By Lilly Platts |
NCSA Executive Secretary Jennie Rucker is one of many influential women in the Simmental community.
Jennie Rucker has served as the North Carolina Simmental Association’s (NCSA) Executive Secretary for 26 years, seeing the organization and group through decades of success and challenge. She is a lifelong advocate for the Simmental breed and has helped facilitate numerous events, sales, and youth programs over the years.
The South Carolina native first became involved with the breed during her studies at Clemson University. “I majored in Animal Science and also met my future husband, Phil Rucker, there. Phil came from a Charolais farm and with him, I learned about exhibiting cattle and the purebred cattle business. I also worked for Dr. Carl Thompson at Clemson and through him, I learned about the Simmental breed since he also raised them (and still does!). I was on the Clemson Livestock Judging Team in 1983 and really enjoyed seeing good cattle operations as the team traveled and practiced at many places.”
She and Phil moved throughout the south, working various jobs in agriculture before settling back in North Carolina on a Hereford operation. Here, they began a family, and Rucker was approached about leading the NCSA. “After my second child was born, a Simmental breeder asked if I would be interested in working for the North Carolina Simmental Association. This was a part-time job that I could do at home without leaving my kids.”
The family was also able to start their own herd of cows. “Phil and I were able to purchase our own Simmental cattle after he went to work for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and raise our herd with the Rucker Family Farm (RFF) prefix. We have had some great times in the breed with all four of our children showing Simmental cattle and even managed to have some grand champions at the State Fair, which was definitely a high point for us. Our oldest daughter, Erin, also had the third top purebred Simmental heifer at the 2007 AJSA Eastern Regional, which definitely is a great memory for us. Now since most of our children are grown, we don’t show cattle anymore but have had success by sending our bulls to the state bull test stations where they have been some of the top gaining bulls.”
Through the NCSA, Rucker has helped host and co-hosted two AJSA Regional Classics, been a part of one of the longest-running state consignment sales, Fall Harvest, and much more. She has also seen the Association through some difficult times. “Our North Carolina Simmental Association has been through some very good times but also some very hard times as most organizations invariably do over time. We were once in bad shape financially but our fellow Simmental producer, Jim Hunt, and his wife, Carolyn, stepped up to help our organization in a way that only he could. He just happened to be Governor at the time and came up with the idea that he would hold a fundraiser at the Governor’s Mansion to raise money for our organization and establish a junior Simmental scholarship.”
Rucker is also thankful for the community the Simmental breed has brought into her life. “In my job as Executive Secretary, I have been very lucky to come to know Dr. Jerry Lipsey, Paulette Cochenour, Nancy Chesterfield, Doug and Debbie Parke, Gordon Hodges, Jim and Carolyn Hunt, and so many other great Simmental producers from our state and also the surrounding states. In my job every year, I also get to go to a producer’s farm and interview them to write an article for our Simmental spotlight issue of The Carolina Cattle Connection. This is one of the favorite parts of my job as I love to visit cattle people and I also love to write! I would like to give a lot of credit to our sale manager, Doug Parke, and his family for really helping us to turn our sale into one that is well-respected and people really look forward to both consigning to our sale and to buying quality genetics from our sale.” Advocating for the larger beef industry is also important to Rucker. “We need to work together to promote that beef is a safe, healthy option and our cattle are very well cared for. One thing our children learned very quickly on the show road was that the cattle get fed and cared for before the family did. Our children grew up eating the cattle that we raised and knowing that was just a part of life. I am very proud to say that all four of my children, Erin, Rae, Jacob, and Christy, do their own part in talking with their peers about the beef industry and explaining the facts since so many of their friends know nothing about farm life or how our food is raised and grown. I also teach second graders every year about beef cattle during the Farm Animal Days of Yadkin and Davie County.”
She encourages those interested in updates on the NCSA like their Facebook page or call her at their office. “I am very blessed to be able to have my job as NCSA Executive Secretary and I hope to be able to continue this job as long as I am able.”