|Joann Hamburger of Weatherford is being recognized as a Significant Woman in Oklahoma Agriculture.|
Weatherford, Okla. - Tucker Sawatzky was in a jam.
So the 17-year-old took out his cell phone, pulled up his contacts, found Joann Hamburger’s name and number and hit it.
Understand, this is at 1 in the morning on a stormy night in the spring of 2013.
Didn’t matter, she always said, “If you need help, call me” and for most farmers and ranchers “hours of operation” are 24 hours a day.
Sawatzky needed help saving a cow that was having trouble calving. His parents were there to help as much as possible, but they don’t farm. So, ever since his mentor and grandfather Jimmie McPhearson had passed away when Tucker was 16, he had turned to Joann when it came to questions about his wheat crop or his cattle.
They live about 2 miles apart, south of Weatherford, and within a short while she pulled in on that rainy night.
The cow was weak, but Joann and Tucker didn’t give up. For weeks, Joann came by, and they’d get her up.
“One day we went out to feed her and she was up and gone, out with the herd,” said Radonna Sawatzky, Tucker’s Mom. “She cares deeply about animals and how they are treated.”
That’s Joann Hamburger.
“This was a long process,” said Tucker Sawatzky, now a student at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. “Joann wasn’t going to do it unless I was there. She wanted to help, but she wanted me to learn how to do it myself. This last week her husband Kurt was sick and in the hospital, so I checked her cows. I don’t know how she does it. She starts at 7 in the morning and doesn’t get done until 7 at night. She doesn’t just pull in, count cows and go on. I think she counts them about three times and makes sure every one of them is OK. They are like kids to her. She will drop whatever she is doing to help an animal.”
Those who have known her for any time at all, are quick to praise her for her work ethic and commitment to agriculture.
Rick Payne of Thomas said, “She’s always out building fence and tending to cattle.”
“In fact, she’s the reason we bought our posthole digger at the farm show,” he said. “She said it works for her, so that was good enough for us.”
Joann has had total daily control of their operation since 1995.
“The farm and cattle became my everyday life,” she said.
After all these years
In 1977, a 13-year-old Joann, who had shown sheep, decided to try something new. She bought a Simmental show heifer. That wasn’t a passing interest.
“With my love for the Simmental breed of cattle, and Kurt having been around the breed too, we started building a herd of registered cows and bulls,” she said. “We utilized grass pasture available on family owned land.”
They gradually improved the grasses and later along the way put the rest of the farm ground to Bermuda and Plains Bluestem. Joann said they planted wheat on several places to be more self-sufficient for grazing and haying. Plus, they harvest some wheat for grain.
They’ve hosted as many as two cattle sales a year but have made a transition to doing private treaty sales off the farm.
So, she manages their 140-plus cows and bred heifers and helps to oversee a neighbor’s commercial cow herd.
“I treat the commercial cattle as if they were my own,” she said. “Growing up, I learned, ‘Do your best because at the end of the day you will still have your self-respect and integrity.’”
That perspective is why she answered the cell phone at 1 a.m. and drove a couple of miles to help Sawatzky save his cow. That perspective is why this western Oklahoma family has donated beef for the local food resource center and why they have hosted international visitors to their farm, the last coming from Uruguay.
Joann has also helped their nephew Jacobey with showing cattle and expanding his herd. He is often by her side and has an active part in their daily operation.
Plus, Joann has touched numerous lives in the show industry and has shared that opportunity with many young people.
Her ways of reaching out to others are many.
“I grew up with Joann, and she is an outstanding woman,” Radonna Sawatzky said. “She has taught Tucker so much about farming, ranching, care of animals and just good old morals. Joann loves the land and the rural way of life.”
Enjoying today, excited about tomorrow
In casual conversation, some will ask Joann what she’s going to do today.
“Mostly my answer is the same thing I did yesterday, check cows,” she said, “but even though it’s the same thing, it’s always different.”
One day it may mean taking care of a sick calf. Another day, the fence may be down. And then there are those days, like a recent Friday, when she had a flat on the old white farm truck.
However, morning after morning, she opens the glass door and heads north to the barn, always with the same attitude.