Honored this year as the “Conservation Farmers of the Year” by the Switzerland County Soil and Water Conservation District, Rodger and Franklin Weaver of Weaver Dairy Farms are continuing a tradition of caring for the land that was passed down to them by their father, Russell Weaver.
“Dad bought the family farm just after World War II, and we’ve kept it going ever since,” Rodger Weaver said. “Franklin farms the family homestead in Rising Sun, and We run the operation here. We built the dairy facility here in 1980.
The Weaver Dairy Farm here operates on Coleman Road near East Enterprise.
Rodger Weaver said that when he was told of the honor, it began to conjure up memories of how the entire farming operating has evolved.
“Dad started out with two cows, and as his herd grew, he traded some of the cows for milking machines; and we’ve evolved to about a 120 cow dairy over the years. We’ve probably been at that level for 30+ years now,” Rodger Weaver said.
Rodger Weaver said that Franklin went into a partnership with their dad after Franklin got out of high school; and once Rodger graduated from college in 1972, he joined the family partnership.
“Basically, we did most of our growth in the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, when property would come available close by,” Rodger Weaver said. “All of our property lies probably with five and a half miles of each other. We have about 700 acres right here in one block. It’s kind of unusual how it all came about, but it’s nice that it did.”
Rodger Weaver said that the family now owns approximately 1,030 acres and also lease about another 60 acres from a neighbor. He said that there are about 500 tillable acres, while the rest is pasture land and woodlands. There are 103 acres in Ohio County on the original farmstead.
In 1962 Russell Weaver purchased a 106-acre farm on Lake Geneva Road; and when Franklin became a partner in the farming business, Russell Weaver moved to the Lake Geneva farm and entrusted Franklin with the family homestead.
Rodger Weaver smiles when he says that he used to accuse his dad of having a “Daniel Boone” syndrome because all of the land that was purchased needed a lot of work.
“All of the land that was purchased had lied idle for sometime before we bought it,” Rodger Weaver smiled. “I’ve picked up more rocks and roots and tree limbs than I care to count, and my brother has done it more than I have. When we bought my farm now, we plowed under water maples and cedar trees that were probably 10-feet tall, which worked all right until we went to cultivate corn, so we’d have to get off about every 10-feet and pull trees out of your cultivators.”
Rodger Weave said that the family grows “typical Switzerland County crops”: soybeans and corn; along with a lot of alfalfa to feed the dairy cows and hay for the beef cows.
“We used to raise tobacco, but we got out of that in 1982 when we built the dairy. We didn’t want to build the barn and fool with the tobacco,” Rodger Weaver said. “It was such a good feeling that we never went back.”
He said that the dairy took priority over everything else, so they always had to work the crops in around making sure that the dairy operation was running smoothly.
Along with the dairy herd, Rodger Weaver also has about 34 brood cows.
In terms of conservation, Rodger Weaver said that he thinks their family farm was one of the first around to do no-till farming.
“We were, I think, one of the pioneers in the county in terms of no-till,” Rodger Weaver said. “We started back in the late 1960s with no-till farming. We bought one of the first no-till planters from Mr. Tinker over here.”
Rodger Weaver said implementing no-till practices was a learning process, noting that they liked what they saw; but it took about three or four years to get into the main groove of no-till – but he said that there’s always something that comes up new each year.
“We tried deep tillage,” he said. “Crops, I think, grew better, but the problem was that you couldn’t get on the ground to harvest it, because it was so soft, so deep, that when you got stuck, instead of going down six inches, you went down 14-, 16- or 18-inches, and that gets a little tough.
He said that they no-till as much as possible, but noted that there are times when he has to work the ground due to having trouble getting the crops out in the fall, but most of the time no-till is the first option.
“It makes Spring go a whole lot quicker,” Rodger Weaver said.
Rodger Weaver also said that there have been many changes in the chemistry that is used to grow production. He said that there was one particular year when the country was short on nitrogen, so the formula was changed on the nitrogen being sold to farmers, but the chemistry didn’t work, which led to crop failures in some areas because they didn’t get any weed control.
As for the award for being the “Conservation Farmer of the Year”, Rodger Weaver said that he and his brother see it more as a “recognition” rather than an award, because they have been involved in those conservation practices for years.
“We spent a lot of time over the years trying to get surface drainage to work for us,” he said. “There’s probably more things that we need to do in terms of waterways. We’re not perfect by any means. It’s something that dad instilled in us. We’ve always tried to take care of what God gave us.”
Rodger and his wife, Phyllis, have two children: son Scott and daughter Marlene and her husband, Deron; along with six grandchildren.