Farm changes in century-plus while still family-operated serving others in five counties

Lloyd Wulfkuhle’s only moved 100 feet in his lifetime.

“I was born in our farm home right over there, so I haven’t made a lot of headway,” Wulfkuhle evaluated tongue-in-cheek from the office at Lone Pine Ag-Services, Inc.

While being true, it’s a misnomer. The family farm has changed a lot since Wulfkuhle’s great grandfather started farming the original Douglas County quarter section west of Lecompton in the 1890.

“We’re still here,” Wulfkuhle continued his jovial recollections, as his wife-partner, Carolyn, and their son-partner, David, his wife Shelly, and “adopted-son, close-affiliate” Kevin Kirkwood, and his wife, Julie, joined in.

“There are 11 full time employees now, but we’re still a family business,” qualified David, fifth generation of Wulfkuhles on the land, while his daughter and son make the sixth.

“I was the youngest of eight children born here, so there’s a lot of history in this place,” continued Lloyd, relating how the operation got its name.

“There were two pine trees planted by my grandfather in the early 1900s, but one of them died, so there was a lone pine. Then, it died just a few years ago, so here we set as Lone Pine with no tree.”

All in the room were intermitted busy on computers of the diverse enterprises, still backboned by production agriculture, but serving counterpart farmers in a 50-mile radius, with seed, fertilizer, crop care products and other agriculture necessities.

Of course, Sadie, the big yellow dog is always part of the office staff, moseying from chair to chair, making sure everybody’s busy, and alertly perking ears when name is said.

Well-known and appreciated in their five-county patronage area, perhaps Lloyd and Carolyn Wulfkuhle are more widely recognized throughout the Midwest for their former affiliation in hog production.

“We started with 12 gilts in the ’60s and were up to 700 sows in a farrow-to-finish operation when we got out in 1996,” Lloyd said.

“And, we’re still glad we did,” he added.

“There are only two of us who are sad to be out of hogs, Carolyn and I,” inserted Kevin, who has been part of the farm for three decades and was in charge of farrowing facilities.

“I do miss that,” he added emphatically.

“The hog markets were going down, and our facilities needed considerable repair, when we got out,” David inserted.

Still, coming from either direction approaching the hog farm turned ag-services business, one instantly is reminded of major swine facilities prominent in the Midwest throughout the 1970s and ’80s.

“We renovated the facilities and have added several new structures as the seed and crop care  business has grown,” Carolyn commented.

Square footage of storage availability wasn’t immediately calculable by the partners. “It would be a lot,” Shelly insisted.

Seed sales had been part of the farm enterprises since the early ’60s, and they’d added bulk farm chemical sales in the 1990s.

“We started custom application service when we quit the hogs, and the ag-services business has just continued to grow and change,” Lloyd recognized.

“We farm more than 3,300 acres, which allows hands-on experience to assist and advise our customers,” David said.

“Three dry fertilizer applicators, two nurse trucks and dry spreaders to rent keep dry products rolling. We have two large sprayers for liquid fertilizer and crop protection products,” said Kevin, one of the firm’s four licensed applicators.

Both he and David are certified crop advisors to better recommend crop protection products to clientele.

“We are required to attend more than 20 hours of training annually,” said David, as he pointed out a wall filled with certifications.

“Products and regulations for their use are continually changing,” insisted Kevin. “We are very well regulated.”

“The variable rate technology has really transformed our business,” David related.

“We soil test fields when requested by customers. Then, with our global positioning systems, we make  accurate application of products to maximize yields,” Kevin continued.

“Our computer software is programmed with a custom application sheet which allows us to keep track of exactly where  products were applied on every field, so our customers can analyze farm profit and loss,” Shelly said.

While offering several brands of farm seeds, Lone Pine Ag-Services has a variety of crop protection products, liquid and dry fertilizer, seed tenders and parts, batteries, farm shop products, tires and even lawn seed and fertilizers.

Commodity prices today allow for profitability in crop production, despite high input costs. However, Lloyd evaluated, “I’ve seen prices go down, and they will again. My concern is if the inputs will follow, and I don’t expect them to. Then, farmers will be in trouble.”

Reflecting how the farm has transformed in nearly a century-and-a-quarter of Wulfkuhle operation, there is still one most important chemical to the industry.

“That’s the rain, and everything depends on moisture, which we have no control over,” Lloyd concluded.