For women in ag journalism, she blazed the way

Jan Faint is still making her mark in the livestock world

Jan Faint relaxes outside her Webster City home, but her real home is anywhere a livestock show might be happening.

Jan Faint would never describe herself as a trailblazer. She’s too humble for that.

Those who know her, know her as a quiet, friendly woman with a passion for the livestock industry, beef shows and Mary Kay cosmetics.

But Faint managed to do what few women of her generation would have even tried. She built a career for herself in ag business long before girls were even allowed to join the Future Farmers of America.

FFA was still known by its full name when Faint graduated from Webster City High School in 1959.

But the fact that FFA was still “boys only” didn’t hold Faint back one little bit. She was a 4-H’er in the Blairsburg area and, in those days, Hamilton County offered a countywide club for girls in livestock.

Faint could have written the book on girls in livestock. But she maintained that her brother was the real showman in the family.

“My brother was a natural at it,” she said.

The late Tom Faint would spend his life as a rancher in Nebraska. All three Faint children — Tom, Jan and Penny — spent their childhood summers in two places: the barn and the show ring.

“I only showed cattle,” she said. “My sister showed horses and cattle, and one year she showed hogs.”

Regardless of the species, the Faint kids knew that if they wanted to show they had to put in the work long before show day.

“We didn’t have somebody else getting the animals ready for us,” Faint said. “We were out there at six in the morning doing chores, and we were still out there at six at night brushing the cattle.”

Faint and her father, the late Bob Faint, were regulars at every Hamilton County Beef Show for decades. Bob Faint, a buyer at the former Central Iowa Stockyards, was well-respected for his knowledge of livestock. But he wanted his children to learn for themselves.

“We were independent,” Jan Faint said. “We did our own, and never had anyone else work our cattle.”

A career in agriculture seemed like a natural for her. She went to work in advertising for the Drover’s Journal, working in Omaha and Kansas City before moving on to the Western Livestock Journal in Denver.

“I handled all of the national accounts,” Faint explained. “I did all of the ads. I had two guys who laid out the ads, but I oversaw what went into the paper and I always talked to the breeders.”

Proving that there’s still a little ink in her blood, she noted that she always encouraged advertisers to take advantage of color at a time when newspapers were mostly black and white. In those days, color was done in four separations of CMYK — or cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Put them all together and an ad comes to life in beautiful full color.

“I enjoyed the people,” Faint said of her days in ag journalism.

Eventually, she returned to Webster City and spent several years working in a local law office. She also joined the Hamilton County Cattlemen and served 25 years on the organization’s board. She retired from the board about two years ago.

Faint is still a regular at all of the area livestock shows. Hamilton County Cattlemen recently hosted its annual Junior Beef Show and Faint was impressed with all of the new exhibitors who took part.

“I went through the book and there were all these new names,” she said. “I hardly recognize any of them. It’s a whole new set.”

And that’s just what the Cattlemen’s group wants to see — a new generation making a way for themselves in the livestock industry.

“We started this show right after I went on the board,” Faint noted. “I said, ‘I think we need to have a Junior Beef Show,’ and some folks said, ‘What’s that?'”

This year there were some 120 to 130 cattle exhibited at the show at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds. The two-day show was hosted on Saturday by Cattlemen from Kossuth County, while Hamilton County hosted on Sunday. The two-day event helps draw more competitive exhibitors.

“These kids are showing for points,” Faint explained. “They are showing every weekend and sometimes in a couple of shows a weekend.”

Faint will always have a good eye for cattle, but she also has a good eye for youth who know their way around the show ring.

“It’s fun to see the kids that can handle it in the ring and know what they are doing,” she said.

For Faint, a love of livestock that started on the farm as a kid has proven to be a good way to make a living, as well as a life.

“I always look forward to the shows,” she said. “It just gets in your blood, and you meet a lot of people.”


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