Saturday, August 30, 2014

Farming Accident 'Made Me Focus'

09/11/2009

Douglas Burns Like a lot of farmers, Tony Wernimont has two jobs. One is raising meat goats. The other is at a fitness center. Tony lost part of his left arm in a farming accident when he was a senior in high school, an event that he says helped him as a entrepreneur.

Looking back, it may be that Tony Wernimont’s life as a goat raiser began when a promising high school basketball career was waylaid by a farming accident. 

Wernimont was expected to be the starting point guard for Sac City’s basketball team as a senior. On November 16, 1997, however, that dream ended when Tony lost his left hand and lower arm when he was caught in a roller mill used to partially crack corn so cattle can better digest it. 

Just 10 days later he was back with the basketball team and even saw playing time. In one game, Wernimont, who is right-handed, sank a one-handed three-pointer. Des Moines Register columnist Chuck Offenburger covered Wernimont’s spirited fight after the young player lost his arm.

“When I saw the kid come back from that injury and play basketball there was no doubt in my mind he would do whatever he darned well pleased for the rest of his life,” Offenburger said in a phone interview.

He credits the accident with giving him the drive and focus to simultaneously manage careers in farming and fitness. And, yes, eventually, goats.

“It made me focus, ‘wake up, you’re got to figure stuff out,’” Wernimont said. “I don’t know here I would be if it hadn’t happened.”

Now, as a young farmer and fitness training consultant Tony Wernimont’s professional life is a balancing act, one full of long hours. Each morning, before making his half-hour drive from a Sac County, Iowa, family farm to his position with Anytime Fitness in Carroll, Wernimont spends 60 to 90 minutes on chores associated with the goat business he operates.

It’s tough work, but he’s sticking with his goats, operating under the name of Wernimont Boers. http://wernimontboers.com/index.html  “Now that I’ve had them for so long, I don’t know what I’d do without them,” Wernimont, 30, said.  Douglas Burns Wernimont finds a market for his goat meat in Indian and Hispanic communities, primarily on the coasts.

Wernimont’s father, Mark Wernimont, is involved in grain and livestock, with corn, soybeans, hay and a cow-calf business. Tony Wernimont, who lives in Sac City, uses some of the land for meat goats that he raises for breeding and shows. “I handle the goats,” Tony Wernimont said. “He works with the cow-calves.”

Typically, Wernimont has 20 or so female goats (does) on the farm and a total of 30 to 50 goats, depending on the season. “It’s a growing industry,” Wernimont said. “Anybody can really do it. You don’t have to have a lot of land to do it.”

Wernimont says that goat meat is lean, high in protein and low in fat. While it is growing in popularity for a general American population for those reasons, the demand is already strong with people from India and in the Latino community. “It’s more in demand on the East Coast because of the ethnic variances that are out there,” Wernimont said.

The goats Wernimont raises are known as full-blood boers. They are consumed for meat, not the milk that makes goat cheese. “These just carry enough milk to feed the kids,” Wernimont said.

In the four years that he’s been involved in the goat industry Wernimont has sold the animals to breeders and 4Hers looking for a good goat to show. He has sold goats for prices ranging between $400 and $2,000. “The biggest draws are going to be spring and fall,” Wernimont said. “It’s profitable if you work it.”

“It just depends on what they want and what condition the animal is in,” Wernimont said. “We are in the business of selling African Boer Goats. We breed African Boer Goats for show, and for breeding stock. We are very well priced, and we offer discounts to 4H and FFA members.” 

Wernimont said goats take less space than other livestock and require less feed. “You don’t have near the investment in them,” he said. Goats are also more manageable for young people. “They’re very tame, docile animals,” Wernimont said.

Besides the morning chores, Wernimont, who isn’t married but has a girlfriend, does maintenance work, such as building fence and cleaning pens on the weekends. He works a full-time schedule as a personal trainer and manager at Anytime Fitness in Carroll, a 24-hour exercise venue.

A son of Mark and Karen Wernimont, Wernimont graduated from high school in Sac City. He earned his bachelor’s degree in agri-business from Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville in 2002. Prior to returning to western Iowa in 2006 Wernimont, who lost part of his left arm in a farm accident at age 18, worked for Easter Seals in Des Moines helping other farmers with disabilities.