Jeanne White, Groton, New York, owner and manager of Simme Valley Ranch, a 50-head purebred cattle operation, has been an ardent advocate for Simmental on a local, state, and national level for over 40 years. As New York Simmental Association’s (NYSA) secretary since 1989, she has written and edited the NYSA’s newsletter, published five times a year, hosted hundreds of youth clinics, and organized an annual New York all-breed cattle event.
A native of Rhode Island, White left the ‘Ocean State’ at 19 years old for Kansas, where she met her late husband Ken. After they got married, Jeanne and Ken started breeding Quarter Horses, but later shifted gears to breeding Simmental cattle. In 1968, the Whites moved to New York to be closer to family.
“We brought a dozen cows from Kansas with us and had our first purebred Simmental born in New York in 1978. For us, a bull is extremely important, but those cows are what makes the herd, and we put a lot of interest in our females. My primary objective is to market females as replacements and to 4-Hers. We promote mostly through showing. I have a good market for heifers as show prospects and I consign cow-calf pairs to the Stars and Stripes Sale in Pennsylvania.”
Five times a year, White writes and edits the NYSA newsletter. Subscribers vary from local residents to ASA Board Trustees and staff members, to other serious cattle producers. “We put out a 24-page newsletter five times a year, and I put together the directory every year. The thing I tell people about this newsletter is that you don’t have to just like Simmental. The articles focus on beef cattle management. Sure, we promote what Simmental is doing in the state and nationally, but basically the newsletter’s about beef. It has a larger audience than just New York Simmental breeders for that reason.”
To save on expenses, White manages bulk purchases of semen for NYSA members each year. When the order comes in March, they hold a meeting in the basement of the local church and swing by the ranch afterward to look at her herd. “By purchasing semen in bulk, we receive a 10% to 30% discount and the shipping fees are much lower. They place their order with me, and then I deal with ABS, GENEX, Select Sires, and Cattle Visions. We also can buy bulk syringes, AI drugs, supplies, and ear tags.”
“After the meeting, we walk through the herd to see the newborns. So we all bundle up and either go out in the mud or snow, whatever we happen to have at the end of March, and everybody gets to look at the babies, which is a lot of fun. We really enjoy that.”
In 2012, at the age of 65, Ken passed away from lung cancer, and Jeanne needed another set of hands to help her with the operation. “When I lost Kenny, my nephew Phil called me and asked if I wanted him to come out and help. That was seven years ago this January. Recently, we have been transitioning into him making most of the day-to-day decisions, in case I want to retire soon.”
White’s daughter, Michelle Bennett lives in Vermont with her husband, Randy. Growing up, Michelle was very involved with exhibiting Simmental cattle in 4-H. For White, working with the juniors at the local fairs was the inspiration behind hosting youth clinics on the farm. She says, “We started doing a junior clinic at our farm, and eventually opened it up to the whole state. We would do showmanship, fitting — each year we’d try to cover different topics for the kids. We would go to different farms and help the children figure out the cattle’s nutritional needs. We’d bring scales and weigh them and tell the kids what they needed to do as far as adjusting. We’d see what they were feeding, and we’d tell them how to adjust their feed and just work with the kids so they could learn as much as they wanted. It helped that Ken was a nutritionist.”
A couple of decades ago, White started organizing the Fall Festival, an all-breed state cattle event. The format follows the competition format of the AJSA Classic Events. The event includes meat identification, judging, stockmen’s quiz, team marketing, and team fitting in addition to the cattle show and showmanship. “My two grandsons, Cody and Cory, went to every National Classic. I ended up going with them to Ohio and Indiana to watch them show. That’s when I got the idea of the Fall Festival because I saw all this competition the kids were doing. You didn’t have to have a top animal that you raised or daddy had the money to buy. You could go there and use your brains and still compete. I thought that was phenomenal. I retired from the Fall Festival four years ago, but it’s still running strong.”
At 72-years-old, White isn’t about to slow down. She laughs, “My motto is: you use it or you lose it. I am still active on the farm, and I work out frequently. I’m still out hauling buckets, halter breaking, and heat detecting for our 100% AI program. I do most of the tractor driving while feeding bales. I am in agriculture because it’s my life and I love it — I am living the dream.”