A Master Farmer assumes a leadership role in agriculture, citizenship and family values. Farming near Albion in Marshall County, Jeff and Christy Hibbs truly represent those standards.
Their cropping program uses the latest conservation methods to increase productivity while protecting soil and water. Their beef cattle enterprise uses top-quality genetics combined with sound management practices, while pushing the envelope of marketing ingenuity. And they’ve given back to their community in many ways over the years.
Jeff is now in his 40th year of farming. He bought his first farmland at age 19 with money borrowed from his grandmother for a down payment. Soon after, he and his brother began renting additional land to raise hogs and pasture their cattle.
“All I ever wanted was to be a farmer,” he says. “My family are farmers; all my role models were farmers.”
Marketing to maximize value
In addition to growing corn, soybeans and hay, the operation today includes a 250-cow commercial herd and a feedlot.
The couple is also involved in another venture: owning and operating the Market Off Main in Albion. They opened the small store in 2011. “We market some of our beef directly to consumers at the store,” Christy says.
The store also sells products from about 20 local vendors — tapping the growing trend for locally produced food. “Nearly everything in our store is grown or made in Iowa,” she notes, “including pork, lamb, chicken, eggs, milk, cheese, jams, honey, wine and much more.”
HOME SHOP: At The Market Off Main, Christy Hibbs sells some of their beef, along with products from about 20 local vendors, such as pork, lamb, honey and wine. The shop is an example of the Hibbs’ innovative spirit in their marketing strategy.
While Hibbs Farms Premium Angus Beef is sold at the store, most of their fed cattle are sold through Tama Livestock Auction in Tama.
Cattle have also been marketed through Iowa Premium Beef and Creek-stone Farms. They’ve also supplied beef to Isle of Capri Casino in Waterloo since 2012. The Hibbs maximize “value-added” dollars, selling beef directly to consumers with no middleman, through their retail store. Market Off Main also helps support the small-town economy, strengthening Jeff and Christy’s commitment to community.
Breeding program, management key
The Hibbs were named 2017 Commercial Producers of the Year recently by the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association.
Calves are fed out and finished on site; some heifers are sold for breeding. Nichols Farms Superior Beef Genetics has been the base of the herd for nearly 30 years. Continuous improvement is gained through a breeding program focusing on maternal traits, market performance and feed efficiency. Stringent culling maintains herd progress.
“We keep our own females as herd replacements,” Jeff says. Most of the cows are Angus, crossed with Simmental and South Devon.
Hibbs calves are known for feedlot performance, with decades of county and Iowa State Fair honors for rate of gain and carcass merit, placing in the top five for Beef of Merit at the state fair as well as two Reserve Champion ribbons in recent years. Hibbs cattle consistently grade 80% Choice or better. Jeff and Christy have twice participated in the Governor’s Charity Steer Show.
Hibbs Farms has one full-time employee, plus seasonal help in spring and fall. Jeff and Christy have employed nearly every neighboring youth during the summer, as well as spring and fall weekends over the last 30 years.
Continuous corn acres are chiseled, and a vertical tillage tool is used in spring. All corn-soybean rotation acres are no-till. Cover crops are planted in some areas, and buffer strips run along creeks.
The Hibbs Farm is located in the Iowa River Valley, with some acres situated along streams being in the Conservation Reserve Program. Sandier soils are in forage production, to provide hay and to keep soil in place.
Jeff currently serves as chair of the township trustees; Christy is township clerk. She served as treasurer of West Marshall Music and Fine Arts Boosters until daughter Hannah graduated from high school in 2015. Jeff has been a board member and past president of Marshall County Cattlemen’s Association, member of Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, and associate member of Marshall County Pork Producers and Iowa Pork Producers. He belongs to Iowa Corn, the Iowa Soybean Association and Farm Bureau.
4-H’ers benefit from their help
Both Jeff and Christy were 4-H leaders, and Jeff continues serving on the Marshall County Junior Beef Breeds committee. He is a Marshall County Hall of Fame Award recipient.
Always there to lend a hand to youth, Jeff helps 4-H members wanting to show cattle by providing them space in his barn and mentoring them on show skills, as well as providing transportation to fairs and cattle shows.
Jeff is a past member of Marshall County Extension Council, and Christy now serves as vice chair. Jeff has been a Mid-Iowa Cooperative Board member for 18 years and is a Marshall County Fair Board member and treasurer, serving as representative for the Marshall County board of supervisors. Jeff and Christy are members of New Hope Christian Church in Marshalltown.