Another face who is no stranger to CCA members is Col. Jake Parnell, Sacramento, who has been a close friend of the Macfarlane Family since his youth. Parnell manages Cattlemen’s Livestock Market in Galt and is also a partner in the sale management firm Parnell-Dickinson with his brother Luke Parnell, Auburn, and longtime friend John Dickinson, Caldwell, Idaho.
An interesting thing to note is that Parnell’s grandfather, legendary auctioneer Col. Jack Parnell, now of Sandpoint, Idaho, used to be the publisher of the California Cattleman magazine. Both Jack Parnell and Col. Randy Parnell, Jake’s father, were business mentors and personal role models for Matt.
“I have known Matt in a lot of different circles throughout my life,” said Jake Parnell, who first met Matt at age 8 when the Macfarlane Family moved back to California from Nevada. “From showing at our local county fair and fitting cattle together for years to working ringside together at auctions for nearly two decades now, we have been more like family at different times in our lives. In many ways we learned the ins and outs of the marketing business together.”
Though some people in the marketing business might look at Jake and Matt as competitors, Jake says their close friendship is unique because even though they are in some ways competitors, they have always rooted for one another’s success.
“I’ve always looked at us way more like teammates than competitors. Even in situations when one of us could have felt like the other got the leg up on a cattle deal or a sale management job, our friendship has always come first,” Jake said. “And also, like we have seen in the beef industry time and time again, competition is a good thing. It keeps us working hard but if we didn’t support each other, none of us would last very long in this business.”
“Truthfully, Matt and I are as close now as we’ve ever been. We’ve been there for some of the most imporant parts of each others lives from weddings to raising kids,” Jake said.
Matt has also been a good example in that regard, his friends say. “Work will always be there but your kids only grow up once. I have always known that but Matt has reaffirmed that often. When you choose your kids over work, you might occasionally upset someone at work but you always made the right choice.”
John Dickinson shared similar sentiments. Having moved from Illinois to Sacramento immediately following college, Matt was one of the first people Dickinson became associated with.
“It is funny to see how our lives have come full circle,” Dickinson said. “Matt and I learned this business together – though technically separately – for almost our whole careers. We’ve been side by side through career changes, life challenges and even starting families.”
Dickinson said the thing that makes him a great friend and a great cattle marketer are one and the same — how personally he takes all his roles as a friend and as a professional.
“When you first meet Matt you see this 6-foot, 4-inch, broad- shoulded, serious-looking guy but it doesn’t take long to find out that he is the most sensitive one of us all,” Dickinson said.
To illustrate how close Dickinson and Macfarlane have been over the years, Dickinson said Matt has taught him as much about parenting as he has about cattle production. With twin college-aged daughters, Mazie and Makenzie, Matt is known amongst his friends, clients and colleagues for always putting family first. As his friends have followed his footsteps into fatherhood, his example has elevated their level of commitment to family.
“From cattle dispersions to Mazie and Makenzie’s toy dispersions, we have chartered life courses together and I know I am better for it,” said Dickinson, who recently became a father himself. “If there is anything I have learned from Matt it is how to prioritize what matters.”
“Matt is a lot like his dad in that he wasn’t necessarily easy on his kids but he gave them every opportunity they could want, both in agriculture and in other pursuits,” Dickinson said. “Just like Bob Macfarlane’s four kids – who all have an extremely strong work ethic – Matt’s girls are some of the toughest, well-rounded young women you could come across. He has supported them in anything they wanted to try both in and out of the cattle business. That is something I hope I can do as a dad.”
Dickinson, who is just as passionate about quality beef cattle as Matt is, said the camraderie of the people they work with are what really makes their jobs enjoyable.
“I guarantee, no matter how good the cattle or how lively the auction, none of us would have stayed in the business if it weren’t for the people we travel with,” Dickinson said. “Even when we aren’t traveling or at an event together, we are still on the phone sometimes well into the night because we know the others in our crew are also somewhere on the road. It’s definitely a fraternity and a very valuable part of our lifestyle.”
One person, among many, who Matt has credited with setting a family-first example for him is Rick Blanchard, whom Marr has served as a sale manager for at the seedstock business Silveira Bros. in Firebaugh, as long as they have been holding a production sale.
As someone who is known throughout the show cattle world and purebred Angus business for valuing family and friends, Blanchard says that family-first is something he has always tried to emulate.
“Matt makes no bones about it, his personal life comes first. But that is why he and I have such a great relationship. We allow each other the flexibility to be great at our jobs but still find time for other things that matter,” Blanchard said. “Now that Matt has been in the business as long as he has, I see him sharing that same mentality with others. Work doesn’t mean a thing unless you have people in your life who matter more than work does.”
Blanchard says Matt’s consideration for people is another thing that makes him a valuable sale manager.
“I am in the people business, not just the cattle business and Matt understands that aspect of what we do,” Blanchard says. “As a sale manager, Matt makes it easier for me to do my job by handling things behind the scenes. Not only is he of value to me for his attention to those details, but he does it for many other producers in the West as well. When Matt says he will do something, he always comes through.”
Blanchard said Matt’s own cattle experience helps him to know what gaps need filled leading up to sale time.
“Something I really appreciate about Matt is that even though he manages sales for other seedstock producers, he knows the business well enough to tailor his business to what we need. He also helps each of us capture the buyers that are best suited to our cattle operations. Due to Matt’s loyalty and integrity, I always know that he is doing what is in the best interest of bull sale operators and our buyers.”
Someone who knows more than anyone about Matt’s integrity and loyalty is his wife Heather Macfarlane. She said his strict personal honor code was evident from the moment she met him. Though a hard worker herself who has built a name and reputation for excellence in her own line of work, Heather – a dentist – says she is largely a “during business hours,” kind of business owner. For her, Matt’s dedication to work was attention grabbing, to say the least.
“I love what I do, but I had never seen someone so committed to their work and have so much pride in their work relationships that it actually defines their career and their personal life,” Heather said. “I have come to realize the round-the-clock attention that raising cattle takes and that sale management requires but it was something I didn’t fully understand initially. Matt has come to find a great balance in both his personal and professional life.”
Though it was somewhat foreign to her in the beginning of their relationship, Heather said Matt’s devotion to his business and ranching way of life is also what makes him so devoted to their children and to their relationship.
“He is definitely not a stranger to hard work and he works hard at every relationship in his life, he is also a great example of those characteristics for our children,” Heather said.
“The loyalty he has been shown amongst his colleagues – who are also his best friends – is what makes him such a great father and husband,” Heather said. “If he has to be on the road to earn a living, it is a tremendous bonus to also be surrounded by a lifestyle and people he loves. Who Matt is is a result of the ranching industry that raised him.”
Like many of the cattlemen and women Matt works with, he is extremely humble and prefers to stay out of the spotlight. As he prepares to hit the road and embark on his 20th season representing this publication, this article was written unbeknownst to him as he likely would have objected. But for those who might see Matt at an occasional bull sale or CCA event, hopefully you can better appreciate who Matt is and the dedication he has for his way of life. While it is unknown what the next 20 years may have in store for Matt Macfarlane and the California Cattleman magazine, it is entirely obvious that both are better off for what has transpired over the last 20 years.