Meet Arizona Agriculture’s Rogers Family

By Shayla Hyde, contributing writer to Arizona Farm Bureau: A passion for agriculture runs deep in the Rogers family. Kevin Rogers has deep roots in farming and loves to promote the importance of agriculture.

Other than spending time with his wife, Janel, Kevin keeps himself involved in the community and in the lives of his three children.

The Rogers believe in transparency when it comes to farming and ranching, and that future generations will have to embrace this idea even more.

Currently Arizona Farm Bureau’s President, Kevin Rogers thinks it’s important to love the job you’re in, and luckily for him he followed his own advice.

An interview with Kevin and Janel Rogers, Mesa, Arizona.

An ongoing series of Arizona’s Farmers and Ranchers.

Tell us about your farm. We’re a fourth-generation family farm. I farm with my dad, my brothers and sister. I also farmed with my uncle who is deceased now. Over the years we've grown cotton, alfalfa, corn silage, barley; a little bit of everything, traditional Arizona crops. We farm about seven thousand acres. I run the family operation in Scottsdale, my brother runs the operation in town. My dad is still around and is as active as he wants to be.

Taylor, Kevin Gary, Kevin's Dad, Richard, Morgan, Kevin and Janel. The Rogers clan puts heart and soul into their love of farming. 

Why did you choose to go into agriculture?

Kevin: Growing up on the farm with my dad, my uncles and my grandpa, I kind of knew it was something I wanted to do from the beginning. Back where I was raised, we went out the back door and that was where the farm was. I didn’t have to go anywhere else. Today I had to leave my home in Mesa to drive to Scottsdale. Back then there were the guys working on the equipment, the shop, the fields-it was all right there. We had animals there as well. I just knew from growing up in that environment, if there was a way to do it that’s what I wanted to do.

Janel: From my perspective, I think it was Kevin’s dream. When we were first dating, Kevin was working in Tucson at a tractor dealership, and he was managing that dealership selling to a lot of construction, some farming, but mostly construction businesses. So that’s when his dad finally said, “There’s an opportunity that you can be a part of the family farm. We can lease some ground over here in Scottsdale for you. Would you like to do that?” Kevin was so ecstatic.

I didn’t know I was in love with him until he said, “What do you think about this?” I said, “Oh, follow your dreams!” I was that kind of girl, and then he left. I started dating him in December and by February he was gone. So, I think it was his dream to be part of the farm, and his dad found a way for him to be able to do that. It’s been a way for Kevin to do what he loves to do. It’s been a way of life for us.

CBS Correspondent John Yang and Kevin out on Duncan Family Farms organic farm discussing Arizona agriculture.

What changes have you seen in your lifetime as it relates to farming, ranching or agribusiness? A lot of changes. I’ve seen a lot of growth in the Phoenix Metro area. Most of our farming has been traditionally on the West side of town towards Tolleson and Cashion. We’ve seen a lot of competition for land from developers. I’ve seen a lot of technology differences too. When I was a kid I can still remember the guys picking cotton by hand and paying the workers with silver dollars. So I’ve been fortunate to see a lot changes. Cotton picker generations have come in for years and all the tractors and hay equipment we use continues to make our job easier than it was 40 years ago when I was a kid.

Will anyone in your family-younger generation-pursue farming, ranching or agribusiness? Taylor is studying down at the University of Arizona in Agribusiness and Ag Leadership. Kevin Gary is also down at the U of A as a freshman. He was big in showing pigs and really excelled with the livestock so right now his major is animal science. Our youngest, Morgan, is a junior in high school and is in FFA. There is no telling what she is going to do but I would think that somehow they will have a tie to agriculture whether they come back and help me manage the farm or they start their own agribusiness; something like that. 

Each one of Janel and Kevin's three children have taken a liking to livestock and showing. Morgan, their youngest, is currently in the thick of it through FFA. The Rogers have discoverd these activities to be a fun family affair.

Would you ever consider changing your business model? Not today. Over the years we have changed our business model. It continues to evolve. We continue to specialize. In order to keep farming this valley, you have to find a niche-something that works and our business model right now is working with a large dairy in Maricopa and producing all the feed and the grains that the dairy needs. It has worked out really well especially since my busy schedule as president of the Arizona Farm Bureau. It’s been a great opportunity for me and for our farm to work real close with a dairyman who has lots of mouths to feed. I think farmers in general have to be pretty nimble and flexible because you never know when you turn a corner and some new opportunity may come up. I believe especially today with the crop markets like they are with the hay market being down and the milk market being down the wheat markets down, I think we've got to continue looking for niches where we can pencil out a good business plan to keep our bankers happy. As far as changing my business plan, it continues to evolve but right now I think we are where we need to be.

What are your community activities? My community activities revolve a lot around the kids: FFA, 4-H, church activities and a lot of livestock activities. The kids like to go to the SAILA shows and so we run the SAILA circuit with the kids and have been real active with the Maricopa County Fair board and the Arizona National Livestock Show board. I’ve been on the Arizona-Mexican Commission for years which is promoting trade and business relationships with our friends south of the border which is important to do.

Nationally, I've served on the National Cotton Council, a cotton board promoting what we grow, making sure our cotton is promoted around the globe specifically here in the United States and helping with what the agriculture campaign “The Fabric of Our Lives” that Cotton Inc. does. I’ve been fortunate to participate in a lot of activities but on the home front the kids and working with their animals and that immediate circle they've got with FFA is probably front and center

Why are you involved? Growing up my dad was involved in several different things. Dad was involved in the county Farm Bureau board and Young Farmers and Ranchers so I kind of grew up knowing that you’re supposed to give back; you’re supposed to serve. Dad was on the school board in Littleton probably for 20 years. The day that my brother, Kris, graduated from 8th grade dad didn’t run anymore. He said, “My kids are gone. It’s time for somebody else to come in and serve now.”

My mom and dad set the example and showed us that it is good to give back, so that’s probably one of the major reasons I do it. Just starting in 4-H and FFA I had some really great leaders and Ag teachers that instilled a good work ethic to promote giving back. I think between all those things is probably why I’m involved.

What do you enjoy doing, and what is one fact nobody knows about you? With three kids in the teenage years or early twenties, they're at a good stage in life. I enjoy whatever we can do that brings them in and continues the relationship. Being involved with them has especially worked through their livestock activities. I enjoy hauling them around the countryside whether were going to Des Moines or to Phoenix to the county fair.

In relationship to other involvement, I enjoy the politics-side of things in what we do at the Farm Bureau. You can’t do what I do as president and not love political discussion. Probably one of my favorite things in my service is going back to D.C. and reminding our congressman and senators what agriculture means to this country, and sitting across the table from the EPA, USDA, letting them know how what they’re thinking about impacts us on the farm.

I think part of where my enjoyment comes from within the organization is knowing we empower rank-and-file farmers and ranchers to speak for themselves, to stand up and tell their congressmen what they like and don’t like, and to talk to the city councilmen, for example, at the local level. I think the communications skills the Farm Bureau teaches its membership, if people want to participate, is cool because it empowers members to stand up for themselves and we give them the avenue to do that. I think [what I enjoy doing] revolves around several things related to family, I enjoy my friends at church and what we do there. That’s important to me.

Something people may not know about me is I have sung on a worship team for years. Family, church and my work in Farm Bureau -- to be as busy as I am -- you really got to love it. I'm on the road a lot and haven’t been brave enough to check how many days a year I'm gone but I fly well over 100,000 miles a year and U.S. Airways loves to see me get on the plane because they know they got me.

Why are you a farm bureau member? I think part of it initially was because my family has always been Farm Bureau members. As I’ve grown up in the Farm Bureau family so to speak, it has given me opportunities to serve my county board, serve on YF&R, to participate with folks who do what we do for a living; and whose job it is to put farmers and ranchers in touch with decision makers of today whether it’s our state legislators, congressmen, senators. By that premise of the organization putting the membership before our elected leaders and staff makes it easy to belong because you can affect change. I think empowering our members and being able to grow up and see every step along the way, long before I thought I was going to run for Arizona Farm Bureau President and now for American Farm Bureau president. The fact that the organization lets our rank and file members stand up and be heard makes it easy to serve and belong.

How will the next generation of agribusiness leaders have to operate? Wow, farming and ranching will be more technology driven. I just see this technology boom continuing. I think that we’re going to be working smarter, not necessarily harder whether it be the equipment we use or the programs that are out there to help us be so much more efficient. I think technology is going to bring this next generation on and it already has; we can see it today. I think that’s a big part of it but I also think that they will have to be very public-minded because of the population that we have and the fact that we’ve got to continue to produce more on a smaller footprint. The public is demanding to know what we do on our farms and ranches, and I think someone in an operation, in a farming business or farm family has to be a point person to make sure the guy across the street taking his kids to school knows what we’re doing on our farm or ranch. I think that’s an important thing. I think for next generation that’s going to be even more pressing than it is today.

What type of business advice would you give? I would tell you probably the best business advice and life advice I have been given is figure out a way to do what you love because if you don’t love what you're doing, your business is not going to be successful, your time and operation won’t be successful. We've all got to have good bean counters, good business plans and good relationships so that we can continue to farm. Farms that have been around for a 100 years, regardless of how they do it, to me is very sustainable.

For me, dad always said, “I don’t care what you do as long as you find something that you love to do. You don’t have to come farm you can do whatever you want.” I think that’s the key is figure out what you like to do and try to figure out a way to make a living doing it. I think that’s pretty grounding business advice because you have to get up every morning and go do something. You can do something you love which makes it so much easier to go do. Make sure you enjoy it. On our farm there’s always something to do so you really got to make sure you love to do it.

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