Aqualino Rizzi immigrated from Italy as an indentured servant, working for a farmer in northwest Missouri in order to pay for his passage to America. He is my great, great grandfather (my grandmother McCrea’s grandfather). Aqualino eventually bought 220 acres in 1909. My grandfather, Maurice McCrea, purchased the land from him just after he was married in 1926. Aqualino once told my grandmother that if he had the money when he first arrived in the US, he would have gone back to Italy. The property he purchased is part of our farm today.
My grandfather, Maurice McCrea, began building a registered Angus herd in the 1930s. During the 1950s and 60s, he showed Angus cattle at events in cities such as Chicago, Kansas City, Fort Worth, and Phoenix. He flew to most of those venues, a rarity, especially in the 1950s. He was instrumental in bringing the American Angus headquarters to St. Joseph, Missouri. Here, he is pictured with a “Baby Beef” class at the Kansas City stockyards.
In 1959, the Missouri State Fair held a special event in conjunction with the Rawhide television show. On the show, cattle were herded up the Chisholm Trail. One of the trailheads was Sedalia, Missouri, which is today the home of the state fairgrounds. Rawhide arranged for the grand champion steer at that year’s fair to appear on the show. My father, M.L. McCrea Jr., had the champion steer. He and his family took a train to the Rawhide set in Tucumcari, New Mexico. The television producers had not thought much about the publicity event, though. When this Angus steer arrived, it was soon apparent that he would stick out when put in a herd of longhorns. At one point, they even toyed with the idea of fitting the Angus steer with a set of horns! Here, my father is pictured with the Rawhide cast, including Clint Eastwood, in his first television role.
We disbanded our purebred Angus herd in the early 1970s and focused on growing Angus-cross stocker cattle. For many years, we sold all of our cattle at the Grant City, Missouri, sale barn. This picture of my grandfather, father, and me was taken in 1977 as we prepared to sell our cattle. The picture hung in the sale barn’s cafe for many years, until the market closed.
My grandfather passed in 2001, just two weeks shy of his 98th birthday. Today our crew consists of the McCrea Family, Doug DeLaney, and the help of many friends and neighbors. We have more than 3,000 acres of crop and pasture land. It is a family owned and operated business. We raise Angus-cross stocker cattle and grow corn, soybeans, wheat, and alfalfa. We take pride in being good stewards of the land. This land was here long before we arrived, and it will be here long after. We thank God for the opportunity to tend it.
Here’s another video about life on the farm.