Brisket Brings the Kids Home

Latham® dealer Mark Hawthorne backgrounds cattle near Lohrville in West Central Iowa. His family buys 400-pound steers in January and sells them around 800 to 900 pounds sometime between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

“I had always planned to farm if there was an opportunity to do so,” says Mark, who worked for a farmer near Story City while attending Iowa State University. He continued working there for eight more years after graduation when an opportunity in corn breeding at the Syngenta plant in Glidden became available “This was a good move. Because I was closer to home, I could help my dad on the farm.”

Mark says he’d probably still be working in Glidden if Syngenta hadn’t closed the plant. He didn’t want to uproot his family to Seward, Nebraska, so he put his Ag Business major and Agronomy minor to use for himself by taking on a Latham® dealership and assuming more of the day-to-day responsibilities on his family’s farm.

“Our farm has changed as times have changed,” says Mark. “We used to raise hogs in open-front buildings but got out of the business instead of reinvesting in new facilities. When packers started to buy large numbers of cattle, we switched to backgrounding cattle rather than raising cow-calf pairs. It works out well because we get to take a break from doing chores for a few months each year.”

Once their corn and soybean crops have been planted, the family turns their attention to making hay. Mark’s father, Merrill, recently retired. Mark’s youngest son, Max, is a senior at South Central Calhoun High School.

“The cattle business has been good to Max,” says Mark. As a young 4-H member, Max cleared enough from his feeder cattle project to buy the next year’s pen plus save some money for breeding heifers. Now he is an FFA member with feeder cattle for his Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) and has learned the value of feedstuffs. Max will graduate in May 2023 and plans to attend Iowa State University this fall where he will pursue a degree in Ag Business.

“The Latham® alfalfa products have always lived up to the description in your advertising,” said Mark. “We were happy with the disease package and fine stems with fast regrowth, so we were hesitant to make a switch. We tried HarvExtra® and realized it’s worth the extra! It has a lot higher feed value, so we don’t need as many acres of alfalfa. For example, I used to mix one bale or alfalfa to one bale of grass hay. Now it’s a ratio of one bale alfalfa to three of grass – and it delivers the same feed value.”

The Hawthorne family has target dates to deliver their product to market. After all, time is money. Their cattle usually go to market in late fall, so the early winter months provide time for the family to enjoy a ski vacation or to visit family members and friends. Mark and Susan’s daughter, Jessi, lives nearby with her family. Their son Kodi lives in Morris, Minnesota. The couple has five grandchildren.

“Our goal is to leave our farm in a position that allows our kids to come home if they so desire,” says Mark. “We’re getting the next generation ready now, so they can take over some day.”

One sure-fire way to get all the kids together is to put brisket on the smoker, says Susan, noting that “they all come running home” when they hear Mark is making Midnight Brisket. Here is the Hawthorne family’s favorite beef recipe.

Mark’s Midnight Brisket


4- to 6-pound brisket

Olive oil

Worcestershire sauce

Liquid smoke (optional)

Salt and pepper

1 can beef broth

Aluminum pie pan

12 oz can dark beer (optional)

Aluminum foil


Mix together salt, pepper, Worcestershire, and liquid smoke; rub liberally into all parts of brisket.

Fill an aluminum pie pan half full of water and 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Or replace this with the dark beer for a deeper flavor in the meat.  Place this pan in lower part of your smoker to keep moisture while smoking.

Start smoking at 180 degrees between 10 p.m. and midnight.

You may have to add more water or beer in pan in the morning.

Let smoke for 12 to 14 hours until meat reaches 180 degrees.

Take brisket and wrap in foil with beef broth, return to smoker and increase temperature to 200 degrees; smoke for 2-4 more hours or until meat reaches 190-195 degree internal temp.

Remove from smoker and let rest for 15-20 minutes to let juice absorb.  Collect juice for dipping if making sandwiches.

TIP: Hickory or mesquite wood is preferred, but for a slightly different flavor try pecan wood.