Prime beef

Albion couple named 2017 Iowa Outstanding Commercial Beef Producers

Christy and Jeff Hibbs

ALBION — Each year the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association honors an outstanding commercial cattle producer who has “given their all” to make the industry the best it can be. The 2017 recipients of this honor is Jeff and Christy Hibbs of Albion.

Criteria for the award is that the producer must be a member of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association that is in good standing and has a minimum of three years in the cattle business. Judging is based on management practices, involvement in the industry and achievements amongst other credentials.

“What makes this huge and humbling is that we were nominated by Dave Nichols of Nichols Farms in Bridgewater, Iowa,” Christy said. “Dave is nationally known in the cattle industry and we have bought our breeding bulls from him for the past 30 years. It totally blew us away when he called and said he was nominating us for the award.”

Quoting Nichols from the letter of nomination (as stated in the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association magazine), “If the outstanding beef producer is one that makes sound use natural and personal resources, promotes agriculture through outreach and example, is consistently innovative and productive; if the Iowa Outstanding Commercial Beef Producer looks to the future and grows the community as well as his cow herd and feedlot; if the Iowa Outstanding Commercial Beef Producer is one who blazes the trail and raises the bar for all who follow – then Jeff and Christy Hibbs are truly worthy of this coveted award and the recognition that goes with it.”

The couple received a letter telling them that they had been selected to receive the award in mid-November and the award was presented to them on Dec. 7 at the Iowa Cattle Industry’s Leadership Summit in Ames.

“We are honored. It is nice to be recognized for working hard and doing things the right way,” Christy said. “It is nice to be recognized for making a commitment to the cattle industry, but especially humbling to be nominated by the person who thought of us.”

Jeff’s experience in the cattle business began at age nine when he took out a loan and bought his first 4-H calf. At age 19 he began raising cattle as an occupation when he bought his first farm. In 1981, Jeff and Christy were married and began growing and improving their operation ever since.

Currently the Hibbs have approximately 275 head of cattle in their farm operation. It is an Angus-based herd, but crossed with Simmental and South Devon which gives the status of being a commercial herd. Christy said that their actual number varies from year to year, and that the availability of pastureland in the area limits the number in any operation due to the majority of farms being planted in row crops.

Hibbs farms participates in a breeding program focusing on marketing performance and feed efficiency with calving taking place both in the Spring and Fall to meet their family’s direct marketing approach. The couple sell custom quarters, halves and whole beef to consumers for their freezers; cuts of beef at their store The Market off Main in Albion; and to the Isle of Capri Casino in Waterloo. Their quality beef has consistently placed in the top five of the Beef of Merit Show at the Iowa State Fair and grades at 80 percent choice or better.

“Our little market came to be quite by accident,” Christy remarked. “The original plan for the building was to very simply serve as an office for our farming operation, a storage facility for all of my farmer’s market “stuff” and a home (other than our garage) for the three large chest freezers we used for storing our beef products.”

“After telling a friend about the building purchase, she suggested we think about inviting other producers to place product in the building and have a farm fresh market,” Christy continued. “That wasn’t really what I had in mind, but after some ongoing debate with my spouse and more brainstorming with my friend, we started thinking in a different direction and Market off Main opened in May of 2011.”

Christy said she also uses the store as a tool to educate people when they have questions about agricultural production practices, GMOs, etc. “There is a large number of people who are genuinely concerned about how their food is produced or raised, and in the case of livestock what it had been fed and how it is treated,” Christy said.

However, the real goal of the store is to provide a direct marketing tool for consumers to buy quarters, halves and whole premium beef.

The contract with the Waterloo casino began in 2012.

“They found us on the store’s website,” Christy said. “They were looking for a place to buy beef where they could get a handle on where it came from and how it was produced We happened to fit what they were looking for and it has been a good working relationship ever since.”

Outside of farming and operation of the market, Jeff is involved as a member of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association and in the Marshall County Cattlemen (where he had served as an at-large board member and president). He still is a member of the Central Iowa Fair Board and is on the Board of Directors of the Mid-Iowa Cooperative. He is a Marshall County Township Trustee and a member of the Marshall County 4-H Beef Committee.

The Hibbs’ continue to focus on their future of their operation, as daughter Hannah and nephew Tanner are currently the sixth generation of Hibbs in Marshall County.