Master Farmers/Homemakers: Barkers and Tiptons

(Jim Shroyer) Good morning folks. Welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer, your host, and we’re in luck because Eric Atkinson will be introducing us to two families, the Barkers and the Tiptons, newly inducted in the 2017 Master Farmer and Master Farm Homemaker class. It’s going to be a great show so stay tuned. We’re going to take a break. See you in a minute.

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(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm, let’s meet Gary and Ruth Ann Barker, from Pratt County. (Eric Atkinson) Gary, you’ve been in partnership with your father for virtually the entire time once you came back from college, right? (Gary Barker) That’s correct. (Eric) How has the operation changed from those days to present day? (Gary) Well, we started, when I was growing up I grew up on an 830 John Deere. We have two of them where one went, the other one went. Then when I was in college, dad purchased this used Versatile 145, and so we made the jump to some bigger equipment at that point. Over the years we’ve just stayed with the Versatile brand, and our tractors have gotten bigger, our equipment’s gotten bigger and, where we were primarily wheat before now we’re wheat, milo, and some other crops. There for 14 years, we raised cotton, and it looks like maybe this spring we maybe planting cotton again. (Eric) But it’s been predominantly a crops operation, some cattle along the way, other livestock but- (Gary) Right. When I was still in school we came back here on a Saturday and there was a neighbor that had grass right next to dads. And so they run their grass out together. Well, this neighbor wasn’t ready to retire yet. We bought the 68 head of his rancher down there. That was our start in the cattle operation. He was in it together with me for 10 years, he retired and then I bought his share of the cattle, and then we just gradually expanded over time. (Eric) And you’ve maintained that herd for quite a while. (Gary) That’s right. (Eric) To the point where what is largely a cow/calf herd, right? (Gary) That’s correct. (Eric) About a hundred and how many head? (Gary) There’s a — between what I have and what Trey has we don’t quite have 200 but it’s close to that. (Eric) Before we talk more farm and cattle production as well, Ruth Ann, let’s visit about your time as a teacher, and that’s all been very much local here. (Ruth Ann Barker) Yes. I taught at Skyline. I taught second grade at Skyline and that’s where I grew up at. I’m very proud of my 35 years there. (Eric) How did that blend with the farm life? Did it match up pretty well? (Ruth Ann) It was perfect. I was home during the summer and our kids went to Skyline so we were able to participate and it just worked well. Gary was able to take off and he’d come and help me in my room where we would have projects. When we started cotton, we loaded kids up on a bus, we came out and came to the cotton field. (Gary) There was more cotton balls stuffed in those kid’s pockets going home than you can ever imagine. (Eric) Well, and the scope of the operation today owned and rented ground is some 5,900 acres. Again, largely wheat, milo, some irrigated corn, the cowherd as well. What’s been your philosophy, the both of you, as far as growing this operation, keeping it progressive and hopefully profitable? (Gary) I guess we’ve just tried to have a gradual even growth. I mean, sometimes it may make little bigger jumps by leaps and bounds occasionally, but it’s been a fairly steady growth. We farm for a number of different landlords. We’ve just really been fortunate over the years. I can’t say enough how great some of these people and some of these families are that we farm for. (Jim) Stay tuned after the break as we wrap up with the Barkers.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. Now, let’s wrap up with the Barkers from Pratt County. (Eric) Other examples of how you’ve given back, your involvement in Kansas Association of Wheat Growers on the state level, there are a number of boards, too many to count, that both of you have been involved with for now over the years. Both of you were involved as your boys were growing up in 4-H, correct? (Ruth Ann) Yes. (Eric) To what degree? (Ruth Ann) I was a community leader. I was a project leader. We just were very involved with our kids. Whatever they were in, we were in. It was important it was a family time. (Gary) We got moved out to the country about the time when our youngest was just old enough to start 4-H, but anyway once we got out here we — it opened the avenues for livestock. So, they had some calf projects and- (Ruth Ann) Pigs. (Gary) -yes, pigs and bucket calves, that kind of thing and plus gardening and all the other projects. (Ruth Ann) Entomology – we collected lots of bags. [Laughter] (Eric) All of this weaves together into sort of a value system that you actually stated in your application as to what makes the Barker Operation and Family tick. What are the lead values that both of you as spouses that makes everything work for you? (Ruth Ann) I guess putting God first. (Gary) We just feel we need to be active in the community. We need to be and we need to try to stay up to date in our farming so we can be growing. In most farms if you are not growing, you’re getting behind in this day and age. We try to keep a somewhat of a constant growth pattern and stay on top of a lot of the technology. (Eric) This story with you, a Trey Langford special which we’ll get into right after we point out what your boys are doing currently in their adult lives. (Ruth Ann) Matthew lives near Nashville, Tennessee. He works for the Mars Candy Company. He’s a nutritionist. He’s got some fancy title but he’s a nutritionist and for the pet food division. They make Iams and Pedigree and that kind of thing. He is married and has his wife, Amy. They have a little girl, Catherine, and are expecting a new one in July. Then Bryce lives in Ark City. He is in corrections at the Winfield State Prison. He’s married. His wife Shannon is a teacher at Ark City. They have a little boy, Benjamin Carter. (Eric) But noting neither of the two are coming back to the farm full time. You looked to another direction and found a young man who was very much interested in easing into this operation potentially to run it at some point. Is that how it’s set up? (Gary) Yes, that’s where we working towards. He’s started helping us when he was a freshman, 14-years-old. He helped us all through high school and through college. We’re just starting a slow transition. Each year, we’re trying to expand his portion of the cropland just a little bit. It’s just a slow gradual process. (Ruth Ann) Trey is like our third son. He’s married to Heather and they have a little boy, Jackson. We think of him as our grandson. (Eric) You don’t want to overlook your dad; he’s still around, Gary. He still active as much as possible you say. (Gary) He’s out there about every day doing something or wanting to do something. Something else I should say that’s been fortunate for operation is we’ve had a number of employees over the years that have really, really been a real asset to us. (Eric) Last thing we want to ask you each of your reactions to being named Master Farmer, Master Farm Homemaker. When you heard about the news Ruth Ann how did you feel? (Ruth Ann) Surprised and honored to have this recognition. There are so many out there that are more deserving. (Gary) Well, I was surprised too because our operation isn’t – there’s nothing exceptional about our operation. I guess you can say sustainable but I guess we’ve been here a 125, 30 years that our family has, but as far as anything special, I was just really surprised that we got them. (Eric) That’s more special than you’re letting on. Congratulations to the both of you. Thank you. (Gary) Thank you very much. (Jim) Stay tuned after the break to meet the Tiptons from Republic County.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. Let’s meet Deb and Mark Tipton. (Eric) The operation present-day then corn, soybeans, wheat, grain sorghum and cow/calf. (Mark Tipton) Alfalfa and cow/calf. We just rotate the cropland around us as we have to. We’re cutting down on wheat considerably. It’s the profit margin is just– so that we just have cut it down and down every year. Up in this area we get enough rain on this end of the state to make dryland corn work just about every year. I know there’s other places that don’t but we’ve had such trouble growing wheat up here because of disease pressure and bugs or some fungus of some kind. We’ve just really had a tough time raising wheat up here the last few years. (Eric) Cowherd commercial? (Mark) Yes. (Debra Tipton) It is and that has started from bucket calves from the 4-H projects. Our first cows were bucket calves we’d raised or maybe the kids had a heifer here and there and we just kept gradually adding them. (Mark) Or just purchased a few and now… (Debra) Right, and then when dad retired, when my father retired we took over several of his cows. (Mark) We were mostly Black Angus or Angus Simmental cross. We try to just use what pastures we have, what we have room for. Up in this area and there’s not a lot of huge pastures there are a lot of little 50 acre pastures here and there. We try to just keep it matching that as best we can. (Eric) A few of the other things associated with your farming activities over the years, you have been committed to providing land and resources for the crop variety test plots through the Research and Extension office locally. (Mark) That’s, the kids have done that. The two boys have done that. This is their 14th year now that the two have done it. Christian is the last one to do it now. He planted 21 or 24 varieties this year I’m not real sure. Of course, it’s a family thing you work at these things as a family. (Eric) Are you pursuing precision agriculture, precision technology to the extent? (Mark) We’re using mapping and auto steer to when we’re fertilizing. We have a flow control that keeps, like for anhydrous, we would make sure that we’re not spraying on your– putting on way too much anhydrous in one area. That helps out. We do some grid sampling, variable rate, dry fertilizer, usually is what we’re doing there. (Jim) Stay tuned after the break as we wrap up with Deb and Mark Tipton.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. Now let’s wrap up with the Tiptons from Republic County. (Eric) Shifting gears a bit over to your civic and community service and accomplishments. Both of you can be commended for those. We’ve mentioned 4-H a couple of times. Clearly, that’s been a pretty big activity for your entire family, Deb. (Debra) It has. In fact, my children are the third generation to have been in the Mendon and 4-H Club. Then it disbanded several years ago. We just didn’t have the community youth. We didn’t have the numbers here and we weren’t able to maintain a club. Then Christian joined a neighboring club and I was community leader in that and we were well involved in there. It’s been two years ago now, another family approached and said, “Have you kind of noticed how many young kids are in the area? Do you think we would have enough interest to start a club again here in Mendon?” We made some phone calls and decided yes, we did have enough interest and so we reorganized. It’s been really good. I was really glad to see that our community needed that. Needed to have a club. (Eric) More broadly, you’ve been on the Extension Council for Republic County. (Debra) I have. I was on the Extension board. I served as chairman for a while, I can’t remember how many years. Seven years or something like that, but several years. Then was on when the Republic County District, we formed the River Valley District. I was on the board at that time. (Eric) Mark, you’ve been involved in a couple of boards with elevators locally. (Mark) Yes, there was a small grain elevator in Hubbell, that’s just on the state line. Hubbell, Nebraska, had local ownership with basically a bunch of farmer’s shareholders. In the last 10 years, we added a new leg and 330,000-bushel bins. A few years later, we put up a 200,000-bushel bin there to tie in to that. Then at the same time we put up a new scale and scale house office. Then the latest thing we did was last fall we put up, we did the groundwork, secured the property to do a million bushel bunker, a corn bunker. (Eric) There are several other examples of things that the both of you have done for community; want to hone in on one more and that’s called The Rose Creek Investment Group. Now, this is a rather unique story. Who wishes to tell? (Mark) Hubbell Nebraska, this little town sits on Rose Creek. It flooded in 2003. One of the worst floods they’ve had. The restaurant was downtown it basically wiped it out it. The people that owned it moved it up to the top of the hill. They were having some financial troubles and it closed. They actually went to this Small Business Administration and they agreed to take, if we would do it as a community project, they agreed to take a reduced amount and so we set it up as a community investment, sold a bunch of shares and ended up being able to buy it and pay the back taxes and lease it to a lady that has been running it ever since. (Eric) Presuming the both of you patronize that place more than a few times. (Debra) We did and our daughter worked there during high school too. (Eric) Good segue into talking about your kids, one daughter, two sons. The daughter is a nurse for a school district, is that correct? (Debra) She is, she went to K-State and got her life science degree and then they got married and were moving around for a while. Then she went back to school at Creighton University and received her bachelor of nursing and now she’s a school nurse working in Hutchinson. (Eric) Lauren living with her husband who does what? (Debra) He works for Central Prairie Co-op. He’s the operations manager for Central Prairie Co-op. (Eric) One grandkid out of it. (Debra) We do have one grandchild, little Cooper. He just turned a year old in December. (Eric) Then there’s your two sons. Colin is actually working in agribusiness in Iowa. (Mark) Correct, Colin has an engineering technology degree from Kansas State, Salina got a job with DuPont Pioneer in Des Moines. (Debra) But he had an opportunity to buy some– purchase land here in about- (Eric) He was in college? (Debra) Right, about 2010. He did that. He comes home during harvest time and during planting. That’s kind of his long range plan is to come back and take over the farming operation at some point. (Eric) In partnership with your youngest, Christian? (Debra) In partnership with Christian, that’s exactly right. They have a plan. Christian is a senior high school and he’s planning on going to Kansas State at Salina also and majoring in mechanical engineering. (Eric) Last thing here what it means to you to have received this recognition as Kansas Master Farmer, Master Farm Homemaker part of the class of 2016. (Debra) Serving on the Extension board, I got to nominate people for this. I was always in awe of the couples that we nominated. I just thought, “Wow, they were real role models in the community.” I tell you when we got the call that we’ve been nominated; I just couldn’t believe it was, we were both quite humbled. (Jim)Thank you for being with us on today’s show as we’ve met these two outstanding families. See you next week about the same time.

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