Rob von der Lieth was a city boy; a kid who grew up in Lafayette, CA just about a half hour east of Berkeley. He wanted to be a cowboy but he had no background in the cattle business, just a burning desire created by a chance visit to a rodeo when he was in high school.
"I was enamored by ranching and the cowboy lifestyle," he said.
But he had no roots in agriculture, nor friends in the business. He had to find a way to break in and it took a lot of hard work. Fortunately, he had the work ethic to get it done. It came by way of a serious commitment to football which led him to become a linebacker at U.C. Berkeley and a spot on the 1975 PAC-8 championship team. Playing at that level means you have a hard-headed desire to succeed, no matter how often you get knocked on your backside.
"After I graduated in 1976 with a degree in economics, I thought I could get a job in ranching, no problem. No one would hire me, though. I talked with a woman in human resources at Farm Credit Corporation who turned me down, said I didn't have any experience."
So Rob got experience, starting at the bottom. He got a job as a cowboy earning just a few hundred dollars a month. "They worked me hard," he said. "They had me shoeing horses, it was a real test."
He stuck it out, though, and learned a lot about the cattle business. Four years later, he called her back. She hired him on the spot and he began his long career in finance and cattle. He spent four years learning the business with that company before moving on to Tri-State Livestock Credit Corporation, a livestock financing firm with a portfolio in nine western states.
Today he's a stocker of some significance with "a lot of market exposure" he says. Most of his land is leased with a winter stocker business near Copperopolis, Ca, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, an area he calls "the mother lode country; the real California." His summer business is close to Big Piney in the southwest corner of Wyoming.
Like most Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) members, he's a family man. "I have a wife, Joyce, three step-children and four grandchildren," he said. His step-sons and second generation cattlemen, Matt and Ted Beechinor, have their own spreads and work with him, too.
Von der Lieth has used his work ethic well, giving back to the business he's learned to love in a variety of capacities. He served as chairman of the California Beef Council in 2009 immediately following in the footsteps of Jimmy Maxey, another member of the CBB. In addition to being a member of the California Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), he's also active in the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Quarter Horse Association, Rancheros Visitadores, Sonoma County Trail Blazers, and the Bohemian Club of San Francisco.
He's also a member of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, San Benito Saddle Horse Association, Sons of California Football Alumni, and is a past director for the Oakdale Cowboy Museum. Always trying to learn more about the business, he earned a certificate in Advanced Ranch Management from the King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management.
When he was elected to be treasurer of the CCA, he said, “It’s an honor to serve as treasurer of the California Cattlemen's Association. Although my roots didn’t start on a ranch, I have always been very passionate about the beef industry. I am committed, as treasurer, to work diligently to build a stronger beef industry and increase consumer demand for our products."
He's carried that commitment over to his newly appointed role as a member of the CBB. He was appointed to the position last fall and attended his orientation meeting this March in San Antonio, TX.
"I was appointed to the Nutrition and Health Sub-committee," he said. "We're working now on getting ready for the July meeting in Denver where we will discuss the very important issues we're facing."