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John E. "Matt" Sutton

John E. Sutton
John E. "Matt" Sutton

Eminent Farmer

County: Sully

John E. "Matt" Sutton of Onida, South Dakota, made his reputation both as an agricultural innovator and a public official. He earned his degree in the animal science field at South Dakota State University in 1952, where he was active in student government, athletics, and livestock judging. He later served as a second lieutenant in the United States Army, before returning to ranching. He then established his own ranch near Sutton Bay with his wife Helen. There, he was an early pioneer in irrigation from the Oahe Reservoir, performance testing and artificial insemination for beef production, and the use of ultra-sound equipment for testing progeny muscle development. As a co-founder and president of Sutton, Thomas, and Levis Cattle Company, he brought Simmental cattle to South Dakota. These were the first in the state and among the first in the nation. Sutton says the performance levels of his present Simmentals and Charolais are his greatest accomplishments. His animals have been in some of the most rigid performance contests in the nation and have been consistently top-rated. Earlier in his career, he also held interests in quarter horses, Hereford cattle, and buffaloes. Sutton--whose father John, Sr., was named an Eminent Farmer in 1972--was South Dakota Agribusiness Person in 1978 and Distinguished SDSU Alumnus in 1976. Earlier, he also was Outstanding Young Farmer in Sully County and received the Jaycee Distinguished Service Award. His public service record is extensive. He was president of the South Dakota Quarter Horse Association and the South Dakota State University Advisory Council. He served on the South Dakota Board of Regents for a six-year term during the most extensive building program in the history of the state's higher education system. For two years he chaired the Board. He served on boards of directors for the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, the South Dakota Hereford Association, the South Dakota Livestock Production Records Association, the Pierre Production Credit Association, and the National Beef Improvement Federation--among others. Sutton also served two terms in the state legislature, co-chaired the Council for Tax Decision, and was a member of the State Planning Commission for Education. He later served as Chief Clerk in the State House of Representatives. Throughout, he also has taken a strong role in community leadership, including being a 4-H project leader, church trustee, and athletic backer. The Suttons have two children, Nancy (Mrs. William Smith), a television editor, and John III, a high-school student.