MORRISTOWN, S.D. – When Tera Meyer graduated from Carrington (N.D.) High School, her future plans didn’t necessarily say, “marry a great guy and become a ranch co-owner/operator,” but that’s where her path led.
Tera is hard working, energetic and intelligent and has excelled in her career choice.
Although she grew up in town, Tera is a natural at farming and ranching.
She runs farm equipment, calves out 750 cows, does cattle chores, keeps the computer accounting programs and ranch paperwork current, and manages the lives of the Meyer family – including four young children.
“I have known Tera for about four years now, and am amazed at what a huge contribution she is to her family’s ranching and feedlot operation,” said Mark Eslinger, Bismarck. Eslinger is a chiropractor but also owns a beef cow herd. The Meyers custom fed and calved out his herd in recent years.
“If your award truly honors a farm and ranch woman who is an integral part of the operation, then Tera Meyer is a very deserving candidate,” Eslinger said.
Tera met her college sweetheart, Mark Meyer, in 1998, when she was just 18. He was a hard worker and lived more than 200 miles southwest of Carrington.
After a few months of dating, the couple traveled to the Meyer ranch to meet Mark’s parents.
There are 30 miles of gravel roads to reach the ranch.
“It was dark, so I didn’t get to see a lot when we first arrived, but I woke up and looked out this big picture window and you could see for miles,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow, I could see myself living here!’”
Tera says she wants to always remember that moment when she first saw the High Plains that she now calls home.
They married in 2001.
“When Mark went off to college, that’s when his dad, Ray, thought he would retire. He rented everything to the neighbor, but the lease came up the summer after Mark and I got married. We rented it from Ray and Joni,” said Tera. “We bought it officially just a few years back.”
Over the past 12 years, Tera and Mark have worked side-by-side to build their operation.
They started with 500 cows, a custom haying and spraying business and some farmland.
Today, they run 750 cows, a 900 head feedlot and 9,500 acres of cropland, including 4,000 acres of crop land and 5,500 acres of pasture.
In addition to farming and ranching, Tera is the primary caregiver for their four children, Madison, 11, Merissa, 8, Summer, 5, and Denver, 2.
“Tera gets the kids off to school, while taking care of the two youngest at home yet,” said Eslinger in his nomination letter. “She helps with all the chores in running the custom feedlot and the 750 cows they have. She does all the paperwork and bookkeeping in their business.”
Calving begins each April and continues through the summer and fall. Tera handles the majority of the calving work, while Mark takes care of the chores at the feedlot, plus a majority of the fieldwork.
“When my family comes to visit and they see us doing this work, they have a hard time with the concept, because they see me doing work that they never thought they would see,” she said.
Not only did Tera have to absorb the language of and skills involved with farms and ranches, she also continues to absorb information because things change so quickly in agriculture.
“I tell my kids (that) when I’m out teaching them something and they get frustrated, that they have to be open to learning,” she said. “I still learn things every day.”
All of the harvested hay and corn are used for the feedlot and cow herd.
“We are not a standard operation – our rotation changes so frequently,” she said. “If we are wet and the corn is good, we will combine a majority of it. Last year, we had to chop quite a bit, because it started drying up. We make sure we have an adequate amount of feed to get us through the winter.”
The Meyers conduct business with Schiefelbein Angus of Kimball, Minn., and Wulf Cattle of Morris, Minn. To work with these family-owned operations, the Meyers raise Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC) and Grazing Animal Project (GAP) certified cattle that are valued by both Minnesota farms.
There is a lot of paperwork that goes into documenting NHTC and GAP, and Tera keeps track of that. With the documentation in place, these two farms offer calf buy-back programs for operations that purchase their bulls.
“We knew if we wanted to continue to receive their business, we had to keep up with the times,” she said.
She also does all of the paperwork needed by the Farm Service Agency office.
Tera had her plate full following a barn fire late last year.
The Meyers were in Carrington visiting Tera’s family for Christmas, when they got a phone call from back home. Their machine and calving barn, with all of the cattle feeding equipment, burned down during the night.
Employees left the farm the previous evening around 5-6 p.m., and when they returned at 7 a.m., the building was burned up.
“A snowstorm came, and the fire was electrical,” she said. “The wind blew so hard, and it must have burned hard and hot. It burned everything up inside and the roof caved in and put itself out.”
Tera had to come up with receipts for everything in the barn – to give to the insurance company. That included receipts for tractors, the feed wagon, the skid loader and the pay loader. It also included everything for sleeping quarters (no one was at the barn when it burned) and Tera’s veterinary supplies. The children’s 4-H goats were also lost in the fire, although there were no cattle in the barn.
“We got the call, and it had just stormed, so we were driving really slow, but trying to drive fast. One of the kids was sick. We got home, and the electricity was out in the house and for the water for the cows.”
While Tera cared for the children, Mark called the neighbors who brought equipment to get the cattle fed and watered.
Working together, everything was accomplished. A new barn was built by April, in time for calving.
“We got the pens in two days before a snowstorm hit,” she said.
Tera and Mark have built their operation quickly over the past 12 years.
In addition to all of the farm and ranch work, Tera is active with the children in their church, school and 4-H club activities.
She also recently assisted in staging a benefit for a baby born with heart problems. The benefit for Kash Maher was called “Cash for Kash.”
The event pulled the community together to round up about $40,000 for some of Kash’s expenses for three heart surgeries. He’s had two surgeries and will need the third surgery when he is about five year old.
Tera also enjoys taking photographs, and she has shot photos of the Maher Angus Bull Sale, as well as the Carson Rodeo.
It’s a great way to capture that beautiful light of the High Plains that she plans to always call home.