Ozarks Roots-Blown Away to a New Breed
Farmers know firsthand that sometimes life will hand you more than your fair share of lemons. 2006 and 2007 brought Don and Kathy Sissel’s thriving cattle farm a devastating tornado, draught, and the crippling Ozarks’ ice storm. Farming hasn’t been easy for Don and Kathy, especially the last couple of years; nevertheless, they’ve done what good farmers do – adapted, persisted, and focused on the things that mattered most.
Don and Kathy Sissel laugh when you ask them just how they got into farming, “Well, to tell you the truth we were both born into it, I guess” said Don. Life on the farm is second nature to the couple, who are high school sweethearts. “I grew up on a dairy farm, and my job was to raise baby calves,” said Kathy. Likewise, Don’s family had a farm on the southwest side of Springfield. “Don was one of maybe four guys that walked around Glendale High School, proudly wearing his FFA jacket,” remembered Kathy with a grin, “of course at that time, they didn’t let girls into FFA, so I showed horses in 4-H.”
Over the years, the Sissels' farm has grown with them to accommodate their family and their lifestyle. Today Don and Kathy have transitioned their herd from registered Herefords to registered Angus. “After the tornado, we had a lot of work to do on the farm as far as repairing fences and cleaning up goes. So we dispersed most of our Herefords,” said Don. The Sissels made plans for the future, though, keeping some of their registered seed so their Hereford business can easily be back up and running full force with some embryo work.
“We started searching for someone to partner with us on an Angus herd, and decided we’d work with Stanley Anderson, a family friend that we’d known for 20 years. We knew he had good cattle, and a partnership with him would be something we could be proud of,” said Don. Don and Kathy were looking for cattle that they didn’t have to pamper. “We needed something with good calving ease because we weren’t at a point where we could always be around. We like the Angus because we’ve been able to sell our cattle to Commercial herds and we’ve also made a pretty good business raising bulls that are good quality, but we can offer them cheaper because we don’t have much overhead,” said Don.
Don and Kathy have learned to make the best out of what they have to work with. Even though they had a set back, they have taken advantage of some of the unique aspects of their land. “We have soil that’s a little sandy, so it stays moist. About 4 to 5 years ago, we started fertilizing with chicken litter and it’s really been a good move for us. We can usually graze our cattle until the first snow.” said Don.
Although the Sissels are passionate about raising good cattle, their hearts lie in working with youth who are interested in agriculture. “We’ve been involved in FFA and 4-H for a long time now, and we love what it does to help kids.” They recently took a group of 13 teenagers to a leadership conference at Mississippi State and make a trip to the Hereford Jr. Nationals each year, as well. “We knew the time spent with these kids was worth it when one of them told us that ‘we were the coolest old people’ he knew,” laughed Don.
For years, the Sissels have made it a priority to not only raise their children with a love and respect for agriculture, but they have taken the opportunity to help many kids get started in 4-H or FFA by offering their land for heifer programs and volunteering every chance they get.
The tornado that hit their farm in 2006 carried Don and Kathy’s “Sissel Polled Hereford” sign over 12 miles away. It’s safe to say, though, that the time the Sissels have invested in helping children will carry their influence much farther than that.