The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
by Dessa Rodeffer, Quill Publisher/Owner
The Tri-County Cattlemen Annual Banquet honored one of their own Saturday evening at WIU Union Grand Ball Room in Macomb.
Around 400 gathered to enjoy a delicious steak dinner and to be entertained by a comedian-Ventroliquist, recognize scholarship winners and give special awards in Memory of State Representative Rich Myers and Cattleman of the Year.
Vividly described as a man with great passion for his work by Trey Brokaw, a student at Monmouth College, a well-thought-out speech led to the announcement of this year's special award-winner who just happened to be Trey's grandfather-John Brokaw of Raritan. Trey's speech which he wrote with the help of John's sister Lois and Fred and Ed follows:
"This year's Tri-Country Cattleman of the Year Award goes to a man who has had a very long and successful career as both a pioneer and an innovator in the farming community.
"Born in 1933 on a farmstead in southern Henderson County he has shown the hard work, determination, and dedication that this award was designed to represent.
As a young child growing up on the farm, our award winner got involved at a very young age. Every morning before school he and his four older siblings had chores that needed to be done such as milking his father's dairy cows.
His father who was a third generation farmer, had not only dairy cattle, but also a small beef herd and hogs that needed cared for throughout our cattleman's childhood.
Like many of the young men of that generation, he decided to enlist into the United States Military after he graduated from high school.
So in 1952, this year's award winner enlisted in the United States Navy where he served as a mechanic during the Korean War for four years.
In 1956, after his duty with the Navy was over, he returned home to Southern Henderson County. Although there wasn't room for him on the family farm, this year's award recipient found a promising job as a hired man for Joe Peasley, who was a large scale grain and livestock farmer southwest of Stronghurst.
After some time as a hired hand, Joe Peasley, and our award winner decided to go into a partnership with one another. This was a very successful partnership for a few years until an opportunity opened up back home on the family farm that was too good to resist.
In 1960, our cattleman of the year went into partnership with his older brother back home. Together they started a dairy operation, however that was not the only priority on his mind.
Just two years before, in 1958, our award recipient got married to Marjorie Logan and together they adopted two children.
Besides working on the family farm with his brother and starting a family of his own, he also got a job as a welder in the mid-1960's at Case International in Burlington, Iowa.
In 1967, his older brother decided to pursue other farming opportunities in the South American country of Brazil.
With too much on his plate, our award winner decided to focus on farming completely.
He also switched over from having a dairy herd to having a beef herd. However, as we all know, farming is a gamble. With that in mind, our cattleman decided he should seek a college degree in case farming didn't work out.
So, from 1967-1970 he attended Western Illinois University where he majored in psychology. Although college made life a little more challenging, he still managed to become a very successful farmer. So successful that in 1969 he won the National Soybean Grower of the Year Award for having the highest bushel per acre yield in the entire country.
If that wasn't impressive enough, our cattleman followed his 1969 record yield with an even better yield in 1970. His average of 76.6 bushels per acre was yet again the best in the country making him the only two-time winner of the prestigious award.
In 1969 and 1970 the average bushel per acre yield for soybeans was 27.3. Our award winner managed to more than double that number all while starting a new family, a new farm operation, and attending college.
Because of his success as a soybean grower he won two trips to tour and meet with foreign dignitaries in Japan and across Europe through Elanco Products Company and the Illinois Crop Improvement Association.
With the news of his visit to Japan and his success as a farmer a Japanese civil engineer asked to stay with his family for one year to learn more about successful farming practices here in the United States.
In that year a Japanese film crew came over to film a documentary about a typical American farmer who, ironically, wasn't so typical.
Life didn't slow down much entering the mid-1970's for our award winner.
He began showing cattle at local fairs with his sons, was elected to a position on the Select Sires board, and continued to grow and improve his beef cattle operation.
In 1978, his two sons Fred and Ed had hit the pinnacle of their showing career. That was the year that one of their steers, born and raised on our award winner's farm, won the Grand Champion Middle Weight class at the Illinois State Fair.
With selected breeding on everyone's mind in the show industry, our award winner volunteered in 1979 to become a test herd for the new and hopefully improved technology of artificial insemination. Conjointly, in cooperation with Select Sires, our award winner had one of the first beef cattle herds in the nation to be heat synchronized. At it's peak, our award winner had upwards of 800 cattle at one time on his farm with 200 of those being cows calving. In recent years his cow herd decreased in size to about 100 head of cows.
He retired completely from the cattle industry this past December, and his plans after retirement include, but are not limited to, doing whatever the h- he wants to, because he has earned the right to do so.
Without further a due. I will proudly present to you all this year's Tri-County Cattleman of the Year, my grandfather, John F. Brokaw.
Trey Brokaw with his grandfather John Brokaw. Other family members present were John's sons Fred (Maggie) and Ed (Lisa) and grandchildren Jordan, Dalton, and Madison Brokaw.