The Flying S beef operation is a family effort. The cows and calves are raised and managed daily by John Shaw (David’s father), owner of JPS Farms, Inc. When steers are ready to be “harvested”, Flying S buys them before being locally processed.
During the 1960s, John Shaw was a newly graduated mechanical engineer from the University of Illinois and learning a lot while working on cutting-edge aerospace projects. But by 1973 he was tired of the city “rat-race” and returned to his family’s farm with his wife, Patti, to settle down and raise their two children, David and Rachel. As management of the farm was transferred from father to son, John began incorporating different farming methods. Long before it became popular he was utilizing conservation tillage concepts like ridge-tiling and no-tilling.
Dropping crop prices made diversification into the heavy construction market appealing and over the years John has built up many hours in his bulldozer building terraces, ponds, waterways and other general work. With his engineering background, John has also designed and built many of his own unique pieces of equipment.
In 1999, John Shaw underwent five-way bypass heart surgery. Such serious surgery required a lengthy recovery period, during which John had plenty of time to ponder the future of the farm. It also forced him to take a good look at his diet. It was during this time he learned of research being done on the health benefits of grass-fed beef and the environmental benefits of rotational grazing.
With the help of several cost-share programs through Soil and Water Conservation Assistance programs, much of the farm has been transformed from row-crops to pasture land for cattle. Intensive grazing techniques are being used and developed to get the best use from pasture and eliminate disease problems.
JPS Farms has won several awards including 2003 Cooperator of the Year, awarded by the Crawford County Soil & Water Conservation District and the 2004 Conservation Farm Family awarded by the Association Illinois Soil & Water Conservation District.