Ehmke Seed Farm

The Ehmke Seed Farm is located in Lane County, Kansas, just west of Dighton. Jim Shroyer introduces us to Vance and Louise Ehmke, 4th generation owners and operators, who recently welcomed back two of their children, Layton and Tanner, to help provide additional labor and management for the farm.

(Jim) Good morning folks, welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer your host. And we’re in Lane County, west of Dighton. We’re on the Ehmke Seed Farm and today we’re gonna be talking with Vance and Louise and Layton and Tanner, the boys that have come back to the farm. And we’re gonna be talking about their family operation which is mainly wheat, triticale and row crops. And I think you’re gonna enjoy this program folks so stay with us. We’ll be right back.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission, the Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

(Jim) Good morning folks, welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer your host. And we’re sitting on the front porch of the office of the Vance and Louise Ehmke Seed Farm here in Lane County, just west of Dighton on Eagle Road. And… which is an old wheat variety from a number of years ago. So, tell us a little bit, Vance, Louise, kind of the history of the farm. I know this is a family farm been in the business for a long time, so kind of give us a history. (Vance) Well back in 1885, the German immigrants homesteaded out here. The Ehmkes came over here from Germany and they wound up in Lane County in 1885. This is part of the original farmstead that was owned by my great, great Grandparents. This is kind of interesting. They came over here and homesteaded in 1885. And they spoke German, up until… in World War I and one of the neighbors came over and said, “You know we’re at war with Germany, it would probably be a real good idea, if you started speaking English.” And from that day on it was English only. Over the years we have evolved into the farm that we have now. Here in western Kansas, or Lane County, we’re predominantly a dry land cropping system. We’ve got a little bit of irrigation, but it’s mainly dry land wheat and we also grow
rye and triticale and grain sorghum, which is a very drought hardy and well adapted crop. In addition, Louise and I have had another little crop, and that’s four kids. (Louise) Four kids. (Jim) Three boys and one girl. (Louise) Right, right. (Jim) Don’t forget Marit. OK. (Vance) That’s for sure. She went to KU… (Jim) Let’s not talk about that. (Louise) Bethany and K-State. (Vance) That’s for sure. (Jim) But let me ask you. You know, you’ve kind of been by yourself for a long, long time and… but now you’ve got a couple boys coming back. (Louise) That’s right and that’s been the joy of this. And we try to make that work and create your operation large enough and to afford them opportunities to do that. And we’re very pleased to bring them on. And they’re also going to have their other opportunities as well to develop. But we’re gonna work it together and we have this office here, and this is our office. (Jim) Right, it’s a grain bin. But it’s really an office. OK. (Louis) And it’s kind of whatever we need it to be when we need it, but most of the time it’s our office. (Jim) George Washington hasn’t slept here, but I have. (Louise) Yeah. So have Barry Flinchbaugh. (Jim) So, tell us what Frank Lloyd Wright said about space. (Vance) Well you see… well first of all congratulations on knowing who Frank Lloyd Wright is. He’s one of America’s leading architects and one of
his core beliefs was that you should look like your environment and what better says rural America or farm than a grain bin. And so we just plug right in and here we are. (Louie) And thanks to K-State advising us about insulation like the K-State engineer saying six inches of blown in cellulose should do you well, and that’s what we got and we followed their recommendation. And it’s worked out really well. There is heating and air conditioning in there. It isn’t without the amenities of life. (Jim) Right, right. Well, folks stay with us. I appreciate you letting us be here but stay with us for other sessions. And you folks at home, stay with us, we’ll be right back after these words.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. We’re on the Vance and Louise Ehmke Farm here in Lane County, just west of Dighton. And we’re inside the grain bin. And this isn’t your normal grain bin, folks. And with us we have Vance and Louise, like I said a second ago. And they’re gonna tell us a little bit about how they designed and how they put all the decorations together, cause there’s some really interesting stuff in here, starting with that flag up there. So, one of you, take it away. (Vance) OK, anyway the name of our farm at the FSA office is 34 Star Farms and we thought, well we should have a 34 star flag. That flag right there was used in 1861-62 and part of 63. (Louise) The significance of 34 stars is that Kansas became the 34th star on the flag. So, we are the 34th state. And that’s why we were excited to get that. (Vance) Yea, this is a working farm building and as you see, it is working, got a lot of stuff laying around here but to kind of pigeon hole all of our scale tickets Louise was down in Garden City at an antique store and got this antique rail car mail sorter and we had our scale tickets made to fit the holes. That was from south east Kansas. And the postal people would ride along on the train and sort the mail from one town to the next. (Louise) For the little town in southeast Kansas. Here we collect old scales because it fits our business and that we’re in the seed business. And we kind of collect scales. We collect oh, the well… (Vance) Deer antlers… everything. (Jim) Everything. (Louise) Deer animals. Well we have folks that bring us things too because they know we appreciate historic items. (Jim) I like your pulls, I like your pulls on the doors. (Louise) And those are all from Lane County or strayed into Lane County. One of the things that people really find fun, interesting about our place I don’t know if it’s historical, is that we have a signature wall that goes all the way around and you see here’s a…. (Vance) Oh, we have a whole bunch of K-State people. (Louise) Here’s our famous wall. We have Jim Shroyer’s there somewhere, Gary Pierzynski, Dr. Pierzynski, the Governor here’s Governor Sebelius signed here, Adrian Polansky, Rebecca Davis. (Vance) The Dean of Agriculture at K-State. (Louise) So we have… we are… (Vance) Phil Stallman, noted wheat specialist. (Louise) Yea. (Vance) Right up there. There’s Jim Shroyer. (Louise) There’s Jim Shroyer right there. There’s Jim Shroyer right there. (Jim) Jim Shroyer, right there. (Louise) Some people like our ceiling a lot and it is just tongue and groove, the old car siding in a truck, in the backs of old trucks would be car siding. (Vance) And it’s 31 feet up to the peak. And like Louise said, this will hold 25,000 bushels of wheat. (Louise) That would be the same as 25 semi loads, if you ever visualize a semi load full of grain, 25 of ’em. We also used our local art here. We decided this was what we could use for our embellishing the rooms, our windmill fans that we had a local person repaint them for us. And they include of course, the ever present bullet holes. (Jim) Target practice. Yea, for the teenagers. (Louise) For the hunters. (Vance) Very unusual to find these without bullet holes. (Jim) So, as we come out here on the balcony… (Louise) We have a great view of our state historical site and our plia which is south here about a mile. (Jim) Well, thank you for this tour. And folks, stay with us. We’ll be right back on the Ehmke farm in Lane County. Stay with us.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. We’re on the Ehmke Seed Farm in Lane County just west of Dighton and we were talking earlier about how many generations have been on the farm. You’re the fourth and the kids would be the fifth. But you’re not the only ones that have been here before. (Vance) Yea, we have a lot of archeologists that over the years have been out here so talking to those people, you know four and five generations is pretty impressive but they say, you know, there were 400 to 500 generations here on this farm who called this place their home before you were even here. You know, we go clear back to Clovis Indians who hunted mammoths. And we do have a lot of artifacts from the area. These are… this is part of a mammoth tooth that was… (Louise) Molar, mammoth molar. (Vance) That was found here on this very sight. And there’s layers of bone… (Louise) And enamel. (Jim) Oh yea. (Vance) Bone and enamel and whatever. (Jim) This is just one molar right here. (Vance) It’s part of one tooth. It’s about a third of a tooth. But anyway these animals were hunted by the Clovis Indians. We also have a number of other artifacts. This is a heel bone from the long horn bison. They were quite large and their horns were… went straight out about three foot apiece. And I believe you’ve got a foot bone from a prehistoric horse. Archeologists are way more excited about this than they are mammoth teeth or whatever. (Jim) Tell me why. (Vance) OK. The horse originated right here in the central high plains of the United States. And then it became extinct here. Fortunately though before it became extinct it migrated out the Bering Straight and then poetically the Spanish brought the horse back 400 to 500 years ago. (Jim) So, it is kind of a reverse immigration as well as the people coming this way, horse went that way. (Vance) Right. And of course these were not domesticated animals. The Clovis Indians and the Helga P and whatever, hunted these things and killed ’em and ate ’em. You know they didn’t ride them yet, that came later. (Jim) OK. How did they kill ’em? I think that’s a good lead in to what Louise has in her hand. (Louise) Yea. (Vance) Well, oh that’s really good question. If we were Clovis Indians, did you hunt mammoths with a bow and arrow? (Louise) No. (Vance) Why not Louise? That’s the correct answer, why didn’t ya? (Louise) Well, it wasn’t invented yet. (Vance) That’s right. (Louise) It was later technology. (Vance) The bow and arrow was actually a pretty new element and it was invented about 1,000 or maybe 1,500 years ago. Ten thousand years ago, Jim if you and I wanted to kill a mammoth, we took spears or atlatls or something like that. This is a dart point and very likely could have been used in killing mammoths. This right here is a goshen point that was found right here on this site. And it’s probably about 11,000 years ago. It’s early Paleo Indian. Some of the earliest people in this part of the world made this beautiful little point. (Jim) And I think this is why you call this point, this overlook here Paleo Point. Looks over this paliah right here. (Vance) Yea, right, right. (Jim) So tell us real quickly about this paliah. (Vance) Well OK. You know, we’re on a hilltop right now and Indians liked camping on hilltops or high points. But what makes this a great Indian camp site is somewhere around the high point there’s a low point and coincidentally that is the largest paliah lake in the county and when it’s filled with water there will be 100 to 170 acres of water there. In prehistoric times when we had a lot different weather, that thing was probably filled with water all the time in the state of Kansas. We’ve got Clovis points and we’ve got mammoth teeth, we just need to find those in association with each other and that would be the first mammoth kill in the state of Kansas, right here. (Louise) All the states around us have it, but Kansas has yet to come up with one. (Jim) We could talk hours on this. (Louise) Yes. (Jim) And I know you guys are really into this, but we gotta take a break. (Vance) OK. (Jim) So, stay with us, we’ve got other things to talk about. You folks at home stay with us. We’ll be right back after these words.

(Jim) Welcome back folks to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer. With me we have Vance Ehmke on the Ehmke Seed Farm here in Lane County. Let’s talk a little bit about the row crops and small grains as well. Because you have wheat rye, triticale and of course grain sorghum. So, kind of tell me how the rotation fits in. (Vance) OK. We have several rotations here on our farm. There is of course the standard wheat, sorghum, fallow rotation where we use milo in a no till program. (Jim) No till sorghum after the wheat right? (Vance) Right. And we like grain sorghum as opposed to dryland corn. There’s some really good Kansas State University data done here in western Kansas showing that dry land milo yield advantage over dryland corn. I hate to admit this but we are in this business to make money. (Jim) Right. (Vance) So that’s why we’re growing milo. We also have a wheat, fallow, wheat, or triticale, fallow, triticale rotation in, you know these things… sorghum and wheat, rye, triticale are all very drought hardy crops and very well adapted to this environment. Especially in this horrible drought that hopefully we’re coming out of. (Jim) Let’s talk a little bit about why you’re looking at triticale. (Vance) We’re in the seed business of course, and triticale is a nitch. Wheat certified seed wheat is the lion’s end of the thing, but triticale is kind of a nitch. And one of the things which is really interesting here in western Kansas and in the central and southern plains, because the irrigation water situation is getting worse. We’re seeing a lot more attention to triticale, small grain silage and that type thing on this irrigated land. (Jim) So, basically what you’re saying is these wells are not capable of running the whole circle with corn, so they’ll split ’em (Vance) Right, yea. (Jim) Or go completely away from corn. (Vance) Gone are the days when we had 1,600 gallon a minute wells. Those wells are now 300-400 gallons a minute and we can’t do, you know the fully irrigated corn thing. And so we’re looking at Plan B and one of the things that is real frequently popping up is small grain silage. (Jim) Right, and especially important with the dairies in the area. And obviously all the feedlots as well. (Vance) Absolutely. (Jim) They gotta have that forage. (Vance) Yea, these things don’t take nearly the water that corn does. And you can water them in the off season which is also a very important component of… (Jim) Build the profile. (Vance) Right. (Jim) Seeding rates on triticale, for total fertility program. (Vance) Well you know K-State’s got some pretty good recommendations for dryland western Kansas graze out 60-75 pounds an acre. On irrigated commonly 90-100. (Jim) Seeding rates. (Vance) There’s a range of like 80 to 120 pounds an acre. Fertility is something you certainly don’t want to forget in these really optimum kinds of situations with graze out. You may use twice as much fertility as you would with wheat. (Jim) Exactly. Because you’re producing…you’re taking all the crop off. (Vance) Right. Absolutely. (Jim) And you’re also looking potentially at producers that are grow this are looking at phosphorus and potassium as well. (Vance) Yea, on the soil. And you know the best recommendation is to just go out there and pull soil samples and find out exactly what you need. (Jim) Exactly. Vance, I tell you what, I really appreciate it. And don’t go away. (Vance) OK. (Jim) We still have more to talk about. You folks at home, don’t go away either. We’ll be right back with more of That’s My Farm.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer. We’re in Lane County and in this final segment, we’re gonna talk a little bit about the new generation, fifth generation on the Ehmke Seed Farm here. And we’ve got Layton down at the end there and Tanner right here. And we’re kind of moving into the newer generation. So, Louise, Vance kind of tell us a little about how that is moving into the younger kids here. (Vance) Well, I think we definitely need this next generation here from the standpoint of both labor and management. This is a family farm and everybody provides labor and management. You know, like the roles that Louise and I discovered. You know I fell into more of a traditional thing out in the field and whatever. And at the same time Louise has done a lot of work in the office and she talks with all the bankers and insurance people. And I love her for doing that, because I hate those jobs. But anyway… (Jim) And besides she has a better personality than you do, I can attest to that. (Louise) Well, you know when I met Vance, I have to tell you, I met Vance… and I’m a city girl, San Jose, California, and the first line, I couldn’t open a door or something in his car, and he said, “Louise you’d be surprised what you can do if your life depends on it.” (Vance) That’s right. (Louise) Wow. What a line. You know and we found out that those, you buck up and do what you have to do or you find some help to do it. (Jim) Let’s get Tanner and Layton involved in this operation here. How do you fit in here Tanner? (Tanner) I fill a lot of gaps. That’s my job description, it’s gap filler. A lot of driving tractors and then checking fields and things like that. But our main focus obviously with the seed business is we gotta work with customers and inventory and things like that. And so, I’ve gravitated towards doing a lot of that. During the summer working with customers and filling their trucks and it’s a lot of personal communication that’s going on there. (Jim) Personal touch there huh? (Tanner) I try. Yea. (Jim) And Layton, you’ve kind of, you just recently got married and Jennifer is not here with us today, but you’ve planted a lot of the row… the cereals this fall, so how are you gonna be fitting in? (Layton) Well, I think I’ve been away for so long, that they just got used to having me away. So, I’m out on the tractor. And that’s where I belong. As a satellite and rotating around the farm. I really enjoy it out there, I always have. (Jim) Well folks, I really appreciate you taking time today and talking about your farming operation. Good to see the kids back in the farming operation as well. So thank you again. Folks, at home thanks for being with us on That’s My Farm and don’t forget next Friday watch That’s My Farm. See
you later.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission, the Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

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