March 11, 2020
Starting out with 10 cows their father purchased, the late George and Harry Tjardes of Gibson City, Illinois, began raising Hereford cattle in 1946 and built a nationally recognized herd. Harry always took a “think before you do” approach, while George was known for “measuring out” every decision for the operation.
“The Tjardes boys,” as many knew them, decided to purchase a herd bull to take their genetics to the next level, which led them to purchase Beau Aster Hervalation 14th from Leland Herman, Wayne City, Nebraska. George wanted to exhibit the offspring at local county fairs to help put the Tjardes name on the map. Despite not being old enough to drive, George strategically bummed rides to 14 different fairs.
In 1955, the dynamic duo began exhibiting at the Illinois State Fair. The brothers would go on to have a champion, or at least a reserve bull or heifer, every year until 1966. The 1958 state fair was especially notable as the duo claimed champion and reserve bull, champion and reserve female, get-of-sire and best six head — a feat still unmatched to this day. Their national show career peeked in 1975 when they exhibited the national champion female and reserve national champion bull in Kemper Arena. Outside of the showring, George and Harry hosted major successful sales averaging more than $5,000 multiple times in the late 70s, opening the door to partnership opportunities across the U.S.
George and Harry were also known for taking time to help young agriculture and cattle enthusiasts. Scott Torrance, Media, Illinois, interned for Tjardes Farms and later partnered with the brothers. Scott considered their operation the “golden standard” in Illinois.
“The system and methods of George and Harry, and their drive for perfection have had a lifelong impact on me,” Scott says. “They truly upheld the highest ideals of a man and his livestock. George and Harry were true visionaries and role models for a generation.”
They each served as president for Illinois Polled Hereford Association, and both of their wives were active in the Illinois Poll-Ettes. George attended the University of Illinois, and Harry, Oklahoma State University. George and his wife, Marilyn, and Harry and his wife, Gale, have raised their children and grandchildren to be Hereford breeders, farmers, rural bankers, veterinarians, ruminant nutritionists, accountants and engineers.
Illinois breeders commend the Tjardes brothers for advancing the cattle industry as a whole, for fostering immense passion for agriculture and, most of all, for passing those qualities to future generations.