Women of ASA - Sarah Jones

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Women of ASA - Sarah Jones

By Emme Demmendaal

Sara JonesSarah Jones, first-generation beef cattle producer and Simmental breeder, is a leader in the agriculture industry.

Sarah Jones, co-owner and manager of Red Hill Farms, with her husband, Bart, is a firm believer in breeding cattle for the end product. “We need to be cognizant of what we’re really producing,” Jones says referring to the beef production chain, “It’s easy to believe as a seedstock producer that we’re selling calves, but really, we have to remember that we’re beef producers, regardless of the part of production that we fall into, ultimately the end consumer is going to dictate our future.”

Sarah was born and raised on a dairy farm in southcentral Kentucky and Bart came from several generations of purebred swine seedstock breeders, so the cattle enterprise was a new addition to the family operation. After studying business and agriculture at Western Kentucky University, Jones became a Certified Public Accountant and worked in Nashville, Tennessee before coming back to work on the farm full time.

She explains, “We were building our herd and trying to acquire some land because neither of our families were beef producers, we didn’t have many acres of pasture. We started acquiring land and we actually now run cattle in three counties in Kentucky and Tennessee.”

Today, Jones’ job title ranges from AI tech to financial manager to head hay baler. She credits her previous role in accounting for her love for tracking and reporting data to the breed associations. Their 500-head seedstock Simmental, Red Angus, and Charolais operation straddle the state line between Tennessee and Kentucky. Focused on supplying commercial producers bulls through two annual sales and females through a sale in May, the Jones family splits their herd into a spring and fall calving season, keeping them busy all year round.

“I spend the majority of my day in the office on the computer, but I’m also the only one on the farm that is AI trained. Each year, I roll almost all of our hay, about 2,500 rolls a year. While we do have help on the farm, I find myself out feeding, weighing and tagging calves and preparing for a bull sale in February and March.”

Each year the American Simmental Association recognizes dedicated performance breeders through an annual article in the late fall issue of the SimTalk magazine. Red Hill Farms is often a part of this, as a data-focused seedstock business.

In addition to collecting birth, weaning, yearling, and mature dam data, Red Hill Farms participates in the University of Missouri Hair Shedding Project and Heifer Fertility Project. They are continually collecting additional data. Jones explains, “Our family is data-oriented. That works well with me being an accountant. We believe in gathering lots of data and converting that to useful information so that we can make the best decisions and the best cow herd.”

“We believe in indexes, and we try to focus on profitability and the cow herd. We may not be producing the most output, the most pounds, but the profitability equation has two components. One of those is input. We breed based on economically-relevant traits and the input side of the equation. We want to help our customers focus on input efficiency as well. However, we intend to produce cattle that grow and grade.”

At the end of the day, Jones knows that she loves what she does, and building the legacy for the next generation keeps her passionate day-in, day-out. “Also the love of the land,” she continues, “The love of the lifestyle and community — offering our customers animal protein. It’s the legacy that we hope to leave, but it’s a legacy in trying to create a superior product that we want to leave behind. 

“Our 13-year-old son, Ty knows most every cow here without even looking at a tag, and he knows their pedigree. He would rather spend the day looking at pedigrees and EPDs and mating for our donor program for this fall than working on his homework. If he wasn’t as interested or didn’t see a future on the farm, I probably wouldn't be as excited about what we do.”

As a first-generation beef cattle producer, Jones stands behind ASA’s education, AJSA programs, and YCC initiatives to educate young cattle producers. While her son isn’t actively involved in Simmentals’s junior association, she has first-hand experience representing Simmental in the YCC. “It’s going to be harder and harder for first-generation farmers. That is why I think the junior activities that Simmental provides are incredible opportunities and experiences. The junior activities allow young people to hone the beef industry and communication skills. The young people are the future. I think it’s important to help in the growth and development of youth.”

In addition to her full-time work on the farm, Jones volunteers for many local boards and committees including as the 4-H county livestock club leader, Kentucky Farm Bureau State Resolutions Committee, and the Red Angus Association Strategic Planning Committee. She says, “On many committees and groups, I stand out, both in age and gender. My background in business pushed me to be more active in events like trade shows, representing Red Hill Farms. I enjoy interacting with all kinds of people and clients.”

Making a positive impact on the consumer can be hard, but Jones believes that sharing your story with people outside the industry is a step toward better understanding. She served on the Pork Producers Council as an Operation Main Street speaker, where she would go into the classroom in mostly urban areas or attend Chamber or Rotary meetings to talk about pork production. She says, “As beef producers, if we don’t tell our story, someone else will and it may not be the story that is truthful or what we really want the consumer hearing.”

While she feels comfortable speaking about animal agriculture, she understands that it’s not easy for everyone to get in front of a crowd and talk about their life. She encourages beef producers to share their stories the way they feel most comfortable. Jones concludes, “I’m not the best blogger, I’m not the best on social media. I’m not a great writer. But, we all have ways to share our story, even if we don’t shout it from the rooftops or have a big blog or put grandiose posts on social media. We can all tell our story one-on-one, and I think it’s important that we’re positive about all the different facets of our industry.”



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