DODGE CITY, KS – Two well-known South Dakota cattlemen are among those recently inducted into the Cattle Marketing Hall of Fame that recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to competitive marketing and true price discovery.
JOHN C. “JACK” HUNTER, ARDMORE, S.D.
John C. “Jack” Hunter was born to John W. “Jack” Hunter and Mary Berquist on April 4, 1951. He was the 4th generation born on a ranch in the northwest corner of Fall River County, Ardmore, South Dakota. He was the only child of the couple. His father ranched and his mother taught school.
Jack’s mother moved out from California after she and Jack’s father met at Officer’s Training Camp in Utah, shortly after World War II. To say that it was a culture shock for her was an understatement, but she loaded up on the train and moved out East. She was a graduate of the University of California Berkley and his father attended South Dakota School of the Mines & Technology until the war broke out.
Jack started school in Oelrichs, South Dakota, where his mother taught. With the changing of her contracts so did his schooling, until they ended up in the Igloo school district at the Igloo Depot. He was an Igloo Rattlesnake until sadly the depot closed and his mother began teaching in the neighboring school of Edgemont, South Dakota.
At the beginning of his junior year of high school, he became an Edgemont Mogul. That same year, something else exciting happened to Jack. Laurel Erickson had moved to Edgemont. Her father Gene Erickson started up The Southern Hills Bank. So both being new students that year, I would imagine they became fast friends and started running around together.
In addition to ranching Jack’s father, Jack, also was an area rodeo announcer. He traveled throughout the Midwest and was often disappointed in the sound equipment. So, he started his own sound company, Jack Hunter Sound. This enterprise grew to quite the operation. The younger Jack traveled on many of his dad’s crews all across the middle of the country, he worked all summer either at the ranch or on the road until the end of his high school career.
After graduation, both Jack and Laurel attended South Dakota State University where they married in the winter of their sophomore year. Jack went on to graduate in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in Ranch Management. Following graduation, they both returned to the ranch to take over.
Jack and Laurel worked side by side at the ranch with cattle and ewes. They had three children, Kris, Ross and Alicia. Jack ranched and was very active in the local community of Edgemont, where he never knew a stranger and still doesn’t. He was approached in 1980 by another young man, Doug Strotheide, who just had taken over management of the Crawford Livestock Auction to become a field representative. With Jack’s knowledge of cattle and genuine demeanor he soon had many customers in the Southern Black Hills, taking their stock from Edgemont Livestock to the rival barn in Crawford.
Then in 1985, he was presented an opportunity to purchase the Edgemont Livestock Auction. He and Laurel took on the challenge without pause. In doing so, he was no longer a field representative for Crawford. He owned and operated the Edgemont barn for 4 years. Once again, Jack was approached by that same young man, Doug Strotheide, who was the manager but now was the owner of Crawford Livestock. He told Jack that he was taking all his business, so they may as well become partners. So it was to that, the two became business partners in the Edgemont & Crawford sale barns.
They successfully grew and ran both barns, when once again another opportunity presented itself. Gordon Livestock was being ran into a deficit. It went to a board of shareholders, who approached the Hunter & Strotheide duo to take that failing barn and turn it into a success. In 1992, Jack and Laurel moved themselves and their younger two children, Ross and Alicia, to Gordon. Kris had graduated high school and was attending college.
Shortly thereafter they made the decision to shut down the Edgemont barn. It was a small barn that had very small facilities.
Jack ran the Gordon country, tripling the head count that was being marketing at GLM. Shortly after he and Doug had the two barns up and running, they became reps for Western Video Market. This was a new dynamic riveting way to market cattle. Jack was never opposed to progress. He always wanted to make sure his customers were taken care of to the best of his ability.
In the early 2000’s they took on a third partner and with that partner they took on a small feedlot operation. This was a way Jack felt he could help market support the cattle that came through the barn. Jack felt that just because someone didn’t have load lots, but had damn good cattle, they should bring the market as well. He always made sure they did.
In 2003, Jack and Laurel bought out both partners and solely ran GLM & CLM. They then sold Gordon Livestock to focus all their time on Crawford Livestock. This also afforded him the opportunity to be closer to the ranch, which his only son Ross took over. Ross and his family still run the family homestead and his children are the sixth generation.
Jack has been in the cattle marketing business for 43 years. In that time he has volunteered countless hours selling 4-H sales, labor auctions and helping the community in any way he can. There isn’t a better cattleman out there. He knows cattle and what they are worth. He is honest to a fault, but can get away like no one else teasing his customers from the auction block.
Laurel worked by his side for 53 years. All three of his children are involved in the business in some way which is a testament to Jack’s passion for the business. His oldest Kris works in the office in the fall and busy spring sales on Fridays, which is our sale day. His son Ross sells for us and followed in his dad’s foot-steps as a true cattleman himself. His youngest daughter, Alicia and her husband Rich, bought the barn from them and are continuing the path of true price discovery.
GERALD DON “BEEF” PALMER, MARTIN, S.D.
Gerald Don “Beef” Palmer was born September 27, 1934 in Martin, SD to Vernald and Charlotte Palmer. Over the years he gained the nickname of “Beef” and basically all his friends and colleagues would address him by this name rather than his given name.
During his school years he enjoyed playing football and his hobbies included hunting and fishing and helping his dad on the farm. After graduation he attended and completed Auctioneer School in Mason City, Iowa. He then went on to auction at various sale barns within his home and surrounding areas.
On August 24, 1957 he married Carol Bettcher and they made their home on a farm East of Martin, SD where they ranched and raised six children (Tim, Patty, Susan, Sharla, Penny and Tracee). Of course over his life his family grew and he gained grandkids and great grandkids; all of whom he doted on and spoiled. He would ask them “want to go to the sale barn?” this is how he instilled all of the knowledge of cattle and livestock to his grandkids, by letting them tag along.
Over the years he ran Palmer Trucking where hauling cattle was the main endeavor, but his main occupation and joy was being a cattle order buyer, Buyer #5. From the minute he got up to when he went to bed he was on the phone talking to individuals about their wants and needs. In his early years he went to sales six days a week but as he got older he cut back to 5 days. He traveled to the South Dakota and Nebraska auction barns. From the Northern Hills area (St Onge, Belle Fourche, Sturgis) to the Nebraska area (Crawford, Rushville, Gordon) and local surrounding area (Burke and Martin Livestock). No matter the weather he was definitely committed to doing what he loved and traveled each day and stayed until the last cow sold.
The “first” time Beef set foot in a sale barn was the original Martin Livestock Auction in Martin, SD in 1953 at the age of 19. Although his order buyer occupation didn’t start until 1958. The last time was in 2018 at the age of 84 which makes his career of being an order buyer an impressive, 60 years.
As far as a cattle order buyer, you can ask anyone at the sale barn, he was a legacy. #5 was his buyer number and the amount of livestock bought under that number throughout his career was way too many to count. He could figure in his head quicker than you could run a calculator.
One testimonial from a client “Beef bought several thousand cows for me over about 18 years, I never could decide if he was a walking computer or a mathematical genius, I could ask him how many cows he had bought for me that day and he could tell me how many and what they weighed and what the average cost was. And he did it all from his mind. In all the years I knew him he never wrote anything down, although he would buy for several customers at a time, he knew exactly the figures for each of his purchasers.” Another testimonial “There should be a cattle buyers hall of fame and the entrance should be based on his dedication. Beef was 100% dedicated.”
Gerald “Beef” Palmer passed away January 17, 2019 at the age of 84. The day he was admitted into the hospital for his illness he was at the Martin Livestock weekly sale doing what he loved to do, buying cattle for his customers. His funeral service was held at the Martin Livestock Sale Ring, which seemed fitting as the Sale Ring and friends were as much a part of his life and family as his own was. The #5 buyer’s number has since been retired at his circuit of sale barns in honor of his legacy of a cattle buyer.
See the full slate of inductees here.