Faith woman combines ranching, accounting for the best of both worlds

Faith woman combines ranching, accounting for the best of both worlds

01/28/2021 Tags: Announcements

While working on the Rainbow Bible Ranch outside Sturgis during her high school summers, Leah Heidler knew West River was the part of the world she wanted to call home.

A South Dakota native, Heidler always loved the prairie. But it was the people who were the real draw.

“This whole culture is something that attracted me to this area. Very wholesome, down-to-earth people,” she says.

Now, as a CPA and income partner for our firm, Heidler gets to combine her passion for helping her farm and ranch clients with her passion for the ranching way of life.

Heidler, her husband, O.J., and their two boys, Ryden, 4, and Tryen, 1, live on O.J.’s family ranch outside Faith. O.J.’s parents live just down the road, and the ranch has been in the family going back to his great-grandfather.

The ranch is a cow-calf pair operation that relies heavily on horses to get the work done. That fits Heidler’s background to a tee.

Heidler went to college at National American University in Rapid City to study equine management. Her original plan was to break and train colts full time. Eventually, though, she decided to consider a different career path in case her first choice didn’t go as planned.

“O.J. would probably take credit for helping me make that decision,” she jokes.

She opted to pursue a degree in accounting, drawn to the field thanks to great accounting teachers in high school and college. She felt that accounting would give her the flexibility she wanted while allowing her to go after something she was good at.

“I’ve always been into math and numbers. That was my thing,” she says.

After earning her associate’s degree in equine management and her bachelor’s in accounting — and a few short months working for a rancher outside of Faith — Heidler joined Casey Peterson, LTD as an accounting and tax technician.

She liked the firm’s flexibility and small-town, family feel with its emphasis on the ag industry. Within a few years, Heidler’s focus was helping those same farm and ranch families that she’d always appreciated with their taxes and financial questions.

When she and O.J. got engaged, she knew she’d be moving to his family’s ranch after they got married. She was thrilled at the chance to live in an area she’d always hoped to call home.

When Heidler let Casey Peterson’s management know about her impending move, they were happy to help her find a way she could continue her role from Faith if she earned her CPA.

“This was at a time when not many people were working remotely,” Heidler says. “But they were great in helping get all the equipment set up and making it work.”

Now, she gets to live something of her dream life. She helps her clients make vital tax and financial decisions. All while having the ability to encourage her kids to embrace the ranch lifestyle that she’s so passionate about.

“I love being immersed in the ranch operation and the flexibility of my job,” she says. “I can help clients and yet still help with preg testing or go to sale day.”

It’s not all sunny skies, though. As all ranchers know, the market and the weather provide a constant stream of challenges.

“There are a lot of ups and downs,” Heidler says. “But even through all that, the people keep you grounded.”

Not to mention the chance to live a unique and wild life that few can imagine.

“If O.J. knocks on the back door and says he’s got a calf that needs to be warmed up in the bathtub, I have the flexibility to tell a client, ‘Let me call you back in a bit.’”

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