When Judd Roehrig began his own field services business in 1997, he probably could not have imagined how the business would grow over the next 15-plus years—or maybe he could.
After all, there were a couple potential assets around the house which he thought could someday come in handy—sons Chad and Cory.
At the time Judd started the business, the boys were about 11 and 8 years old, respectively. Now Chad, 28, and Cory, 25, are key contributors to Roehrig Field Services—not to mention their mother Diane, who handles all the bookkeeping and office work for the steadily growing business.
But Judd will be the first to say that the reason the business has been successful is the personal service they provide their farmer customers, something he has instilled in his sons as well.
A family business
“We’re strictly a family business here,” Judd said. “We’re very one-on-one oriented. We’re always going to have bumps in the road, but we take care of our customers.”
Judd had been a milk truck driver and later a feed truck driver when, in 1997, he decided to do some field work on his own. “My dad had a small combine,” he said, and custom combining was pretty common at that time. His dad had a farm on STH 114.
By the next spring, Judd also was doing some custom spraying using a pull-behind sprayer. “I was pretty much a one-man show,” he said of his first three years in the business. He would help area farmers with the various types of field work necessary in the spring, summer and fall, then spend the winter maintaining equipment, ordering what was needed for the spring and trying to get more customers.
That same seasonal cycle is still done today, only the volume has increased greatly in all regards. A cousin started helping him out three years into the business, and as the boys grew they also began to help out.
“It’s increased every year,” Judd said of the business. “We’ve added more services.” Like any industry, some farmers leave the business and new ones start up. Diane said Roehrig Field Services has been fortunate that if one of its customers leaves farming, they always seem to pick up a new one.
Judd said they are appreciative of their loyal customers who now number about 200. Reasons why those customers stay loyal include Roehrig Field Service’s willingness to grow along with them yet be flexible to their customers’ needs. Judd said he has worked for farmers who needed something done on three acres of land and farmers who needed work on 3,000 acres.
Gearing up for big farms
Roehrig Field Services has been gearing up to be able to handle the trend toward fewer but larger farm operations without forgetting the needs of the small, family farm. The business’ equipment has come a long way since the new combine Judd bought in 1997 for $80,000. His newest combine purchased two years ago cost about five times that.
Like most farmers, Judd has his brand preference when it comes to equipment. He has always been partial to Caterpillar and has worked with a dealer from DeForest. He and his sons are able to do most of the service work on their equipment, and the dealership also provides annual reviews of each piece.
The newer equipment also has the latest technology to aid Roehrig Field Services in what they do. Judd said he always took pride in making sure all his rows were straight, but the new equipment uses GPS and a variety of other technologies to aid in planting and other services. “A lot of that stuff has a come a long way,” Judd said.
It also helps Roehrig Field Services that they do not have to travel a long way to do their work. “We’re very fortunate to have so much local work,” Judd said, saying the vast majority of his customers are within 20 miles of his rural Hilbert home. Roehrig Field Services has customers in Calumet, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, Brown and Outagamie counties. Judd said he knows of other businesses which do what he does which have to travel much further to get to their customers.
Spraying is a big part of what Roehrig Field Services does, working with farmers and independent crop consultants to know just the right times to spray individual fields. And despite all the new technology, farmers and Roehrig Field Services are still at the mercy of something they cannot control—the weather. Judd said they sometimes do not get a lot of notice when a field is dry enough or ready to be worked. “You can’t even take a weekend off,” he said. “It’s all dependent on the weather.”
Working all hours
Diane said the phones can ring from 6 a. m. to 10:30 p. m. Sometimes that equipment seen in area fields late into the night is that of Roehrig Field Services. They are at work from when the fields first dry in spring until Thanksgiving, as Diane made it clear Thanksgiving dinner is important to this family.
Judd’s brother Jason is almost full time with the company as well, and there are numerous part-time employees. Roehrig Field Services has expanded into selling and planting Legacy Seed varieties, including cover crops which Judd said are “the latest and the greatest.” Crops such as turnips, peas and radishes are planted but never harvested—they are just used to prevent erosion and then plowed under later.
In addition, within the past month Roehrig Field Services also added LG Seeds to its list of products available to local farmers. The Illinois-based, nationwide company offers customers of Roehrig Field Services a second choice for corn, soybeans and alfalfa.
Roehrig Field Services also stays busy custom raising heifers. Judd has been doing that since he started the business and the family now looks after about 200 heifers for two different farmers. Custom dry fertilizer application was added in 2012.
Again, the business has grown every year, yet Judd said he worries about it getting too big. He said he never wants to lose that one-on-one relationship with farmers which got him here in the first place.