for Tri-State Livestock News
It’s been 132 years since German immigrant Charles Schulz and his family made their homestead claim in 1880 near what is now Edgeley, ND.
Given the times and radically different lifestyle of that day, it’s likely that Charles gave little thought to the possibility that his great-grandson Marv might be recognized for his ranching expertise years later.
Marv and his wife Jolene, who were recently named the 2012 North Dakota Rancher of the Year, say the work ethic and deeply ingrained values were passed on to them from their ancestors and have played a significant role in their own success.
“Charles started a dairy when he homesteaded here,” Marv said. “He was a very proud man and farm life was very difficult when he brought his family here in 1880. All the work was done by hand and there were few conveniences. It must have been hard to leave your homeland and come to a place where everything was new and strange. But he handed the farm down to my grandfather Frank Schulz. Frank went through the ‘dirty thirties’ and survived that. With each generation the family acquired a little more land. By the time my father, Harvey, took over the farm he made the transition out of the dairy business and began raising Herefords.”
When Marv took over the ranch, he was very active in beef industry events and organizations, serving as the North Dakota Hereford Association director in the late 1970s. For about 20 years, Marv sold Hereford bulls through private treaty and showed livestock at the North Dakota Winter Show in Valley City. From 1989 to 1997, Marv also served as North Dakota Stockmen Association director.
“Not long ago our ranch underwent another transition,” Marv said. “We began using crossbreeding about 10 years ago to produce our terminal cross calves. We have about 225 Red and Black Angus cows. We use Charolais bulls as our terminal cross. We were looking to add some pounds to our calves, because that’s where the profit is. How many pounds of beef per acre you can raise.”
Marv and Jolene didn’t begin their own adult careers on the ranch. Marv completed college at Jamestown University in 1969 and took on a teaching job for five years before he had an opportunity to return to the ranch.
“A neighboring rancher wanted to lease his acres to us,” Marv said. “That seemed like a great opportunity. Even though it was difficult to give up the teaching position, I thought it would be good for our family to be back on the ranch.”
Marv recalls that 1988 was one of the most difficult years he and his family experienced in the ranch business. Extremely dry conditions throughout that year challenged the Schulz family to maintain their cattle herd.
“We had to bring hay in from Minnesota,” Marv remembers. “Finances were really tight. That year our ranch took quite a step backward. It took a lot of years to recover from that. Of course we also saw hail storms, floods and lots of different kinds of weather over the years. There are always things to overcome in the ranching business.”
Over the past three years, Marv and Jolene have worked through the transition to hand ranch management responsibilities off to their son Brock and his wife Danielle.
“That’s been a challenge in itself,” Marv said. “For 40 years I took care of things and made all the decisions. Now I’m taking orders from Brock. He and Danielle just had a son, so the 5th Schulz generation is already being groomed to work on the ranch.”
Today the Schulz family ranch includes about 2,000 acres of cropland and 1,000 acres of grass and native range. They utilize the cross-fencing and rotational grazing practices handed down from generation to generation to make the most of their grazing resources.
“Every generation of the Schulz family has been very conservation minded,” Marv said. “It has always been emphasized how important it is to have good water in the pastures and make sure there was plenty of grass for the cattle. Making sure we took care of the environment is just one of the management principles I’ve seen handed down throughout the years.”
Among the family practices Marv has seen in each Schulz generation is a focus on diligent labor and persistence. Both principles have served him and his family well during their own time of managing the ranch.
“My dad always told me if I worked hard and stayed with things that eventually I would see the reward,” Marv said. “I’ve found that to be true. Working for something you really believe in and staying the course is a valuable practice no matter what kind of business you’re in.”
One of Marv and Jolene’s greatest rewards has been the ability to work side-by-side with their children throughout the years. In all, they have three sons and one daughter. Samantha is a pediatric resident at the University of Wisconsin in Madison; Dusty manages Ziegler Cat in Fergus Falls, MN; and Cody is a senior majoring in physics and zoology at North Dakota State University in Fargo.
“Every day we started our day together and then worked at the ranch responsibilities together,” Marv said. “I know our children learned a lot about the value of a strong work ethic and an appreciation for what it takes to produce food. For me those have been rewarding experiences.”
Marv and Jolene will always cherish the honor of being selected as North Dakota’s 2012 Rancher of the Year.
“I have always loved cattle,” Marv said. “There are many ranchers in our state who deserve this kind of recognition. It’s one of the nicest honors we could ever receive.
“We’ll still help out on the ranch,” Marv added. “My father is 85 and he still comes out and checks fence all the time. I dread the day that I can’t work with cattle any more. That could come, but it’s something I will always love. It has never been all roses. We’ve had our ups and downs. We don’t know what next year brings. We may see another dry year. But we’re people of faith and we trust God through the good and the bad. We’re not the biggest ranchers out here, but we’re happy with what we’re doing and where we’re at.”
This “Ranching Legacy” depicts individuals, families and businesses that have survived the ups and downs of agriculture and continue to contribute to their community. Know someone that should be featured? Drop us a line at email@example.com.