In 1969, Gerhardt Heine died at the age of 59, leaving behind his wife, Florence, and eight children ranging in age from 8 to 21.
Florence faced the decision of what to do with the Fordyce, Neb., farm that had been in the family since 1905. With determination, she and the oldest son, Gary, who had always been very involved with the farm, led the operation through the years until the rest of the sons became adults.
“Florence was such a matriarch of the family. She really kept things going,” said daughter-in-law Janet Heine. “She will be 93, and we still get together as a family.”
Last week, the Heines — including Florence — gathered for another family celebration.
Heine Farm & Feedyard, Ron and Steve Heine and family, were introduced as the 2013 Farm Family of the Year during the annual Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce Ag Gala.
Ron Heine accepted the honor on behalf of the family members gathered on stage during the program.
“I think the award is very exciting to get,” he said. “I think the Chamber has done a lot of work with this banquet, and I want to thank them for it. We are very appreciative and thank you very much.”
Ron Heine acknowledged the large audience that packed the Riverfront Event Center banquet room and showed support for agriculture. He particularly noted the gala newcomers. “It’s good to see a lot of new faces,” he said.
Ron Heine graduated from Cedar Catholic High School in Hartington, then earned an associate degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has remained active with the cattle business and currently resides in Yankton. He has five children: Jeremy, Ross, Erin, Alex and Adam.
Steve and Janet Heine live on the family homestead. Steve graduated from Cedar Catholic High School. He has always worked on the farm and is currently co-manager and owner. Janet grew up on a farm/ranch operation near Ree Heights and graduated from Miller High School and from Northern State University in Aberdeen.
The couple met while she was working in admissions at Mount Marty College in Yankton. They married in 1994 and have three children: Garrett, Ashley and Lauren.
With Gerhardt’s death at an early age, the Heine family faced many challenges in keeping the farm going, Janet said.
“Gary said, ‘I think Dad had an instinct (about his early passing). During the last year or two of his life, my dad took me along to the sale barn and taught me so much,’” she said.
Eventually, the five brothers — Gary, Gene, Ron, Tom and Steve — formed a partnership. They farmed in Nebraska and Yankton County, and they fed cattle in Nebraska for themselves and a custom feeding operation.
In 2002, the five brothers bought Yankton Livestock. In 2004, Gary and Tom bought out the other three brothers in the auction business, and Steve and Ron solely bought the feedlot. The Heines continue doing business with each other.
Currently, Steve and Ron own and operate the homestead farm as a custom feed yard. Primarily, the Heines feed out feeder cattle for themselves and customers. They also raise corn and soybeans.
Heine Farm & Feedyard feed out more than 30,000 head of feeder cattle annually. Packers that purchase from Heine Farm & Feedyard include Tyson Foods, Cargill, Greater Omaha and many others. Hay, alfalfa and more than one million bushels of corn are purchased annually from area farmers.
Customers feed cattle at Heine Farm & Feedyard from as near as Crofton, Neb., and Scotland and as far away as California and Virginia.
The Heines are looking forward to passing the farm to the next generation, if they desire, Janet said.
“It’s very important to Steve that we live on the homestead, that his family continues to live here as the years go by,” she said. “We want to keep things going for the younger members of the family, if they so choose to do so later.”
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