Oldham County’s Bednarski joins Kentucky Cattlemen’s Hall of Fame
Vermont native turns hobby into lucrative
LA GRANGE, Ky. (February 2020) – Growing up in Vermont, Jon Bednarski often visited his uncle’s dairy farm and showed cows as a kid. He never expected to make a career out of farming, but several decades later, opportunity knocked on his door, and his life’s passion took him in a different direction.
In 2001, Bednarski and his wife, Sylvia, purchased 50 acres of neglected and overgrown land in Oldham County with the intention of preserving and protecting the land’s natural resources – and possibly one day getting into production agriculture.
The pieces starting falling together when their daughter, Kristin, won a saddle. Of course, she needed a horse, and then the couple purchased their 50-acre piece of land, which became known as Sherwood Acres Farm. A few years later, his wife, daughter and son, Kyle, gave Bednarski three Belted Galloway cows for Father’s Day.
Jon Bednarski raises Belted Galloway cattle his Sherwood Acres Beef to the Louisville market.
That gift set things in motion for the Bednarskis to transform their land into what is today a model farm in Oldham County.
For his efforts in the cattle industry, Bednarski, 65, was inducted into the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association Hall of Fame at the 2020 KCA Convention and Ag Industry Trade Show held in Owensboro, Ky., on Jan. 16-17. Five people are inducted annually into the KCA Hall of Fame, one from each of the five regions representing the state.
Bednarski is in Region 3, which is comprised of 20 different counties from northern Kentucky to as far south as Anderson County. He was a board member for Region 3 for several years and a regional vice president, a three-year obligation that ended in 2018.
He was next appointed to represent the KCA by being on the U.S. Meat Export Federation, a nonprofit trade association that works to create new opportunities and develop existing international markets for U.S. beef, pork, lamb and veal. This experience has been a “real learning curve,” he said.
With the beef industry being a multi-billion dollar market in foreign countries, Bednarski said he believes there will be “much growth in the future on an international level.”
Bednarski decided to market his own beef from his Belted Galloway herd, which had increased steadily since receiving the initial gift of three cows from his family. Sherwood Acres Beef was created because he wanted to set up a retail store to provide the local area with a healthy alternative to mass-produced, store-bought beef.
Over the years he has stuck with the Belted Galloway breed, which originated in the Galloway district of Scotland. The breed is known for the low-fat and low-cholesterol characteristics of its meat. His beef is raised in a hormone-free steroid-free environment.
Bednarski also has a farm in Mercer County, Ky., overlooking Herrington Lake, where he raises the original Galloway breed, a solid color cow. Both this farm and the one in Oldham County contain a little more than 50 acres each.
Bednarski was one of the founding members of the Oldham County chapter of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association along with Tee Ray, Traci Missun, Extension Agent for Agriculture & Natural Resources in Oldham County, and others. After helping start that chapter, which now has about 62 members, Bednarski became involved on the state level.
He said he has learned a lot about farming by becoming involved in the county and state levels. He loves the Field Day events held on farms and the educational experience in which participants take part. “You get to be part of great events that have speakers from the University of Kentucky and see how to really do things on the farm.”
Bednarski said that, “for me, being a beginning farmer, the Master Cattlemen’s Program and Master Grazer Program offered through the Extension Service helped tremendously.”
The Master Cattlemen’s Program is offered on demand and is typically 10 sessions long.
“It covers all aspects of cattle production, from business management to herd health to forages to the end product. The program is taught by UK Extension Specialists from the Animal Science, Agronomy and Economics Departments,” said Missun.
Bednarski said he was surprised to have been chosen for induction into the KCA Hall of Fame. “I’ve learned a lot of stuff in a short period of time,” he said. “Others have been doing it for years.”
He said that to even “be on the same page with Reggie Rand, one of last year’s recipients (from Trimble County), is an honor. He has quite a reputation in the industry. He’s very influential on a county level.”
Missun believes Bednarski is “very passionate about what he does. Jon is a great choice for this honor. He had strong competition in our region. He is very deserving of this honor because of all the work he’s done at local, state and national levels to help other beef producers and to promote beef to consumers.”
She added that in terms of helping producers, “one of the key skills that Jon brings to the table is his sales and marketing background. Many producers excel at raising beef, but not all have the sales and marketing experience it takes to tell their story.” Bednarski gained years of sales and marketing experience from working in the timber frame and log home industry.
He has long been involved with the local Extension Service as well. “He most recently served on a producer panel to share for our Louisville Area Beef Finishing School program. The producer panel was the most popular part of the program,” said Missun. “It gave participants a look at how other producers have excelled in marketing their beef, identifying niche markets and feeling confident in telling their own farming stories.”
Bednarski credits the key to his success in raising cattle to a combination of things: environmental and stewardship practices, and the use of animal welfare standards and best management practices. By using theses methods and frequently repairing slopes to reduce sediment runoff, he has been able to control the impact his cattle have around feeding areas, waterers and gate openings. During the winter, his cattle are not standing in mud but instead on feed pads, reducing hoof problems and promoting weight gain.
“Since I met Jon in 2005, he has continually improved his farm operation,” Missun said. “Often times, we think of improvements meaning getting bigger, having a bigger herd. But one thing that is key for all producers is being willing to adapt, trying new practices and discovering what works and what doesn’t work on their own farms.”
“He’s a great steward of the land,” said Maynard L. Stetten, former president of the Oldham County KCA chapter. “He’s always willing to help and share his knowledge.”
In his role as member and treasurer for the Belted Galloway Society, Bednarski will assist in Louisville’s playing host to the 2020 World Galloway Congress on Nov. 14-20. “We’ve been planning for a year and a half and hope to have 150 people attend from 15 different countries,” he said. “It will be held in conjunction with the North American Livestock Exposition. We’ve already had people from Switzerland and Canada sign up.”
Other awards Bednarski has won include Oldham County Master Conservationist of the Year (2011), Kentucky’s Master Conservationist of the Year (2012), Kentucky Leopold Conservation Award (2013) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Environmental Stewardship Award (2014).
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