Mark & Deb Core


Mark was born and raised in Pleasantville, Iowa on a small diversified farm with its roots in Hereford cattle and Yorkshire hogs. Although financial resources were limited, his parents did what they could to support showing steers, heifers and pigs on a limited basis. Although he never had the opportunity to win big, it was these humbling experiences that instilled the love of animal agriculture and the desire to compete. Upon high school graduation he looked toward college life. Marks older brother Phil had always influenced him greatly, and he decided to follow in his brothers footsteps and he attended Iowa State University and joined the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity. These were  decisions that would shape his future.  The Fraternity brought him friendships that would help him make it through the unexpected and early death of his father during his sophomore year.  Iowa State brought him the opportunity to not only gain the valuable life lessons that come from a judging program but most importantly provided him a mentor in coach Dr. Chris Skaags. Under Dr. Skaggs direction, the team won the National Championship in 1986. Mark often reflects on that year and the fact that the first big contest , “Denver” was only the fourth judging contest he had ever participated in – EVER! Upon graduation from ISU,  Mark started a dream job with Syntex Animal Health in their sales territory division. Not only was this a great career opportunity, the location was perfect as his mother was in failing health and he and  his brother Phil were focused on her and trying so save the family farm. As Mark was advancing in the corporate world at Syntex and working with his brother to build a nationally competitive Maine-Anjou program, along come a Minnesota gal by the name of Deb Stade. Mark has been blessed with the opportunity to work for Vermeer Corporation, a 65 year old family owned Global company less than a thirty minute commute from Core Farms. He has held numerous roles in his eighteen years at the company and currently serves on the Senior Leadership team as Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer. Although the chase to attain company metrics is fun and challenging, his real joy associated with work comes from “providing opportunities for others”. He loves nothing more than to identify “Rock star” talent and recruit them into the organization. Many of these current employees have a strong background in animal agricultural. 


Deb grew up in Jackson, a small agricultural community in southwest Minnesota.  It was there, on her parents grain and cattle feeding operation, that she found her passion for livestock.  Along with her two sisters and one brother, Deb grew up walking beans, picking rocks and doing 4-H chores.  Jackson County  had one of the most intense and successful 4-H livestock judging programs in the entire country.  The influence of that program, under the direction of Ron Harder, helped shape many of the decisions she would make for her future.  She recalls that her 4-H team often traveled with the South Dakota State University Collegiate Judging team coached by Dr. Dan Gee.  It was because of those contacts that she decided as a seventh grader she would attend South Dakota State, major in Animal Science and be on the livestock judging team.  She never looked back and graduated with her degree from SDSU in 1982.  Being a member of the Livestock Judging Team was, without question, the  most impactful decision she ever made.  Being a competitive person by nature, having a passion for livestock and being shaped by  incredible mentors like her father Calvin Stade and coaches Harder and Gee, allowed her to develop character qualities that would shape her future. After working in the livestock industry for 5 years she made the decision to go back to college and get her masters degree from Colorado State University.  While there, she assisted Dr. Clint Rusk with the livestock judging team and completed her masters program in 1988 under the direction of Dr. Robert Taylor and Tom Fields. It was soon after that she found herself in Platte City, Missouri at the American Chianina Association working for Terry Atchison.  Over the years Deb had spent a great deal of time working with a close friend, Barb Ohlrichs, fitting on several Chianina breeders show cattle strings.  It was these contacts that led her to her work as a communications director for the association.  In 1990, Debs career led her to being selected as the Executive Director of the Iowa Beef Expo, a job she held and loved for 9 years. It was during the beginning of that career that she would meet Mark. They started dating in the fall of 1991, became engaged four months later and married by September of 1992.  Although she loved her job, eventually her responsibilities as a full time mother to two beautiful daughters, and managing the day to day responsibilities of their purebred cattle operation were more than full time and she decided it was time to prioritize. The kids and cows weren’t going anywhere, so it was time to give up the Expo.  This was not a easy decision for a Masters educated highly driven person, but was the pivotal point of child and cattle operation development for the Cores’. It was a decision she never regretted.  In a blink those two little girls, Bailey and Kennedy have grown up to be a sophomore in college and junior in high school. 


Core Farms, a partnership between the two Core brothers continued to grow to the point of National Maine-Anjou breeder of the year in 1996. Exhibiting one National Champion and producing one in the Maine breed and one in the Chianina breed were certainly highlights. Just as Phil had blazed a trail for Mark in the early years, now Phil’s  daughters Lindsey and Morgan were doing the same for Bailey and Kennedy. They were both heavily involved in the barn, in the pasture, in school and on the Maine-Anjou National Junior board. Over time the cow  herd transitioned into one of multiple breeds. This being  primarily the result of the girls showing “other” breeds so that they weren’t competing against customers.


Over the years, many people have asked us, how did you get Bailey and Kennedy to get so “hooked” on showing at such a young age?  Their older cousins Morgan and Lindsey were instrumental in making that happen.  Role models are wonderful things particularly when they were as exceptional young women like their cousins.  Because I stayed home and took care of the farm, the girls had no choice but to be part of all aspects of the farm.  From sitting in their car seats as infants while we helped the vet do a c-section, to riding on the Kubota with me to check pastures, they did it all.  I’ll never forget riding down the road one day in the pick-up and all of a sudden Bailey points to a pasture of cows and yells  “Hey Mom, look, standing heat!”  Then of course there was the time she went to school and explained to the kindergarten teacher how daddy breeds cows.  Both the girls were the resident “cow experts” in their elementary classes. As time has a way of doing, the girls just developed the passion and work ethic that is such an important element of being involved with show cattle.  Of course, it made a huge difference to have a mom that loved the business as well.  At our house Dad had to go to his job at Vermeer every day so it was just us girls to be in charge of the show barn.  It has been the worlds best opportunity to stay connected with each other and be such an important part of each others lives.  We couldn’t have shown as hard or as successfully as we have if it wasn’t a team effort.  We need all of us to contribute if it is going to happen.  Bailey made the decision as a sophomore in high school to quit sports and focus all her energy onto our cattle operation.  She has been an incredibly important part of the day-to-day management of our show cattle.  She can manage every aspect of the show barn and farm if we need her to.  Sometimes we worry we have put too much responsibility on her shoulders, but she can handle it.  Of course there is nothing she enjoys more than showing a good one.  She lives, breathes and eats that world.  About two years ago she started dating a wonderful young man named Jared Boyert, who was working for Cates Shorthorns at the time and is currently teaching and coaching at Black Hawk Junior College.  He too is passionate about showing great livestock and it is so much fun watching them find their place in this business.  There is no doubt in my mind they have the drive and passion to be successful. Mark and I aren’t sure if we have the energy to keep up with them.  Bailey is currently a sophomore at Iowa State University majoring in Agriculture Communications and Animal Science.   

Kennedy has always pulled a double duty in that she is an excellent athlete as well as being as talented as her sister in the show ring.  She has had to figure out how to balance the extra effort and time it takes to be an exceptional basketball and volleyball player, as well as fulfill her love of showing livestock.  Kennedy has played a high level of AAU basketball since 5th grade and recently just scored her 1000th career point in high school ball, doing it in her junior year.  As her Mom, I love sitting in a gym and watching her play basketball every bit as much as I love watching her show.  As a parent, all you ever want is to see yours kids find a passion for which they are willing to sacrifice, and see the rewards for their efforts.  Kennedy amazes me sometimes on how she fits it all in. Along with sports, she is a straight A student, a student leader in every organization she is in, and finds time to be a great friend to others.  

Mark and I couldn’t be more proud of our daughters.  They have made the job of parenting pretty darn easy and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.  


As if there wasn’t enough going on in the Core household, over the years Mark and Deb have opened their home to 12 different young men and women who have lived with them while they were either doing internships or starting their first jobs in the area. All these relationships have come through livestock involvement in some way from such as LJ Ashorn (Bernhard) who was Marks ring steward at the National Hereford Show, to Bellana Putz  (Rayner) who purchased and showed a National Champion female bred by Core Farms as well as Kylee Deniz (Williard) who  we got to know during the year that Bailey exhibited the Reserve Market animal at the National Western Stock Show. These young people have truly become “big brothers and sisters” and most importantly role models to  Bailey and Kennedy.   Some of the early live ins are now having their own children beginning to show so it just makes for an even bigger show family.   The Cores are looking forward to this years addition to their family- Ms. Syann Foster who will be interning for Vermeer as a Forage Solutions marketing intern. “Of all the success our family has had in the show ring over the years, no banner can compare to the joy that all these young people have brought to our family.  These “extra kids” continue to be part of our lives and we love each and every one of them,” says Deb. At Bailey’s graduation two years ago, they had license plates in their yard from eight states because of the “extras” coming “home” for the celebration.      


Judging shows is a true love for both Mark and Deb. Between the two of them they have Denver, Louisville, Houston Steers and Heifers, Fort Worth Steers, San Antonio Heifers, Tulsa, numerous State Fairs and National Junior Heifer shows on their resume. With an already overtasked home life,  doing these judging events can sometimes add an incredible amount of complexity in their lives, but the opportunity to see great stock and meet families from around the country is truly a blessing. We respect the honor and see it as a privilege to be asked. In the last couple years, it has been fun to get the calls from show management that ask will either one of you or both of you come judge our show. Doing them together is something they look forward to in the future. ▪


I’m a big believer that anyone, yes I mean ANYONE, can be successful in the agriculture industry. When I was trying to show as a high school kid, we did not own a truck and trailer so I was only able to go to a show when we could borrow one from a friend. I say this some times before I select a champion at a show, but I am always afraid that those that need to hear it have already loaded up and went home. “The best I ever did at the Iowa State Fair was seventh in class. As I get older, I can see that many times the ones that really make an impact in the industry are those that had to work their tail off and be an entrepreneur, just to be third in class. I often think of folks like Wade Rodgers who today everyone knows as a dominant player in the show cattle industry.  Most don’t realize that it didn’t come without work and sacrifice. The Bob Mays,  Goretzkas, Jirl Bucks, and Wade Rodgers of this industry make it look relatively easy today, but they weren’t “born” into it, they simply made it happen with hard work!  God made each of us different, and yes some may have unique skills, but fortunately the most important trait to success depends entirely on ones mindset - WORK ETHIC. 


I thank our good Lord almost every day that he gave Mark and I this cattle business way of life as a tool to raise our daughters.  Mark and I discuss every now and then how we would have more money in the bank and more time on our hands if we hadn’t chosen this path.  I think as a parent there are two things that are important for you to do for your child.  First help them find their passion.  I don’t care if it’s needlepoint.  If that is their passion find whatever avenues you can to support them.  Give me a kid with passion over one with just talent and no passion any day of the week.  The second thing you need to do for your child is to teach them to be a competitor.  At our house the sign on our cooler reads “Don’t be afraid of competition just be prepared for it.”  Being a competitor doesn’t mean your goal is to beat everyone everytime. In fact, I never go to a show with a goal to beat a particular person.  To me it means if I have done everything within my means to select to the best of my ability, if we have made wise financial decisions along the way, if we have done every bit of my homework we have to do to be ready, if we have fed to the best of our knowledge, if we get one fit and shown to the best of our ability then we are a competitor, and most importantly we have to do all this with integrity and character. Mark and I decided a long time ago we would never make a decision in order to win that would put our daughters in a compromised position.  If you can’t look your own child in the eye and know you have been honest in all that you have done in order to achieve your goal reaching that goal just wouldn’t mean a thing. Finally, a competitor has to accept that when they walk into that showring, the last 5% of the equation is out of your control.  There is always going to be that person standing in the center of the ring who has the final call. That doesn’t mean he is always right but it is his job to complete the circle.