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Santomaso inducted into the Cattle Marketing Hall of Fame

Livestock Marketing Association’s Cattle Marketing Hall of Fame Class of 2022 included Jim Santomaso who, with his wife, Becky, owns Sterling (Colorado)Livestock Commission. Santomaso and Robert (Bob) Rodenberger, Col. Ralph Wills Wade, and the late Raymond Mark Winter were inducted on July 29 in Dodge City, Kan.

Jim Santomaso's Hall of Fame plaque marking his 2022 induction. Photo courtesy of Camille Santomaso

In the early 1970s, a teenage Jim Santomaso was working in the back pens of Sterling Livestock Commission with plans of becoming an auctioneer and marrying the owner’s daughter. On sale days, he would use a handheld recorder to tape owner Bud Van Berg, Wayne Cruse and Damon Koch selling cattle. Van Berg gave him a set of keys to the sale ring and at night, he would imitate the recordings using the microphone, teaching himself how to chant to an empty sale ring.

Dylan, Hunter, Camille, Jason, Becky and Jim Santomaso, Jenny Santomaso Nelson, Chris, Austin, and Rylyn Nelson and Andi Padilla at the induction ceremony. Photo courtesy of Camille Santomaso

With the seasoned auctioneers selling in the background, Santomaso spent sale days unloading and sorting cattle and learning the business from the back pens forward. He eventually earned a spot behind the microphone. He and his high school sweetheart, Becky Van Berg married in 1973 and the couple raised their daughter, Jenny, and son, Jason, in the livestock auction business. As the lead auctioneer, Santomaso put many a mile on vehicles working the country and visiting cattle producers. By listening to them, he was better able to advise them how to best market their cattle.



Jim and Becky Santomaso, seated, with Debbie (Van Berg) and Dave Japp at the induction ceremony. Photo courtesy of Camille Santomaso

Auctioneer M.H. Van Berg, who owned the Columbus Sales Pavilion in Columbus, Neb., purchased the existing Sterling Livestock Commission in 1958 from B.F. Hartway and Paul Dillehay. Bud Van Berg was sent to operate the newly acquired auction barn. He was involved in leading the Colorado Livestock Auction Association and supporting the Sterling and Logan County communities through running the Logan County Junior Market Livestock Sale, which has since been named in his honor. Just last week, the Bud Van Berg Memorial 4-H and FFA Livestock Auction raised a new record of more than $880,000 plus more than $50,000 in add-ons.

In 1975, Van Berg made auctioneer Wayne Kruse a partner in the business. Kruse had worked for VanBerg for nearly 20 years after starting in the back pens setting posts and working his way up. When the company purchased Centennial Livestock Auction in Fort Collins in 1980, Wayne and Joyce Kruse relocated to manage it. The Van Bergs and Kruses also purchased Burlington Livestock Exchange around the same time, renaming it Burlington Livestock Commission Company, later selling it.



Jim and Becky Santomaso celebrated Jim's induction into the Cattle Marketing Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of Camille Santomaso

By the mid-1990s, Jim and Becky Santomaso were integral to the operations at Sterling Livestock Commission and Jim was named manager in 2002. Van Berg passed away in 2005 and Jim and Becky became owners. Kruse said the Santomasos have worked hard to build their business and to build and support their community.

“They’re just good people, that’s all there is to it,” Kruse said. “I can remember years ago I told Jim, ‘if you’re going to be involved in something, be involved 100% and all the way.’ He’s done that and he’s done great.”

Santomaso offered a tour of his Sterling Livestock Commission to Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Kate Greenberg and others as part of a two-day tour of the area. Photo by Rachel Gabel

World Champion Auctioneer John Korrey is a regular on the block at Sterling Livestock, and said he’s known Jim and his family for over 50 years.

“I have the utmost respect for Jim and what he stands for,” Korrey said. “He’s a family man, a community leader, and a professional business leader who has donated his time to make our community better.”

Santomaso told The South Platte Sentinel in 2018 that cattle breeds and technology have changed, and trends have come and gone. What has stayed consistent, though, is fundamentally good cattle’s ability to efficiently turn feed into protein and the belief that everyone involved in the business ought to be treated like family.

The Meat In Day in Sterling, Colo., at Sterling Livestock raised over $150,000 for local causes and served nearly 1,500 people. Photo courtesy of Jason Santomaso

Today, on any given sale day, Becky Santomaso and daughter Jenny Nelson work the office with Jenny’s daughter Rylyn, Jim and Jason sell cattle with Camille, Jason’s wife, on the block clerking. Jason and Camille’s son Dylan runs the pens in the back, and their son Hunter runs the load out and sells weigh cows at the end of the sale, learning the craft. Jenny’s son Austin can also be found in the back pens when he’s not delivering UPS packages and Becky’s sister Deanie Van Berg and her sisters Debbie Japp and Cindy Pilkerton keep the café operating smoothly.

Jason Santomaso said his grandfather Van Berg instilled honesty and a willingness to help anyone who needs it in his family and those around him. Jim Santomaso, Jason said, amplifies that message even more.

Just as Bud VanBerg showed him, Jim Santomaso dedicates a great deal of time and resources to the cattle industry and the local community. He has served on a number of committees for the Livestock Marketing Association, is a past president of the LMA, served two terms on the Colorado Beef Council and serves on the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association Board. The Santomaso family still runs the 4-H livestock sale and, were it not for an unexpected appendectomy, this year would have been the first sold by Jim’s grandson, Hunter. The Santomaso family was integral in hosting the state’s first two Meat In Day events and raising an impressive amount of donations to support local families.

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