Meet Arizona Agriculture’s Vernon Schulz Family
By Contributing Writer Shayla Hyde: This generational farm family from Buckeye has been farming a variety of crops in Arizona for the last 75 years. One of the Schulz family’s most important strategies with farming to stay relevant and current with technology is to constantly adapt to what works best and not be afraid to try new things. Long-time Arizona Farm Bureau members, they value the organization’s work on behalf of the industry.
Tell us about your farming background. My family came to Scottsdale from Minnesota in 1915. We farmed and had a dairy there until the late 1930s. We moved to the Buckeye area and have farmed there for 75 years. I have farmed in Arizona, Colorado and California. We have raised cotton, corn, barley, wheat, alfalfa, milo, melons and almond trees.
Vernon Schulz in one of his corn fields.
What changes have you seen in your lifetime as it related to farming? I believe my father saw more change than I have. He saw agriculture come from horse drawn equipment and milking cows by hand to modern equipment and milking 60 cows at once. One of the biggest changes I have seen is in operation size. When I was a youngster in the 1950s and 1960s a few hundred acres of farmland was a big operation; now it is thousands. A few hundred milk cows to thousands of milk cows.
Why did you choose to go into agriculture? Well, I am not sure if I chose agriculture or if it chose me. I was born into it and have always loved it. I suppose one of the things I like about Ag is the sense of accomplishment, and working hard raising and harvesting a crop with your family.
Will anyone in your family-a younger generation-pursue farming and/or ranching? They already are! My sons, daughter, son-in-law and all my grandchildren are working on the farm or are going to college to get a degree in the agricultural field. One granddaughter is in college to become an Ag journalist.
Would you ever consider growing an emerging crop or changing your farm or ranch model? Certainly. I think someone has to try new things. For us it has been almond trees in the 1950s, ultra-narrow row cotton in the 1990s and maybe rice next year.
What are your community activities? Why are you involved? Most of my community activity involves young people and their agricultural projects. It involves trying to encourage them to be the best they can be, helping them get those projects and supporting them until the end of those projects. I love to watch young people grow and achieve their goals. I have been on several committee boards in my career and it is to give back what I have been given.
What is one fact/experience/achievement no one knows about you? When I was in high school I was in several plays and enjoyed acting. I was once in a play called “Charlie’s Aunt.” I was Charlie’s aunt. It was great fun. I also love fast cars and have had a few.
What do you think you do really well? I believe I am a good communicator. I have told my children and now my grandchildren that I believe the most important asset an individual can possess is people skills. You can be educated and have the IQ of a genius, but if you can’t communicate that knowledge it will not be effective.
Why are you a farm bureau member? I am a member because Farm Bureau is a strong voice for Ag and they know the issues. They pass that knowledge on to growers.
How will the next generation of farmers have to operate? With modern communication and technologies agriculture is going to be more in the spotlight, and that is not always good. We have to communicate better through these various Medias. An example is a growing trend towards organic products. In my opinion the social media has greatly influenced this phenomenon. GMOs are another media issue. The latest is water issues in agriculture. We must do a better job of telling our story through modern media.
What is the best business advice you have ever been given and/or experienced? I don’t’ know who told me this but I have always tried to do it, and I have passed it on to my children and grandchildren: Always know the answer to your question before you ask it.