Rodney Mathewson started a small farming and cattle operation near Potter, Nebraska in the 1940’s. His commitment to the health of the natural resources in his care was instilled in his son, Randy, and grandson, Beau, who run the ranch with their wives, Gina and Kahla, respectively.
The Mathewsons utilize several innovative techniques to effectively manage the land, water, and wildlife on their ranch. The family has used rotational grazing for over thirty years, which operates on a full season deferment system where each pasture receives a full season rest every third or fourth year. Beau Mathewson has recorded photo points, forage composition, and measurement records for nineteen sites. These sites are managed through a combination of photography, GPS receiver, and a laptop in the field.
In the early 1990’s, the Mathewsons expanded their ranch through the purchase of neighboring lands, which were enhanced through the Mathewsons’ effective soil and water management efforts. The family installed over nine miles of pipeline and more than 20 bottomless tanks, which are hydraulically or electrically controlled to eliminate overflow. They also replaced many inefficient windmills with electric wells so that livestock can have reliable water for the entire grazing term and, through NRCS, installed cross fencing that increased production by 40 percent. The family puts a lot of effort into noxious and invasive weed management. Three times per growing season, they ride every acre of the land searching for noxious weeds and monitoring their weed control progress via GPS.
The Mathewsons have increased wildlife habitat by planting over 6,000 trees with 2,700 shrubs planned for 2011. Several wildlife watering facilities have been added, as well as a raptor nesting site, and bird escapes on all water tanks.
The family takes it upon themselves to educate others about the importance of land stewardship. They have worked with the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension and the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition on several field days and Beau is a Board member for both organizations. Beau has also assisted with the Cheyenne County leadership Program, as well as two youth career days. In 1998, the Mathewsons received the Grassland Manager of the Year Award from the NRCS and the South Platte Natural Resources District.
“Making a living from the land is ingrained in the Mathewsons, and they realize that to achieve sustainability they must take care of the land, both for themselves and for future users,” wrote Ron Bolze, Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition, in his nomination of the Mathewson Family.