Penn Yan Academy’s renowned (and now retired) agriculture teacher, John Kriese and his wife, Anita, could be expected to enjoy retirement in a rocking chair on the porch at Spring Pond Farm on Italy Hill Road, but that is just not his style. The high-energy and outgoing educator has merely changed classrooms and concentrated his focus — on beef. And his commitment to raising the best beef cattle he can has now been recognized by Alfred State University.
Alfred State’s Farm, part of the School of Agriculture and Veterinary Technology, has selected four of the Kriese’s registered Herefords and two of their Red Angus as the foundation of the school’s new multi-species livestock program. The already-bred heifers will be joined by three black angus heifers as well as some Boer goats, sheep, and farrowing sows to educate students about all phases of meat production in agriculture.
Change is in the future at Alfred State, which Kriese says had cattle herds up to about 1992 when agriculture programs across the country began to be slashed in favor of high tech programs. Kriese credits the founder of the veterinary technology major, Dr. Mel Chambliss, with the redevelopment of the herds. Chambliss knew that working with only small animals would not be a full education, and the program had to be widened to offer large animal experience for the future careers of their graduates. And they are watching trends carefully. Alfred has sold off its conventional dairy operation, but kept the organic dairy, and now with beef cattle, organic and grass fed meat production can be part of their studies, too.
“This should create great experiences for students,” says John. “More hands-on, more experiences, and more opportunities to expose students to the wonderful world of animal husbandry. I believe the diversified livestock program will help to foster some really awesome opportunities!” he adds with his usual enthusiasm. “We truly feel honored to have our cattle at Alfred, and are so happy students will now have increased experiential learning opportunities for advancing livestock production in New York State.”
The Alfred State Farm’s choice of Spring Pond Farm was not accidental. Chambliss connected with Kriese at Empire Farm Days where John was appearing in his role as President of the New York Beef Producers’ Association. While serving their trademark “Hot Beef Sundaes” Kriese was approached with the idea because of his vocal advocacy for beef producers and the reputation for outstanding genetics in his cattle.
The Herefords represent Spring Pond Farm’s breeding program, while the Red Angus represent that of Finger Lakes Cattle Company, co-owned by the Kriese’s and Dr. Timothy Dennis, retired veterinarian and current Yates County Legislator. John is liberal with his praise of Dennis as “a real geneticist” when it comes to the breeding of top quality cattle. Every animal that leaves their farm is genetically sequenced, with those 50,000 genes outlining the desired physical characteristics for future breeding potential.
Readying a new batch of genetic samples to be sent for testing to validate their genomic profile, John explains their shared commitment to the value of the tests and sequencing within their chosen breeds; while many Black Angus herds have fallen in quality due to the rush to meet demand in recent years. “These aren’t just pretty cows. We know what’s in there,” says John. With their own champion bull worth thousands of dollars, but also by careful choosing in artificial insemination, the Kriese and Dennis cattle are the top examples of their breeds.
“We are truly honored to have our genetics selected by Alfred for this very exciting program,” says John. But the choice of their cattle was more than just genetic qualities; it also has to do with temperament. From birth, the calves are well socialized, with Anita caring for them as youngsters, and later spending a lot of time on halter and lead training. “These aren’t your typical wild and flighty beef cattle. They are calm and used to being handled, says John. That will be important to the returning students as the cattle are expecting to give birth to their calves next month.
All of this is part and parcel of John’s passion for teaching. Just as he grew the Ag. program at Penn Yan Academy from 14 students to over 100, Kriese grew the membership of the NYBPA from 300 to 650. Learning from the organizations founders during his term as president (ending this year), Kriese built on and engaged regional leadership and cooperation. “The New York Beef Producers Association is thriving at a level I have never imagined possible. The successes and momentum which this organization now enjoys is not because I show up to a few meetings every year. The reasons for our success is because so many people have come together and have invested their personal and financial resources into this organization. Every involved member seems brings a set of talents to our management table, and together, we have made incredible and documented progress,” says John.
“Our presence and involvement at Empire Farm Days, the Western Region Farm show, and the Syracuse Farm Show is monumental. The NYBPA newsletter is something we all look forward to receiving, and our Junior involvement seems to be growing at levels never expected. ‘Beef Day’ at the New York State Fair is absolutely one of the greatest days at the Fair.” The NYBPA have also hosted presentations by famed leaders in animal husbandry, such as animal behaviorist Dr. Temple Grandin. Kriese will continue his work as a board member and past president. John and Anita even built a new pole barn at Spring Pond Farm to host tours to spread the word about the value of beef in the world diet.