Tag: Simplot

Women in Ag: Cattle Industry Champion, Ramona Karas

Ramona Ridley Karas was raised on a farm in Marsing, Idaho. Upon graduation Ramona participated in the Lions Club exchange program and spent two months in a rural town in Australia. After returning home, she attended college at Boise State University while working at US Bank for 10 years. She met and married Buster Ridley and had a daughter, Sierra.  Living on the ranch is when she began working at Simplot Livestock, where she’s worked for almost 24 years, holding various positions, but now serving as Marketing Solutions Manager of Simplot Land & Livestock. Ramona now lives in Nampa and is married to Brandon Karas, who also works in the agriculture industry. During Ramona’s tenure with Simplot, she has served our local communities in many capacities, volunteering with Canyon County Boys & Girls Club; Canyon County Festival of Trees; Agribusiness Chamber Member and class volunteer for the Grand View Grade School.

We would also like to point out that Ramona has served on the Idaho Cattle Association’s Board of Directors for the past 21 years, where she has held the position of Feeder Council Chairman; Cow-Calf Chairman; Director at Large; Allied Industry Chairman; PAC Committee; CALF Board and Convention Committee.

How are you involved in agriculture today? I work for one of the largest agribusiness companies in Idaho—Simplot. I am currently the Marketing Solutions Manager for Simplot Land & Livestock. We have one of the largest cow-calf operations and feedlots in the U.S. and farm approximately 70,000 acres. We also distribute animal health products, seed, supplies, equipment, and manufacture feed and mineral for the dairy and beef industries. I’m proud of our commitment to help every aspect of the cattle industry raise quality animals

How has your life been shaped by agriculture? I grew up on a farm, where we raised mostly corn, alfalfa seed and pasture for grazing. We ran some yearlings in the summertime and I participated in 4-H with a steer until I graduated from high school. I loved horses, but my father always said they were “hay burners,” so I couldn’t have one. Finally I had a bet with my dad that if I won All -Around Showman of the Owyhee County Fair, he would have to buy me a horse! I loved that horse for the rest of my high school years, and even ended up taking Horse 4-H as well! Being raised on the farm, you learn to rise with the sun, work all day and sometimes not go to bed until long after the sun has set. We sat down to the table at meals as a family and talked—no cell phones, no TV, just family talk. We were very scheduled: Lunch was always served at noon, dinner was at 6:30 and at 3:30 when we got off the bus, Grandma had something baked and everyone took a break for baked goods and coffee. Being raised in an agriculture environment taught me to be a dedicated worker, not looking at a clock to see if it was 5:00 and time to end the work day, but rather to look at a job and see what was needed to complete the task, timetable aside. It taught be to be flexible, that Mother Nature will be consistent—consistently changing. It taught me to have patience; good things come to those that toil.

Ramona and her daughter, Sierra Ridley-Palmer, during the 2014 ICA Annual Convention and Trade Show.

Ramona and her daughter, Sierra Ridley-Palmer, during the 2014 ICA Annual Convention and Trade Show.

Who inspires you or serves as a mentor? When I started at Simplot I knew much more about farming than I did cattle. Tom Basabe (President of Simplot Land and Livestock), my boss, took the time to teach me about feeding cattle: limited feeding method; rations; conversion rates; average daily gains, trials, and many other things I’d never heard of before. It was also the first time I ate a steak that was cooked medium and oh how great that was! My family had always cooked meat well done! Tom gave me responsibility to do my job, but always let me know he was there if needed. He helped me with my decision-making skills, taking responsibility, and being dedicated to the agricultural industry.

How do you provide encouragement to others? Laughter! As I’ve aged, I realize life isn’t that complicated.  My advice is don’t be too serious, and try to find humor and goodness in life’s everyday trials.

If given the chance, what message about agriculture or the beef industry would you share with a large group of people? I would challenge them to understand where their food really comes from. Not the grocery store, not the convenience store, but from the farm and ranches—both family and corporate owned. They need to realize that as the population increases we need to continue to improve our footprint to provide sustainability for future generations.

What are you most thankful for? I am most thankful for God who has blessed my life with so many wonderful things: a career in agriculture, a supportive family, an abundance of friends, good health, a sweet daughter and a loving husband.

What is your favorite meal to cook yourself or for others? Well, I love cooking, so that’s a hard one. I guess it would have to be that perfect New York steak, cooked medium rare, pan-seared in a cast iron skillet, finished in the oven, smothered with white wine cream sauce, caramelized onions and a bit of blue cheese sprinkled on top. Add a wedge salad topped with red onions, diced tomatoes, crisp bacon, blue cheese crumbles with a ranch/balsamic vinegar glaze and you are in heaven! And don’t forget the glass (or bottle) or earthly red wine. You don’t even have to have bread with this meal!

Ramona and her husband, Brandon, were married 11/12/13, in Sun Valley.

Ramona and her husband, Brandon, were married Nov. 12, 2013, in Sun Valley.

What is the first thing you do when you walk into a grocery store? I walk around the perimeter starting on the right (which is usually the fresh veggies), then dairy section (gotta have my cheese! And half and half for my coffee), then to the meat section, ending at the wine. I only go down the center isles if I need something else.

What are some of your favorite pastimes and/or hobbies?  I love cooking, traveling, camping, fishing, riding the Harley, skydiving, zip line, most anything with an element of danger.

What are three little known facts about you? 1) I took ballet lessons for seven years (hated every minute of it!). 2) I was a pro marksman (beating all the boys) in Junior High. 3) I love looking like a badass, wearing my leathers and riding the Harley!

Be sure to follow Ramona on Facebook!

Categories: Beef, Blogging, Idaho Cattlewomen, Ranch Life

Women in Ag: Simplot Land Manager, Darcy Helmick

Darcy was born and raised on her parent’s ranch, based in Mayfield, Idaho. During college, Darcy fought fire for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and continued to help her parents on their ranch. After a short stent working for the Idaho Department of Lands, Darcy was hired on at J.R. Simplot Company, in the Land and Livestock Division, as a monitoring specialist. Darcy is also an alumnus of the Leadership Idaho Ag program, graduating from Class 32.

How are you involved in agriculture today? Currently, I am the land manager for Simplot Livestock Company based in Grand View, Idaho. There I manage all of Simplot’s public land grazing allotments, working with federal and state agency staff, Simplot managers and cowboys. I am on the board for three Rangeland Fire Protection Associations, including Saylor Creek, Three Creek and Black Canyon, and am a member for the Shoshone Basin RFPA. I also serve as the public lands chair for the Idaho Cattle Association (ICA), and am the delegate representing Idaho at the Public Lands Council. In my spare time I help my parents with their cow-calf operation. 

How has your life been shaped by agriculture? Both sides of my family have been involved in agriculture, long before I was born. My parents started their cow-calf operation just before I was born and have continued to expand it over the years. Growing up living on a ranch and showing 4-H animals, I learned the importance of hard work, persistence, patience, communication and good hard work!

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A photo of Darcy and her brother Chad at his wedding, along with his bride and their grandparents.

Who inspires you or serves as a mentor? There are far too many people in my life, past and present that have inspired me and serve as mentors to list. However, obviously, my parents have given me the gift of being raised on the ranch and learning all of the life lessons that go along with that. It is an opportunity that if every child was blessed with, this country would be a much better place. Their parenting taught me the importance of hard work, dedication and commitment, which have made me the person I am today.

Probably the person who has served more as a mentor than any other would be Chuck Jones. He was the land manager that hired me on as a monitoring specialist for Simplot. He told me once that even though I might not be qualified; I had the heart and he could teach me the rest. And boy did he try!! His retirement led to my promotion, and his phone number is at the top of my “Favorites,” or what I refer to as my “help” list, in my iPhone. Also high on that “help” list is my good friend and mentor Michael Guerry. We often spend what seems like hours discussing issues, and I believe I have told him on more than one occasion it is a good thing that I don’t live close enough to have coffee with him every morning or we would never get anything done! 

How do you provide encouragement to others? I try to find the positive in any situation – even if the only positive is that nothing is ever a failure if you learn a lesson from it. 

If given the chance, what message about agriculture or the beef industry would you share with a large group of people? Recently there seems to be a lot of talk going on about our food supply and what should and/or should not be in it. Although we all know it, it is amazing how many people know so little about our industry. I think the message that we need to share is how safe the food and fiber we produce for this population really is, and how without the advancement in technologies that we have made, we would never be able to feed the world sustainably.

What are you most thankful for? I am most thankful for being born into and raised in a ranching family. It is an opportunity that most are not provided, and I am thankful that I had the experience. I am also thankful for the opportunity to work for a company that allows me to continue that lifestyle.

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What is your favorite meal to cook yourself or for others? I love to cook meatloaf, with scalloped potatoes and green beans. Also something fun once in a while is the Pioneer Woman’s steak with Whiskey Cream Sauce! 

What is your favorite childhood memory? Spending a week at the Elmore County Fair in Glenns Ferry with my closest friends and family.

What are some of your favorite pastimes and/or hobbies? I love to go home on the weekends and help my parents work cows. I also love to ride my horse just for fun, although that doesn’t seem to happen much anymore. I love to hunt and fish – especially in fun and new places. I love exploring new country and traveling to other countries is fun too. I also love to read.

Favorite place to visit? My favorite place to visit would have to be Prairie, Idaho. When I was growing up, it was always an adventure to head north to visit the family, especially when adventures were in store with my cousins. As an adult, it is still my favorite place to visit, although I don’t get there nearly enough.

Be sure to keep up with Darcy’s busy life on both Instagram and Facebook!

Categories: Beef, Blogging, Idaho Cattlewomen, Lifestyle