Trevor Johnson – Investing in the future of agriculture
“Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful, and most noble employment of man,” – a quote from George Washington, is a favorite of Trevor Johnson, a young, sixth generation farmer. He believes those words and says they hold true to his values.
Johnson, a 2021 Golden Bull Achievement award winner from the Hereford Youth Association of America, is a loyal member of the beef business thanks to the professionals and youth programs who heavily invested in his career at a young age. The Golden Bull Achievement award is a prestigious recognition, awarded at the collegiate level that recognizes individuals for their involvement in the Hereford industry, agriculture, and their communities.
“Because I had the opportunities to meet industry professionals and be a part of youth activities, is the reason why I have chosen to keep my career path in agriculture,” Johnson says.
Johnson is an active member of his family’s operation – Sleepy Hollow Farm, located north of Centerville, South Dakota. They specialize in purebred Angus and Hereford seedstock cattle, and host an annual spring sale in March. They also own a feedlot operation and grow row crops.
He became invested in agriculture by getting involved in his local 4-H and FFA program. He started with one Hereford heifer, and has now grown his herd to over 40 head.
After buying his first heifer – a registered Hereford – from Blacktop Farms out of Mitchell, South Dakota, via a South Dakota Hereford Association grant, he went on to purchase five bred Angus heifers from that same farm.
“As we kept growing, we started the bull sale,” he said, pointing out that this year will mark the 8th annual I-29 sale for him and his family.
The bulls he raises from his cows tend to go to commercial operations in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. He said a lot of his bloodlines can be traced back to those original heifers he bought, plus more 4-H heifers he has purchased over the years.
“We try to make cattle that are fundamentally sound. We start at the ground – make them good-footed, well built, functional, and back them up with good EPDs.” Johnson said some of their customers are looking to raise replacement heifers, while others are looking to add pounds to feeder calves. They believe their bulls are balanced enough to fit both situations.
Johnson has experienced his own success in the showring, but credits that to the relationships he has built.
“The biggest takeaway from my involvement in youth programs is the value of friendships and relationships,” Johnson says. “These relationships I’ve built at a young age are the ones I’ll carry with me throughout my life.”
He added, “I just think it’s really unique how those networks and connections can last a lifetime.”
Johnson said he has learned through his experience raising cattle, to tough out the difficult times with an eye on the future.
“It’s not easy to calve those cows in January, February or March, when it’s cold and snowy out. But sticking with it and selling those bulls in the spring, seeing it start to finish, is really rewarding. It’s something to take a lot of pride in. I think that concept can apply to anything in life. There are days that will be less desirable than others but if you keep your head down and keep working, it will get better.”
Post college, he would like to gain industry experience at the commercial feedyard level before returning home to work on the family’s diversified seedstock and row crop operation and eventually, operate a feedyard of his own.
Growing up on his family farm, he always knew in his heart agriculture was the place for him. “Taking part in the Face of Leaders conference, Feed Steer Shoot Out, on top of my involvement in the family operation, and the Hereford Association, made me want to come back to the industry to pursue a career in the beef business,” Johnson gives credit to.
Johnson is a sophomore at Butler Community College, El Dorado, Kansas, working to attain an associate’s degree in agriculture business with the intent of pursuing a bachelor of science in agriculture business with a minor in animal science. He chose Butler because he wanted to be a part of the livestock judging team.
“It’s going to be critical to keep youth involved,” Johnson says as a reminder. “Not every person has to come back to their family operation, but to help find and create different opportunities and avenues to keep them involved in agriculture, will be the surviving piece to the industry puzzle.”
For those kids looking to receive the Golden Bull Achievement Award like he di, he urges them to “take advantage of every opportunity. You can go to camps, meetings conferences. don’t stop meeting people. Taking advantage of every opportunity is really the key,” he said.
Johnson’s family has strong roots in the agriculture industry, as his parents, Mark and Jeanne Johnson, both met while majoring in animal science at South Dakota State University and were both on the collegiate livestock and meat judging teams. His brother Tate, is also involved in 4-H, FFA, and the family operation.
“I wouldn’t trade this for the world, it’s the greatest industry to be in,” Johnson says proudly.
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