The Falling Timber Farm in Marthasville has been in the Ridder family for over 100 years now.
It’s been passed down since the late 1800s, but hasn’t kept the same name all of those years.
John Ridder said that’s because the farm has been passed down through marriage.
John’s grandparents purchased the family farm and eventually inherited the Wyatt family’s farm. John said the Wyatt family, his grandparents’ neighbors, came here with Daniel Boone.
Since John’s grandparents were friends with the Wyatt family and had taken care of John Wyatt, previous farm owner, when he was an old man, they got part of the farm from him.
Glenn and Yvonne Ridder, John’s parents, renamed the farm Falling Timber Farm in the early ’70s after a creek that runs through the farm.
John said the creek has been named that for a long time. He found a map from the 1800s that listed it as the Falling Timber Creek.
Part of the house that John and his wife Heidi live in now is built similarly to the old house on the Wyatt farm.
“That’s why it looks old,” John said.
The couple built the house 11 or 12 years ago.
The Falling Timber Farm is comprised of about 800 acres owned by John, Heidi, Glenn and Yvonne. Some of the land is rented by John’s two aunts.
John and Heidi also own cattle farms in Montgomery and Gasconade counties, which amount to 400 acres. They have neighbors by both farms who help take care of the cows every other day.
“So we don’t have to do it every day,” John said.
Both John and Heidi attended the University of Missouri-Columbia and studied agriculture before working their way back to John’s home.
In 2000, John was working in agricultural sales at Straatmann Feed and MFA Oil. By 2004, he was working full time at the farm.
Heidi also worked at Straatmann Feed and then for a horse veterinarian before working at the farm. She started off as part-time help at the farm and went full time in 2014.
Heidi takes care of the marketing, advertising, public relations, and accounts receivable and payable.
John calls her the office manager. “She keeps us in line,” he said.
Glenn still works every day and Yvonne is in charge of the registered cattle paperwork.
John and Heidi’s children — Madi, 15, and Ben, 14 — help a lot on the farm with chores.
“They work about seven days a week,” said Heidi, with feeding and cleaning.
“They’ve grown up doing it,” Heidi said. “When they were little bitty they’d go along with John whether it was feeding cows or riding the tractor. So they’ve seen everything firsthand since they were toddlers.”
As for the future of the farm, it’s up in the air whether Madi and/or Ben will take over operations of the farm at some point.
“We hope they have some sort of education in some field,” he added. “Then maybe if we’re lucky they’ll do this part time until we retire.”
Heidi said their children are pretty involved with the farm and seem to enjoy it.
“It’s certainly not an easy occupation,” John said. “We have put a lot of time in.”
Heidi said not just anyone can farm.
“You have to love it to be able to do it,” she said.
Falling Timber Farm primarily hosts registered polled Hereford cattle.
Glenn and Yvonne changed the farm from raising commercial to registered cattle in the early ’70s.
“So I grew up with it,” said John, adding that they raise some Angus, but not nearly as many as they do of the Herefords.
John said the difference between commercial and registered is pedigree. A lot of data goes into raising registered cattle.
“When people come to buy a bull, they usually want that,” he said, noting most of the cattle are used for breeding, but not all.
“We do sell some freezer beef,” he said.
John added they sell the freezer beef in quarters and halves.
They also raise some crops on the farm, including corn, wheat, alfalfa hay and soybeans.
“The cattle is a lot bigger deal for us,” John said.
Falling Timber Farm is currently preparing for its 10th annual bull and female sale.
“It’s a live auction, but it’s broadcast over the internet,” John said. “We have a pretty good crowd for that usually.”
They sell mostly to people in Missouri and the Midwest, but also as far away as Washington and Florida states.
While the actual sale only lasts about an hour and a half, John said they prepare for it for months in advance. The sale takes place in March.
John said they usually sell about 90 cattle during the sale, but they also sell cattle year-round privately.
John and Heidi both agreed this is their busiest time of the year.
“We don’t have a slow time of the year,” Heidi said. “Because we’re diversified we raise cattle and crops that keep us busy year-round, but in addition with the sales of our agricultural products we’re constantly selling.
“When people want to purchase something, they want to purchase it now,” she remarked. “So there’s no slow time for us, which is fine. We like it that way.”
Falling Timber Farm also sells agricultural products, including bull semen and VitaFerm mineral.
The farm has been selling semen longer than mineral, but John said they started selling mineral in 2005.
“At first it was a way to supplement income so he could farm full time,” Heidi said.
Since then, the business has grown.
In 2017, Falling Timber Farm was ranked one of the top five dealers of VitaFerm sales.
“We sell a lot for not having a feed store,” John noted.
Heidi said to ensure the product they’re raising — beef — is safe they take extra steps such as proper handling and management of the cattle.
“We document and take these things very seriously to ensure there is a wholesome product at the end,” she said.
They also went a step further by getting a Beef Quality Assurance certification.
Heidi said this is important for the future because more consumers are wanting to know where their food comes from and how it was handled.
“The Beef Quality Assurance is just one step to show we are doing what we say we’re doing,” she said.
Growing Up on the Farm
“I remember being a little kid and picking up corn in a little wagon,” John said. “There would be corn behind the silage chopper that would get knocked down. I would pick up loads of that and take it to the shop. Then I’d shell it by hand.”
John also remembers running a square hay bale crew with his friends in his teenage years and tracking a lost steer on a levee driving a four-wheeler when he was 14.
“That was a lot of fun,” he said.
He also recalls fishing with his grandma and showing cattle.
“I showed cattle all over the place when I was a teenager,” he said.
Heidi said when John was a child, he went to the Hereford Junior Nationals and showed cattle there. Now, their children show cattle at the Washington Town & Country Fair, as well as other local fairs.
Some of John’s best memories today are watching his children grow up on the same farm.
“I think just in general it’s pretty neat that you were raised here and had the opportunity to raise your children here,” Heidi said to John.
John said getting married to Heidi on the farm was another favorite memory.