ADAMSVILLE, Ohio — The rolling hills and woodlands of eastern Ohio can make large-scale grain farming a bit difficult. The fields are smaller, and you sometimes have to drive a ways to get to the next one.
But in Muskingum County, Rob and Bobbi Vernon, along with their three children and various farmhands, make it work.
Rob, 47, began with just 92 acres and a few gilts in 1990, and he is now farming about 3,000 acres and runs a 30-cow beef operation. The Vernons own about 1,400 acres and rent the rest. They farm more than 200 fields, with the largest about 120 acres, on down to the smallest, which is less than 10.
The main crops are corn and soybeans, along with some mixed hay that the family makes into square bales and round bales. The farm has grown slowly but steadily, to the point that it supports the whole family, plus four full-time workers.
“We’re very fortunate,” Rob Vernon said. “A lot of people have given us opportunities.”
Rob grew up in the area, helping on his grandparents’ farm. But he always wanted his own operation, and, at just 20 years old, he made that happen. He started out as mostly a hay and swine operation, working off the farm as a construction worker and also a school bus driver.
Adjusting to change
He married Bobbi in 1993 and by the mid-1990s, after they had completed the construction of a large, 200-foot swine barn, the price for hogs bottomed out. The low prices led the Vernons to exit the swine industry, and they turned to crop farming. With the new swine barn empty, they decided to raise it another eight feet and use it to store farm equipment and hay.
It wasn’t the direction they planned, but it’s the direction life took them, and it worked.
“I feel that was God’s way of getting us to where we were going to be,” Bobbi said. “It was just a step along the way.”
This year was the toughest spring they’ve had so far, because of poor weather and problems with slugs. They ended up replanting about 120 acres of corn and 400 acres of soybeans.
According to the Vernons, farming is usually a challenge every step of the way — although the specific challenge is always changing. Some years it’s the weather, some years it’s the market prices and other years it’s the challenge of coming up with new land to farm.
“You’ve just got to kind of go with the flow of current agriculture,” Bobbi said.
One of the things that has remained the same for the Vernons is their focus on good relations with other farmers and landowners. They’ve relied on the respect of others, to grow their operation and farm more ground.
“I think if people see you working hard, they are willing to give you an opportunity,” Rob said.
The Vernons also value the importance of each team member — landlords, agronomists, seed dealers, insurance representatives and bankers.
“I tell people we deal with our friends,” Rob said. “We have a relationship with all of those folks.”
They have their own grain storage and trucking, and market year-round through Interstate Commodities.
The Vernons get help from their oldest son, Bryce, who is 19 and a student at Muskingum College, studying engineering sciences. Their daughter, Brielle, is a high school sophomore, and their youngest son, Brant, 7, helps care for family’s horses, and is the go-to person if you need to buy a farm cat.
Bryce said he enjoys the farm life because it allows him to be his own person. After college, he’s hoping to own his own engineering contracting business and possibly own his own blacksmith shop.
Bryce and Brielle both show beef steers through the Adamsville Mixed Farmers 4-H Club.
Although the farm keeps the family busy, the Vernons are also involved in the community. Rob and Bobbi are both part of the committee that coordinates the Adamsville Homecoming in mid-July — the same event where the couple first met, in the late 1980s.
Bobbi also helps prepare meals for Thankful Thursday — a project of local churches to provide a meal and fellowship time for those in need.
Rob is a 12-year township trustee and also a member of the Muskingum County Farm Bureau board, and also the Muskingum and Ohio cattlemen’s associations.
“We might be busy, but we’re still all together,” Bobbi said. “Some days are hectic, but who else would you like to have by your side.”