John Pitt could be called a first-generation farmer, though his family history of farming goes back quite a ways. He and his wife, Marytha, Story County Farm Bureau members, started raising Hereford cattle and row cropping about 35 years ago near Nevada. 

Their hard work and commitment to the Hereford breed was on display last week as they auctioned off a bull, Triumph II ET, during the Iowa Beef Expo at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

The land and the cattle came along later in life for the couple. After his military service, John taught civil engineering for 26 years at Iowa State University. Marytha, a retired kindergarten teacher, spent her 37-year career in the Nevada school district.

Along the way, they started buying farmland as it became available and investing in high-quality Hereford genetics. 

They now have about 60 head of Hereford cattle, both bulls and bred heifers.

History of farming

John’s grandparents were farmers, but his dad left the farm to pursue other opportunities. The love for raising animals never left John, so as time and money allowed, he and Marytha grew their operation. 

He said they chose Herefords partially because he can track his family lineage back to Herefordshire County in the United Kingdom, the original home of the Hereford breed.

“My ancestors brought the perfect cow with them from there. I guess we’re kind of continuing a family tradition,” John said.

Helping hand

Though retired from teaching, farming keeps the couple plenty busy. They are helped with their herd by Garrett and Ellen Longnecker, a young couple who also farm with Garrett’s dad in Story County. In fact, Marytha had Garrett as a student many years ago, though she said she could never have imagined he would end up working for them.

They also work closely with Marytha’s nephew, Josiah Hulbert and his wife, Sarah, who farm and raise Herefords near Bellville, Ohio, about halfway between Cleveland and Columbus. 

“This is another way we’re sharing the breed and carrying on the family tradition,” Marytha said. 

On the day of the sale, Garrett and Ellen tended to Triumph II, cleaning and brushing him. 

“With these two-year-old bulls, we’ll take them off the pasture, break them and get them halter broke,” Garrett said. “After that, it’s trying to get their skin and hair back to somewhat normal looking. Get them used to getting a bath, stuff like that.”

In addition to the Iowa Beef Expo, the Pitts and Longneckers have attended and sold cattle at the National Western Stock Show in Denver and the Ohio Beef Expo this year and last.