Roger Fulk and the Fulk Family Farm

Roger Fulk

The Fulk family history started when Roger Fulk’s great grandfather moved to Richland County with a family of thirteen. His great grandfather rode in the cavalry division with General George Custer out West and even was present at his burial. Why Roger’s great grandfather chose Richland County as a place to settle remains a mystery, but the county is thankful he did.

As a boy of five years, Roger Fulk can remember going down to the barn and watching his mother milk a single Guernsey cow by hand; she was special to his mother. Ever since he could walk, Roger followed his father around the family farm and rode with him on equipment; he drove a tractor as young as seven years old. Roger enjoyed the farm but every other Saturday he, his father, and two brothers had to clean the chicken house; this task was by far Roger’s least favorite job on the farm.

Roger’s grandfather lived up the road from where Roger lives today. Also, a few of Roger’s uncles bought farms in the neighborhood. His grandfather and grandmother bought the farm Roger lives in today in the mid-1920s. The new couple suffered hardships during the Great Depression, but eventually moved to town in the 1970s after they retired.

Roger’s father and mother lived across the street from Roger’s current residence, where they farmed a few hundred acres and were happily married for 61 years. Both Roger’s grandfather and father worked at Mansfield Tire & Rubber Company. At the time, there were 26 members of the Fulk family working at Mansfield Tire, making them the largest family employed at the company. Roger and his wife Deborah later had the opportunity to buy the original farm in 1991, when they started their own farm operation; they live there to this day.

Roger’s grandfather operated a fairly typical farm. He milked approximately eight cows and raised sheep and hogs. When it came to planting season, he grew corn, hay, oats, and wheat – mainly enough to provide for his family.

The first year after high school Roger shared his most memorable story on the farm. Growing up, the Fulk family had a moon-shaped bulk tank; he described the feeling when the tank ran over as “really cool.” Since then, The Fulks have upgraded to larger tanks, but the memory of their first milk tank running over will be remembered by Roger for the rest of his life.

When crops were sold, Roger’s father dealt with various grain elevators in Ashland, Ohio. Mansfield’s elevators did not deal with moisture in crops because they did not have a dryer. At this time, the Fulk family transported wheat by pickup truck. Over the years, they upgraded to wagons, larger trucks and eventually semi-trucks to haul crops to grain elevators. Today, the Fulks transport their crops to Mansfield, where Roger explained there is a much more advanced system. As acreage and equipment increased, the Fulks adapted and grew their farm operation as a family.

Shortly after Roger purchased land, one of Roger’s two brothers also bought close to 100 acres down the road. His brother currently works for Richland County and the road department, while farming and raising cattle.

Roger’s land purchase in 1991 allowed him to greatly expand his production of soy beans. Before, the Fulks grew corn, beans, hay, oats, and wheat – all which went to feed the dairy cattle. Following the land purchase, more beans were planted and profits increased. Today, corn and hay are the Fulks most prominent crops. They use a lot of their yields to feed nearly 70 head of dairy cattle.

Shortly after Roger started farming in 1974, he purchased a John Deere 3020 tractor, which he stills owns. He mentioned it did not take him long to realize the Fulks needed more tractors and equipment. After the blizzard of 1977-78, Roger’s father was determined to buy a tractor with a cab, so he traded in their 80 horsepower tractor for one with a cab. Behind his father’s back, Roger bought back that same 80 horsepower tractor and it remains on the farm today.

For harvesting, Roger’s father operated a John Deere 2 Cylinder 620 with power steering. Roger mentioned that it was hard for him to steer the 620 model at 7 years old; he drove the hay bailer instead. The Fulk family used the same equipment until they upgraded when Roger was 12 or 13 years old. According to Roger, “There’s probably only one type of equipment and that’s probably green, John Deere.” He admitted, a farmer’s equipment brand is primarily based on their dealer. A good relationship between a farmer and dealer leads to future equipment purchases and loyalty.

Like farm equipment, electricity altered the way Roger’s father and the community operated around the farm. Roger’s father talked about what it was like to turn on the lights for the first time in the 1920s. He described his father’s experience by saying, “They all hit the light switches that first night and he said you could look out and see half a dozen houses that had electricity at that moment; that was different.” In early 2015, the power company replaced the original transmission lines that powered early houses along Charles Road. Roger has experienced three fires from electricity, two in his barn from light bulbs and one in his house that was water related. Fortunately, he was at the scene each time.

Crop chemicals have always existed on the Fulk family farm. At a young age, Roger remembers his dad driving a tractor with a barrel behind it; it sprayed 2, 4-D out of garden-like hoses. Later on, atrazine was implemented as a herbicide until weeds developed a resistance. Like most farmers, the Fulks use Roundup Ready seeds today, but recently weeds like Hippuris vulgaris (mare’s-tail) have started adapting. According to Roger, scientists will continuously have to come up with new chemicals to combat plant resistance.

When the concept of no-till farming was introduced in the 1970s the Fulk family tested the method. However, Roger mentioned they like to mix manure into the soil – something that is not possible with no-till. Recently, the Fulks purchased a no-till grain drill for planting beans, which is operated by Roger’s son. Roger mentioned that yields fell with no-till so the family switched back to plowing. Today, the Fulks no-till very little ground but make conscious efforts to prevent erosion.

Over the years the Fulk family has created buffer zones between fields and streams. Also, in the last 20 years they have put nearly 60-70 thousand feet of tile in their fields. Roger mentioned, “If I could afford it I’d put another 50 thousand feet in in the next year or two.”

When asked about major challenges on the farm Roger hinted to weather being the most difficult thing to work with. Also, record prices in crops that generate record falls seem to be another unpredictable challenge. Many of Roger’s methods and techniques have been handed down through the family for years. Crop rotations are second nature to the Fulk family.

Currently, Roger is a Trustee in Weller Township. He has always enjoyed this work and it allows him to interact with other farmers in the community. Roger’s son is extremely active on the farm. Roger joked that often he gets orders from his son these days. He and Deborah have five children together. Their oldest daughter teaches Ag in Kansas and their son works on the farm, but all five children have helped farm at one point in their lives.

Roger decided to be a farmer at a young age. He thought, “When I grow up I want to be a farmer just like dad.” It is evident that the Fulk family farming legacy will continue to flourish in Richland County because of Roger’s children.