(Pictured left: Back row left to right: Cole Parmer, Sky Parmer, Clay Parmer, Chance Parmer
Seated: Don Parmer)
By Devin Horton, Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce
The Pete Smith Agriculture Pioneer Award sponsored by Heritage Land Bank is awarded every year to one person in Nacogdoches County who has either fundamentally changed the agriculture industry or has maintained longevity within the industry. The Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce has named Don Parmer the 2018 Agriculture Pioneer Award recipient.
Don started raising cattle when he was 10 years old. While he raised cattle, Don helped his father, Woodrow Parmer, a former Nacogdoches County commissioner, run a service station. First in Nacogdoches, where Eugenia-Sterne Park is now located, and later in Chireno. He also helped Jerome Powers manage his cow herd and in high school he attended the Future Farmers of America convention in Kansas City.
“I’ve constantly been involved in agriculture,” Don said. “I helped neighbors and friends work cows. All kinds of stuff. I’ve directly been involved with agriculture for many years.”
While working at the station, he also aided in a Brucellosis testing campaign. Brucellosis is a highly contagious disease that many animals and humans can contract. In cows, it causes miscarriages. Brucellosis was a large concern in the United States in the 1950s and 60s, but has since become less of an issue because of vaccinations.
“I worked with Dr. Francis Schott,” Don said. “He’d come by the station, pick me up and I’d go with him and we’d go around to different places where cows were farmed and test the blood for brucellosis.”
Don graduated high school in 1966. He attended Stephen F. Austin State University. He married Jamie Wheeler in 1969. In 1973, they bought their first home and property in Blackjack.
“It was a big house on a hill that was really cold,” Jamie said. “I think it was built in 1899. It would get so cold in the winter, the curtains would freeze to the glass if the wind was blowing out of the north.”
The Parmers moved to their current house around 1985, just down the road from their first house. On both properties, the Parmers raised and sold crossbred calves and Jamie also taught in Chireno.
Throughout the years, Don has consistently worked to improve his beef operation.
“He always wanted to have the best cattle, and the best grass and the best hay,” Jamie said, “so he always worked to improve whatever he was able to acquire.”
The Parmers have four children: Clay, Chance, Cole and Sky.
“They all worked cows together,” Jamie said. “Everything that’s involved in a place, they all do together, so we couldn’t do it without them.”
For about 25 years, Don produced team roping competitions for several organizations. Don preferred using a specific species of cattle, Corriente, for his team roping competitions. The Parmer family gained a reputation for hosting quality competitions with appropriate cattle sizes.
“Team ropers like to go to where there’s good cattle,” agriculture extension agent for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Ricky Thompson said. “Don Parmer had that reputation for putting on good competitive ropings that were fair for everybody.”
The Parmer family only runs one annual competition now, the Shelah Aiken Memorial Roping, which is produced by Sky Parmer. Proceeds from the Shelah Aiken Memorial Roping go to the Stephen F. Austin State University's Shelah Aiken Youth Agriculture Scholarship.
Sky bought Don and Jamie’s old house and lives there now with her family, a silver Labrador named Stoney.
“Our daughter has remodeled the house,” Jamie said, “so she’s very comfortable up there. One son, Chance, lives across the road and another son, Cole, lives up the road. Sky lives in the middle and Clay, the oldest, lives in Angelina county, not too far away. But whenever it’s time to work the cattle, or whatever needs to be done, they all come and help, so, like I say, he couldn’t do it without them.”
Don is being recognized as an agriculture pioneer because of the team roping competitions he developed, the legacy his children and grandchildren carry on through their team roping competitions and his work in the county’s agriculture industry.
“That’s where Don Parmer becomes a pioneer because he started something, or was involved in something that not everybody does,” Thompson said. “It supports the community by providing entertainment and recreation for our community and our county and neighboring counties and the East Texas community.”
Don Parmer will be honored as the Pete Smith Agriculture Pioneer award recipient at the Agriculture Appreciation and Award Banquet at the Nacogdoches County Expo Center presented by TFP Nutrition on April 24.