Stephen Frank Cooper was born in Port Lavaca, Texas and grew up in Deutschburg, a small farming community outside of Palacios, Texas. He began working at the age of nine, baling hay for Charlie Krueger, helping his father feed and work cattle, and also working in the oil field. It was then that he opened his first checking account to start paying for his own clothes and saving. He began farming at the age of 13 for O. R. “Dick” Kubecka ’65 and Doug Kubecka ’69 and he continued to work for them throughout his time in college until 1978.
As the first of his family to attend college, Texas A&M provided the education and core values that helped propel Steve to success. In 1977, while still in college and working for Kubecka Farms, he bought used farm equipment and started his own farming operation, Steve Cooper Farms, in Palacios, Texas. He farmed 200 acres of grain sorghum, corn, and soybeans and did so until 1979. He went home from college almost every weekend, spring break, and holidays to farm in order to pay for all of his college expenses.
Upon graduating in May of 1978, he cried all the way home, not wanting to leave his beloved Texas A&M University. Reality sunk in and Steve did what he did best and went straight to work. It was in 1979 that he was able to become a partner with Camp Mehrens and formed Mehrens-Cooper Farms in LaWard, Texas. Together, they farmed more than 3,000 acres of grain sorghum, corn, rice, and soybeans. In addition, Steve established and managed the turf grass operations for 3M Grass Farms. From 1979-1985, he increased the sod/turf grass acreage from 120 to 450 acres and earned a working percentage. During that same time, Steve helped develop additional turf acreage for other farmers as a form of supplemental income. In 1985, he bought out Mehrens, establishing Cooper Farms. He continued to operate this entity until 1990.
In 1987, he purchased 410 acres in Commerce City, Colorado to create Emerald Sod Farms, a cool-season sod/turf grass operation. In 1991, Cooper Farms became Y Farm, Inc.; during this time, he continued his farming operations in LaWard and Deutschburg, Texas. Eventually, Steve turned Cooper Farms over to his brother Rodney. Also, in 1991, Steve formed 2 Big Partners with his best friend, Scott Arbuckle, farming rice, ranching, investing in farm and ranch real estate, land development including housing subdivisions, agricultural loans, and various agribusinesses for 23 years until 2014.
Steve moved to El Campo in 1993 and became active in the community. In 2002, he was part of the group that planned and raised funds to build a new state-of-the-art bowling center in El Campo. He has served as President/Partner for this community project. Steve’s other business ventures include being a partner in New ICM, a children’s clothing manufacturer; Rancho de Los Amigos, LLC., a wildlife management ranch operation; and Borrachos de Vino, LLC., a Texas winery located in San Saba, Texas.
Steve has dedicated his life to service and giving back whenever possible. He has served as Chairman of the Leadership Advisory Board of Wharton County AgriLife for 10 years. He has served as President and a member of the Rocky Mountain Sod Growers Association, a member of the Turf Producers International, Texas Sod Producers, Texas Turf Grass Association, and the Rocky Mountain Golf Course Superintendent Association. He currently serves as the Vice Chairman of the El Campo Memorial Hospital Board of Directors, a position he has held for four years; prior to this appointment, he was a trustee/director of the West Wharton County Hospital District for seven years. He has served as Chairman of the El Campo Charter Review Committee for 12 years. Additionally, Steve serves on the Advisory Committee of Wharton County Water Conservation District, Chairman of the Housing Development Committee, and is a member of the City Development Corporation Committee for Housing and Industry Development.
Steve planned, organized, and obtained donations for landscaping and ball fields for the El Campo Middle School and is an advisor, mediator, and original organizer of the new El Campo Youth Memorial Park. He has donated sod/turf grass, services, and expertise for the Vietnam Traveling Wall, numerous projects for Habitat for Humanity, the Boys and Girls Club, several First Tee Youth Courses, Houston, Denver and other Veterans Administration Cemetery projects and improvements, Wounded Warriors homes, and various church, school, and civic projects.
Steve is a member of the Texas A&M University College of Agricultural Development Council (COADC), a mentor expert for AGEC 425, an Eppright Distinguished Donor, an Endowed Member of the Association of Former Students, and an Endowed Member of the 12th Man Foundation. In 2015, Steve was named a Distinguished Alumnus Award winner by the Association of Former Students.
Steve and his wife Kimberley have been married for 30 years and currently live in El Campo, Texas. Both of their daughters, Alexis Cooper ’12 and Shelby Cooper ’13, have their Endowed Membership with the Association of Former Students as a graduation present from Steve and Kimberley.