By Fran Lyons
A third-generation Arizonan, Vernon St. John was born in Phoenix and has worked with cattle all his life.
“I can remember feeding the cows before I was 5 years old, and when I drove the tractor, I couldn’t even reach the clutch,” St. John said with a big smile.
The owner of St. John Farm Fresh Meat, selling ranch-to-table beef, recalled his first memories of life on his family’s dairy farm on the west side of the Valley. St. John was raised on the farm and worked with his father, who mentored him in every step of the process of cultivating and caring for livestock.
“Cows are a lot smarter than you think,” St. John said. “You just have to be very careful when they get angry or irritable. You don’t want to be around kicking cows.”
St. John left the farm and went into the Army and overseas to Vietnam. The skills he learned added new possibilities to his life and livelihood going forward.
“I went into the service as a heavy-equipment operator. When I told my superiors that I had worked in a bank and could type, I was assigned to the job of financing clerk,” he said.
After leaving the service, St. John returned to Arizona and enrolled in college. There, he met his wife, Lynn, who was also a student at the school. The couple each went in different directions, career-wise, when they started their life together.
Lynn joined the world of business as a banker.
“I was a city girl who happened to love animals” she said.
Vernon immersed himself in the agricultural industry, doing what he loved to do, working with animals – cattle to be specific – and ranching.
He wears a variety of hats and is an expert in multiple aspects of his industry. One primary arena is cattle breeding via artificial insemination or AI. He has been employed at Select Sires for over 33 years as a certified AI specialist, sales representative and educator/instructor of programs.
“I trained people how to breed cows,” he said.
Select Sires is an agricultural cooperative that provides livestock breeders with a superior genetics program offering AI techniques and optimal reproduction outcomes. “AI isn’t always easy. It’s a science and everything has to be just right for calves to be born with ease and become healthy and strong,” St. John said.
The St. Johns, along with their two daughters, moved to Maricopa in 2004, establishing their 19-acre cattle ranch in Hidden Valley. St. John developed a program to raise cattle for beef that was analyzed by the U of A College of Agriculture & Life Science to be much lower than average in cholesterol. He did this by implementing the animals’ diet with chelated vitamins and minerals as well as high quality alfalfa and barley feed.
“I recommend using grains over grass for feed. It creates good marbling and flavor yet still maintains the health benefits of being lower in cholesterol,” St. John said. “This product is available for purchase here at the ranch.”
St. John Farm Fresh Meat sells:
- Ground beef
- Rib steaks
- T-bone steaks
- NY strip steak
- Round steak
- Beef tenderloin
- Top sirloin roast
- Chuck roast
- Shoulder roast
- BBQ ribs
- Short ribs
St. John is also working on the concept of a “Farm to Grill” co-op. It involves investing in an animal raised for beef from birth to harvest. It includes a purchase fee for the animal and a fee per month for feed until product is ready for market.
This concept will revolve around the development of a breeding program utilizing the prized and rare Akaushi breed of cattle from Japan. “It is very similar to Kobe beef; we just don’t feed them beer,” he said.
The plan is to breed from embryos that are Akaushi DNA source verified and grow certified Akaushi cattle in the next 18 months. Superb quality, tenderness and flavor are the hallmarks of this ranch-to-table product. American-grown Akaushi cattle are predicted to revolutionize the beef industry and produce an extraordinary dining experience.
This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.