corn and soybeans. The sorghum is milled by a Scott City, Kan., com- pany for the gluten-free market. Ron changed to a gluten-free diet in 2008 to address some health issues. “I farm what I rent and I own, and we work together,” Jessica said. “I work more as a laborer as trade for use of their equipment.” Forrest also farms tra- ditional crops and back- grounds cattle with his Wilcox family, parents Bob and Vicki Swanson, and brothers, Trevor and Colt. Forrest and Jessica both wanted agriculture careers. “I wanted it to be horses and wheat, and don’t have either one of those,” Jessica said. “And cattle was a big one.” She couldn’t have imag- ined when she and Forrest were married in 2010 the types of cattle and hogs they now produce on their Walnut Range Farms or the customers they serve. “We were supplying friends and relatives quar- ters and halves of grain-fed animals … They also asked about grass-fed,” Forrest said. The Swansons contin- ue to hear from people who want meat from grass-fed animals. Adding heritage breeds Beef cattle that include Angus-Scottish Highland genetics aren’t the Swan- sons’ only mix of traditional and heritage breeds. They also produce pork from Durocs crossbred with Mangalicas (or Mangalitsa), Shauna Bosek Photography, courtesy Lori Potter, Kearney Hub IN MID-FEBRUARY, Jessica and Forrest Swanson’s Walnut Range Farms cattle, including these Scottish Highlands, grazed milo stalks in a field just east of Alma and north of Harlan County Lake. The field is farmed by Jessica’s parents, Ron and Bretta Robison. At right, Jessica is holding Piper, the couple’s 3-year-old daughter, and standing next to Forrest. Meats from Swansons of Alma are farm to table By LORI POTTER Hub Staff Writer ALMA — Muppet, a Scottish Highland cow resembling an animal extra in a “Lord of the Rings” SWANSONS, PAGE 3