CANAL FULTON, Ohio – The Rohr men are builders.
As youngsters, Ryan, Tommy, Jeff and Scott built to-scale mowers, haybines and a combine from Legos.
Their father, Tom, recalls the planning, complexity and working parts added to each.
After honing their skills, the boys graduated to bigger projects, including Jeff’s recent from-scratch dune buggy.
They keep busy with Rohr Brothers, a construction company they split four ways, building garages or making improvements to the old houses on the handful of farms the family counts in its parcel.
Switching gears. Meanwhile, back at the homestead on Arcadia Street, where patriarch Tom lives with his wife, Joni, the men switch modes – from lumber, circular saws and 16-penny nails to dirt and elbow grease and miles of drain tile.
They seem in tune with the ground they stand on, they farm with it instead of against it and make improvements – build – as a way to give back to the earth that sustains their lives.
Leaving it better… When planting or harvest weather calls, the men drop their construction jobs and retreat to the fields, no-tilled and minimum tilled and crisscrossed with miles of drain tile and grassed waterways.
Visitors to the northwestern Stark County farm during the Farm Bureau’s annual farm tour in late September could see some of those improvements firsthand.
The same projects stood out when the Rohrs were selected as the Soil and Water Conservation District’s Conservation Farm of the Year.
…Than he found it. Just before the Rohrs moved to the homestead more than 25 years ago, Tom tiled the farm. The fields were wet, he had trouble with erosion, and he knew he had to have waterways.
“You have to think long-term benefits that will pay you back,” Tom Rohr said of his initial investments in conservation.
Over the years, the hard work has paid off.
Because of the time he invested beforehand, he saw huge benefits of drainage this wet crop year. The corn field fortress that guards his home has grown tall and, by the looks of it, may yield far better than other fields in the area put in too late, delayed by rains.
Rohr and his boys, now ages 19 to 27, farm a total of 1,500 acres of which they own 600 acres, plus do custom planting, harvesting and baling in their ‘spare time.’
No separation. Even with a good portion of their corn, soybean, wheat and hay acreage deeded to other landowners, the men don’t draw any lines in their efforts.
As long as they farm it, it’s in their conservation plans.
It’s Tom Rohr’s belief that most common people don’t even know what his conservation efforts are, but that doesn’t stop him. “I think other farmers notice when we put in a waterway, but they probably think we’re stupid because [that ground] will be houses in a few years anyhow.
“Or else they think our farm will be here forever,” he admitted.
“It’s hard to put all the improvements into the land and then watch them sell it for houses. It’s real hard to watch.
“Houses keep popping up and it keeps us from farming,” Tom said.
“But we do conservation because it’s just the right thing to do,” he said.
Not just in the fields. In addition to their projects in the fields, the sons earned the farm certified tree farm status with reforestation in wooded areas.
But the family’s desire to keep things familiar, to improve what they’ve got, shows at home, too.
Besides remodeling all the farm’s outbuildings, the family has also restored their 1869 brick farmhouse. Joni adds finishing touches with landscaping that would turn professionals green with envy.
Full-time decisions. All the boys’ first choice is to farm, full time, according to their father, but there’s not enough acres involved to support them all.
The boys are always looking and are “gung ho” about adding more acres, but are faced with high rents and land wars.
“You don’t want to bid against somebody who already farms [leased ground]. Usually somebody has to quit farming or get forced out for there to be land” available, Tom said.
“It’s not a fun situation. The only one who usually makes out is the landlord,” he joked.
This past weekend, with the madness of the early harvest slowed, Tom and Joni celebrated their 30th anniversary with modesty and happiness for what they’ve got.
“There sure are a lot of nice farms in this county. There are a lot of families out there doing the same things we are. We’re not better than anybody else,” he said.
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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