Cattle producer Justin Roberts of North Platte grew up on his family’s farm near Minot, N.D., where his family grew wheat, flax, barley and oats. Sixty years ago, he moved to Nebraska – for a teaching career. But he didn’t leave his love for agriculture behind.
Justin met his wife Mary when both were students at Minot State College. Both earned degrees in education. They married and moved to North Platte, Neb., because both were offered teaching positions in their specialties – Mary in elementary education and Justin at the junior high level where he taught geography and social studies and also did some coaching.
Justin later earned a degree in educational administration from the University of Wyoming. He became an assistant principal at North Platte High School in 1969 and was the principal of Adams Junior High when he left the school system in 1979.
He took his educational expertise to a new position with what is now Region II of Nebraska’s Health and Human Services agency, working in alcohol and drug prevention and intervention programs in 17 counties until retiring in 2005. He set up new programs, worked with high school students and counseled prisoners on avoiding drugs and alcohol after release. Beginning in the 1980s and continuing today, he co-teaches classes on preventing and ending domestic violence.
Since moving to Nebraska, Justin had helped cattle producers in the North Platte area work their cattle and he still does. In 1991, he and Mary bought a small acreage where they put up some hay and ran 25 cows and calves.
During the last Nebraska drought six or seven years ago when prices for cattle were high and his hay production was low, Justin sold some older cows and is down to eight head today. He also cares for 15 cow-calf pairs for a distant neighbor, and he and another neighbor help each other out: “I help him rake his hay and he bales mine for me,” he explains. Justin also helps a different neighbor with branding and vaccinating calves and herding the cattle to pasture 15 miles away.
Justin and Mary have three children. Son Matt and his wife Tracy both work in the corporate office at Cabela’s in Sidney. Daughter Meghan, who’s been paralyzed since birth, formerly worked at Cabela’s and is now preparing for a job in a grocery store, learning to use a new wheel chair that raises and lowers. Daughter Amy Klinkafus lives in Lincoln and has one son.
Some years ago – he’s forgotten how many – Justin joined Farm Bureau after persistent urging from another neighbor – who later convinced him he should serve as Lincoln County Farm Bureau president.
Justin’s educational background is apparent in his favorite Farm Bureau projects: he takes the Agriculture in the Classroom mobile Learning Barn to classrooms in North Platte and Brady. He’s proud of the college scholarships Lincoln County Farm Bureau has established, and he’s excited that there’s a concerted effort to form an FFA chapter at North Platte High School again.
He’d like the general public to know more about what farmers and ranchers do. “People don’t know anything about agriculture. For those who are involved in agriculture, it’s really important to put that message out about how agriculture operates. And it would be my hope that people who aren’t involved would do some things to educate themselves and find out where their food comes from.”
Continue to check back to the blog each Thursday to get to know more farmers and ranchers from across Nebraska as they share their everyday stories. And to read past farmer and rancher profiles, click here.