Kansas 2017 Lazy VJ Farms Fredonia Leopold Conservation Award Recipient

Lazy VJ Farms

Rod Vorhees’ father taught ecology at a local school. Although he didn’t realize it at the time, working with his father on their farm was like being in an ecology class. It prepared him for eventual career as the manager of Lazy VJ Farms, a fourth-generation cow-calf ranch in Fredonia.

When Rod took the farm's leadership role, and purchased neighboring land in the 1980s, he was eager to focus on improving land health. He converted all land that had been tilled to permanent vegetative cover with cover crops. He established cool season plant communities that complemented the native prairie ecosystem and extended the time of available quality forage.

The pastures on the ranch are managed using rotational grazing. Cattle are moved from one paddock to another to allow for a period of rest and regrowth. The cattle are also rotated to different ecotypes throughout the year to help provide quality nutrition. Rod strives for optimum production rather than maximum production, and always does his best to also provide care for the often-forgotten components to land management such as non-game wildlife, pollinators and migrating species.

The abundant plant diversity on the ranch provides excellent wildlife habitat. The property has 2,000 continuous acres that includes cool and warm season varieties of native and introduced grasses, forbs, legumes, native timberland and riparian areas. Although Rod accommodates a small number of hunters on his land, he does not need to plant food plots to make the land an attractive place to hunt due to the plant diversity available.

Rod believes no generation can precisely predict what changes future generations will encounter. He recognizes that it will be important for the next generation to be educated about the nuances of conservation and land management in order for the business to continue into the future. Working with his son Tom and his grandson has given him the opportunity to instill the land ethic his dad gave to him, giving him some peace of mind that his son and grandson will make good management choices in the future.

“Rod lives Leopold’s belief that conservation is a state of harmony between men and land,” said fellow rancher, Daryl Donohue. “From burn schools for ranchers to water festivals for school kids, and from wildflower tours attracting urban dwellers to educating state and local officials, he has created and sustained programs that bring a love and understanding of the natural environment to people who might otherwise be oblivious to its importance."

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