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Agri Leader

Carrying the ball for his community

CHRISTY SWIFT Central Florida's Agri-Leader
Published:   |   Updated: March 11, 2013 at 07:15 PM

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Most days you'll find Matt Pearce on the road, headed to a client in Wauchula or Okeechobee or another area of the Heartland. As the cattle specialist for Purina, he works in a consultative sales role, helping large ranches and family operations put together nutritional programs for their cow herd, developing heifers and bulls.

Pearce does body condition scoring on the animals, looks for mineral deficiencies and offers forage samples. That's how he helps his clients during his day job.

But Pearce also works behind the scenes to help them, whether they know it or not. As a member of the Pearce Cattle Co. that owns 1,100 acres in Glades County and leases 6,000, Pearce has been a cattleman all his life. While he doesn't run the ranch himself — his dad, Roy, and brother Mark do that — Pearce has taken on the role of representing the ranch at association meetings and other political functions, all the way up to the state level.

He serves on the executive board for the Florida Cattlemen's Association in District 4. He's also been past membership chairman and youth chairman for the state. This year he'll serve as vice chairman of the marketing committee.

As far as local associations, he's been past president of the Okeechobee Cattlemen's Association and is now the state director for Region 4 and serves on the board. He's also been on the Okeechobee youth livestock committee for the past 15 years and serves as Farm Service Agency County Committee chairman for Okeechobee.

That's a lot of meetings to attend, but as Pearce said: "I like interacting with people. Everybody's role is fit for their experience."

Running a ranch isn't like it used to be eight generations ago when his family began raising cattle. Now someone has to be the political/legislative liaison. That's Pearce.

The nice thing is, he doesn't just represent himself — he represents his customers, too. Just last week he met with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fl, in Fort Pierce.

"Certain people carry the ball for the ag community. That's part of my role," Pearce explained.

He enjoys representing the agriculture community's interests, and his role also helps him network with movers and shakers in the industry. It's a kind of symbiotic relationship.

But don't think that Pearce isn't a rancher through and through. He owns his own cows, has three kids who ride horses, and along with wife Alisha raises them with the iron work ethic you get growing up on a ranch.

"The memories I have most when I was a kid was getting up the day after Christmas.

Most kids would be playing with their toys, but that's when we worked the calves that were born," Pearce remembered.

It's not exactly the same for 15-year-old Taylor, 12-year-old Chandler and 10-year-old Aubrey. But they are learning the family business.

"When I take vacation with Purina, we work cows," Pearce said. The crew often consists of Pearce and his kids, Mark and his three children, and Roy.

"It's a learning tool for the next generation," said Pearce, who is also proud his family's way of life provides food, green space and wildlife conservation for the public. "The plans are to hand down the family ranch to the next generation."

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