Sarah and Janet Tregellas work to find balance between farm and family.
Janet Tregellas grew up on a cow-calf operation north of Pampa, Texas, in Roberts County. Sarah Tregellas was raised in Pampa and Perryton, Texas, and had no experience in agriculture before marrying Blake, Janet’s son. Despite vast differences in their backgrounds, Janet and Sarah have each brought a piece of their past to Tregellas Family Farms that has helped build it into the successful operation it is today.
From the time they each married into the Tregellas family, Janet and Sarah both dove straight into all facets of farming. A woman directly involved in the production aspect of the operation was something Janet said was the norm for her family.
“Most of the time when we were growing up we didn’t have any help,” Janet said before she paused to talk to a truck driver bringing corn to their bins. “It was just my mother, my sister and me, and we did everything. My mother has been my mentor and my example. She did everything that my dad did and was in on the decision making, so I had that example. To me it was just natural, to take on and be a partner.”
Janet married her husband Rocky in 1976, and, since then, they have farmed grain sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton and soybeans and maintained a cow-calf operation. She has been involved in every aspect of their operation whether it is working through futures and options for their sorghum and other crops, taking care of the cattle, moving and running equipment or running grain bins, Janet has a diverse and extensive knowledge of the operations on their farm.
Sarah and her husband joined the operation in 2008, forming Tregellas Family Farms. In 2019, Janet and Rocky sold their part of the farming operation to Sarah and Blake.
Sarah said the extent of Janet’s involvement on the farm was immediately evident. Janet added value to their operation, and Sarah said she often noticed others in the family and community reaching out to Janet for her opinion.
Prior to marrying into the Tregellas family, Sarah said she had no experience in agriculture, but through the example her mother-in-law set, Sarah jumped right in. As she became more involved, she said she realized how rare it is to come across someone who is truly as competent and successful as Janet.
“Janet taught me everything she knew,” Sarah said, “and because Blake was used to his mom being involved, it was very normal for me to be involved. It was like, ‘If a guy can do it, women can do it.’ I give credit for that to Janet and Rocky, but definitely Janet for all the work she’s put into it.”
Sarah said the Tregellas family welcomed her into a healthy and supportive family environment and trusted her to help in any way she wanted. She started out helping with the books, progressed to running the tractor, grain cart and combine and then tapped into her marketing degree to become more involved in the financial aspect of the operation.
Sarah attended The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP), a program organized by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. The intensive, two week-long program is held in Austin, Texas, and teaches advanced agribusiness skills such as international business development, niche market evaluation, analyzing and forecasting financial positions, as well as personnel management and negotiation.
As Sarah became more involved and attended several other conferences with the family, she said she helped the farm transition to a new accrual-type bookkeeping system that helps the family better analyze their profit margins.
Sarah said through her conferences, she learned women can have an easier time marketing commodities, because they are often not as attached to grain. Janet added even her broker has noticed she is typically more prepared to sell than her husband.
“There’s always going to be things that women look at differently on the farm,” Sarah said. “I think that’s part of why our farm has been so successful.”
Just as much as Janet has been able to mentor Sarah on the production aspect of the farm, Janet said Sarah has been able to contribute to the farm in her own ways, and her view as someone from outside the agricultural industry has helped strengthen their family and operation.
“Sarah has encouraged us to not just be one-minded,” Janet said, “and I have appreciated it. I appreciate it more and more all the time. Because there is other stuff in life besides just work. Amazing, isn’t it?”
Sarah said hard work was not an oddity in her family growing up, and she truly respects the hard work Janet and Rocky had to put in to keep their farm operating through the tough times. She said Janet and Rocky built the operation out of major debt in the 1980s into a thriving operation that supports two operating families and four employee families.
As Janet and Rocky are transitioning out of the farming operation, Janet said it has been challenging to slow down after working on the farm for so many years. In the agricultural community, she said people often give everything they have to their work, their farm or their ranch, but Sarah’s outside perspective has helped the family recognize other priorities.
“Everybody does their best at the time of life that they’re in,” Janet said, “and I think that’s what we’ve all done and I think we’ve done a good job of it. We enjoy each other and love each other, and it’s a good life.”
This story originally appeared in the Fall 2020 Issue of Sorghum Grower magazine as a feature.