MARION, Ohio — Roy Loudenslager and his family have been farmers for as long as he can remember. His dad and grandparents farmed, and so did his late brother, Don, who farmed in partnership with Roy since the mid-1950s.
The Loudenslagers have always been crop farmers, and today farm about 2,000 acres near Marion. At one time or another, they also produced feeder cattle, sheep, and operated a farrow-to-finish swine operation.
But even with all the experience, it’s the little things that still impress Roy most.
“It’s very satisfying … after we go out and work the soil and put the seed in … to see it come up and mature,” he said.
Signs of growth
With today’s technology, the planter and the tractor do a much better job of telling the operator whether the seeds are actually going into the ground, and if everything is working as it should.
But Roy said he still goes out to his fields and checks on them — multiple times a day — for that first proof that the seeds are emerging.
Another thing he likes? Hydraulics — and the mechanization found on almost all of today’s farm equipment.
“It used to be you pulled the rope and the wheel made one revolution and the plow came up,” he said. “Now, you flip the electrical switch and it runs the header control, or it folds the (implement) up, so you can go up and down the road.”
Roy will turn 80 in November. His brother, Don, died in March of 2014. Both men will be inducted into the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame Aug. 7, at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus.
It’s rare that two brothers would receive the honor. And even more special since their father — Forest Loudenslager — was inducted in 1978.
Roy said he believes it’s the first father-son duo to receive the award — let alone a father and two of his sons.
“That’s pretty special,” he said. “Along with my brother, Don, we are following in Dad’s footsteps.”
Don was active in the local and state Soil and Water Conservation District for 48 years, holding positions at the state level, along with his wife, Reva. And, Don was an active member of the Ohio Pork Producers, and was a past recipient of the pork excellence award.
Today, the operation consists of 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans. Roy is still active, along with his grandson, Jonathan Zucker, and longtime farmhand and family friend, Rick Craycraft.
In the early days, the farm also included a diversified livestock operation. The family raised feeder cattle, and bought and sold sheep across the country, making deliveries into Detroit.
The swine came later, with a facility expansion in the late 1960s. The family got out of swine in the mid-1990s, when profit margins became too tight, and when competition from larger producers was increasing.
But crop farming has been a mainstay — and so has red farm equipment. Roy Loudenslager is also a part owner in the Case IH dealership Evolution Ag, along with Don’s son, Doug Loudenslager.
The family has reliable help to get things done. Roy’s wife, Judy, is a past Ohio Farm Bureau trustee and helps with outreach, and running errands.
Jonathan, a senior at Ohio State University, is majoring in ag business and plans to return to the farm full time after graduation.
And Craycraft has worked on the farm for about 35 years, helping with livestock and field work — and whatever needs done.
Craycraft started working on the farm in 1974, while still in high school. During planting and harvest season, he lived with the Loudenslagers. Today, he lives in another home, but still located on the farm.
“This is my second family,” he said.
Like most area farmers, the Loudenslagers got this year’s crop in early — only to be followed by heavy rains through June. They struggled all spring to apply nutrients, but still have a good-looking crop.
In addition to weather, Roy said farmers are constantly facing challenges from government and regulation, and the high cost for acquiring new land.
But Roy said farmers can also help shape policy — if they get involved.
“Dad taught us to support the commodity groups of whatever we were producing, and encouraged us to be active,” he said.
But at the same time, Roy adds, “you can’t be active in every group or you’ll never be home.”
In addition to Farm Bureau, Roy has been active in the Ohio Soybean Association and Ohio Soybean Council, and the United Soybean Board.
The brothers have also held tours at their farm for school children, and Roy and Judy are passionate about speaking up for farmers.
“It’s not only important anymore that we produce the food — we also have to defend it,” Judy said.
Roy has been promoting his industry all his life. He was Ohio FFA’s first Star Farmer recipient, and he and Don were both lifelong supporters of FFA.
The other two inductees are William Haddad, of Knox County, known to many as “No-till Bill,” and Gary Mast, of Holmes County.
Haddad helped advance no-till farming in its early years, and is still an active supporter.
Mast is a sixth-generation farmer and operates a 1,200 acre farm with his brother, Jon. They also provide custom manure management and forage harvesting.
Roy said he’s not sure what all the inductees will receive. He imagines a plaque and some pictures — but whatever the award is — he’s proud to have served his industry. And he’s thankful for the many people who have helped him along the way.
“I thank God for putting me on this farm at this time, where I had so many opportunities,” he said.
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