John Frank Pendergrass has ranching roots that run deep, earning him recognition as an innovator in the beef cattle business.
Located in Franklin County near Charleston, Pendergrass Ranch first started nearly 150 years ago when Pendergrass’ great-great-grandfather settled the property in 1870. Decades later, his grandfather invested in more land to expand the ranch, running it along with his son, Pendergrass’ father.
In 1972, Pendergrass took the ranch’s reins from his father, helping build one of the top stocker operations in the state. He and his son, John Paul, later formed Pendergrass Cattle Co.
Today, they run the 3,000-acre business of 8,000 head of stocker cattle that pass through their operation each year. The cattle company buys lightweight calves and puts them on a feeding and grass program to help the animals gain weight. The heavier-weight steers are then placed into commercial feedyards.
The business markets about half of its stock as feeder steers and retains the other half through the cattle-feeding process in a feedyard in Kansas.
Through decades of hard work and leadership, Pendergrass Cattle Co. is a leading beef producer in Arkansas today.
A Life’s Work
Just like ranching, public service is a central part of Pendergrass’ identity. An active member of the community, he is a familiar face among his rural neighbors. He is a longtime member of the Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative board of directors, working to improve life at home. The board approached Pendergrass after his father, who had been a board member, passed away, leaving an empty seat. He accepted that position and has been reelected ever since.
“I really have a passion about serving on the board,” he says. “That’s been a really educational experience all these years.” Pendergrass says he works very hard at providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity to the members of the electric cooperative.
That position opened many doors for the rancher to take on other leadership roles representing his industry. He was appointed to the Arkansas State Committee of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service by President Jimmy Carter in the 1970s. Also, he is a member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
He has served on the association’s board as well as several committees.
During the 1990s, Pendergrass and other members of the Franklin County Cattleman’s Association rallied to have a bigger presence.
“We grew our county association to be the second largest in the state,” says Pendergrass, who eventually served as president of the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association.
The Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association recognized Pendergrass as the Arkansas Stocker of the Year in 2008. He was also given the National Stocker Award from BEEF magazine the same year.
“When I get involved in something, I get involved pretty deeply,” he says. “But my accomplishments have not all been done by myself. I have worked with a lot of really good people, such as Farm Bureau, Farm Credit and USDA Farm Services.”
In honor of Pendergrass’ 80th birthday in 2016, his family made a donation to the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. The funds helped provide beef, a much needed protein, to the hungry.
Pendergrass’ service and achievements earned him a spot in the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2016.
“It is a great honor, and it was an absolute surprise to me,” he laughs, referring to when he found out the news. “I didn’t even know it was in the making.”
Pendergrass plans to stay active for as long as he can in community and beef-related activities, as well as on the ranch. He enjoys working, being active in community affairs and helping others better their lives.
“I don’t stay in this office much,” he says. “My jeans get just as dirty as anybody’s.”