In Throwback Thursday articles, we look back at the history of Pork Network and the pork industry. This week, we're throwing it back to February 1987. This article orginally appeared as part of "Tim Rose: By Any Other Name, Success Would Still Smell as Sweet" by Tom Bodus.
1986 was a good year for a 33-year-old hog farmer from Lyons, Kan., named Tim Rose. Hog prices were the highest they’d been in four years, his sows had a 96 percent conception rate, he became a parent for the third time, he won a Soil and Water Conservation Award and his peers elected him president of the Kansas Pork Producers Council.
But then, those who follow the industry would expect good things to come to someone whose last name is Rose.
The Rose name has established itself as quite a legacy within the pork industry. Tim’s father, Arnold, was one of the founding members of the National Pork Producers Council. Arnold Rose also was among the first producers to make his own feed and to incorporate modified open front buildings into his hog farm, Rose Pork Inc., a 15,000-head, farrow-to- finish operation in Ionia, Kan., now run by his older son, Bob.
When Tim graduated from Kansas State University in 1975, he could have returned to that safe, cozy nest and made his way in the family business, but he believed it would be tough to go back there and not feel like he was butting in.
“There were enough chiefs there already,” Tim says. So he and wife Melinda decided to start their own family business.
With the help of his father's co-signature on a loan, Tim was to buy an 80-acre tract near Lyons that was ideal for setting up a total confinement operation. Melinda took a teaching position at the local junior high school, and Tim’s parents moved to Lyons for two years, so Arnold could help his son get started.
By 1982, Tim was able to break away from the family corporation to form Roses’ Central Swine Farm Inc., now a 300-sow, farrow-to-finish operation that produces 4,000 head a year. “We’re kind of like Colonel Sanders,” Tim says. "We try to do one thing it right.”
When Tim began his operation, he thought it would be twice as large by now, but the economy didn't co-operate. The spiral staircase land values climbed in the ’70s and collapsed in the ’80s left a once optimistic young hog farmer wondering just what the heck he was doing with so much debt.
Tim says it was pride that kept him from jumping ship and retreating to teaching, the career he considered before opting for hog farming. “I wanted to finish what I started and prove my father’s confidence in me was justified.”
He didn’t disappoint. Scratching and clawing, Tim beat the debt monster, slowed only by his decision to build a new house in 1982 and move his family out of the trailer they’d called home for seven years. “It was either build a new house or get a new wife,” he jokes. “Building a house was cheaper.”
As the son of one of the most progressive hog producers in the country, Tim grew up surrounded by the George Brauers and Russ Jeckels of the industry. He cherishes the boyhood vacations during which his father “would always stop at four or five hog farms along the way” to swap ideas with his colleagues. He boasts of the times he’s taken his father to pork producer functions, and producers would flock around the old man as if he were a prophet just down from the mountain. Tim grins as he recounts the occasion his father expressed concern that his son might be spending too much time in pork council work-only to have Tim’s mother break out the scrapbook to remind her husband of his own exploits in the organization.
Tim, a burly fellow with a pleasant but no-nonsense face, admits he probably wouldn’t be his state organization’s president if it weren’t for his father; however, he says it wasn’t the last name that has earned him recognition (although “it didn’t hurt”). It was his adoption of his father's philosophies, “a horse-sense approach to running a business.”
Nevertheless, there’s one Rose philosophy that Tim didn’t adopt--a workaholic approach to his job. “My father has always loved to work,” Tim says, “but I determined back in high school that I was going to try to relax.” While speaking, he repositions one of his hearing aids, the toll he paid for his frequent hunting excursions as a teenager but that kept him home from Vietnam.
Nowadays Tim’s passion for the hunt is somewhat subsided. He still gets out about once a week, or for more passive recreation, he tinkers at the organ and piano and is a frequent soloist in the church choir. “I’ve had some people tell me that I could have sung professionally,” says Tim, who’s never taken those compliments seriously enough to pursue a music career but speculates he’d be an Andy Williams-type performer if he had.
Tim’s other leisure-time activities include skiing, reading and officiating high school football and basketball games, but his first love is his family. The father of three sons—Jared, 7; Ryan, 4; and Aaron, 5 months—Tim says he’s sometimes concerned organizational will keep him from home too much. But, so far he feels he’s gotten far more out of them than he’s put into them, especially in terms of improving his leadership abilities.
Given the opportunity to change one aspect of his life, Tim says he would have worked for another farmer for a couple of years before starting out on his own so he could have better understood employee/management relationships. Early on he found it difficult to communicate his will to his employees, but leadership training he received through NPPC has helped him overcome that obstacle. It also helped him become a better listener.
“I used to take it personally if an idea of mine was criticized,” Tim says. “Instead of seeing that the idea was being criticized, I would feel like I was the one being criticized. But being in a leadership position has forced me to get both sides of an issue and make decisions based on my head, not my heart.”
Running the show while Tim’s away from the farm is Tom Reazin, a man Tim matter-of-factly calls “the best assistant manager in the state.” Tim says Reazin was “an answer to a prayer” when he joined the operation back in ’77. Not being one to take answered prayers for granted, Tim bought 30 acres of land and helped pay for a house, all of which he will sign over to Reazin this year as a bonus above an already generous salary that Tim says “is worth every penny” for the stability it’s given the operation.
Running a successful farming operation, Tim says, requires a business-like approach. “The family farm concept of agriculture is one of the greater disservices ever dreamed up. In these times of rollercoaster economics, he who stops learning won’t be earning.”
As for the challenge presented to smaller independent producers by the continuing trend toward industry concentration, Tim says, “I tell high school kids to be prepared not to do what their fathers are doing. The harsh reality is that there will continue to be fewer producers,” which will change the face of the grassroots organizations Tim’s father helped found.
“I often wonder, who will we (NPPC) In these times of rollercoaster eco- represent in the future?”
Tim believes he’ll be around for the answer. “The 60,000-plus boys aren’t going to put me out of business. I feel I can compete with them, and if I can’t I’d better start selling cars.”
Having already gone so far in a business most men don’t make a mark in until they’re at least ten years older isn’t lost on Tim. “I wake up some mornings and am amazed at the position I’m in,” he says.
He shouldn’t be. It was in his blood.