For Kendall Hodgson, Master Farmer is something of a family tradition. His grandfather was in the very first class of Master Farmers in 1927. And his father and mother were part of the Master Farmer/Master Farm Homemaker class of 1988.
“My great-grandfather followed his brother out to Kansas in around 1871,” Hodgson said. “They lived in a dugout beside the Little Arkansas River with a camp of Indians on the other side.”
As a fourth-generation Kansas farmer, Kendall still farms the land near Little River in Rice County, where he grew up as one of six children. Kendall says he never thought much about any life except farming.
He grew up a Wildcat fan, and his choice of college at Kansas State University was a given. He graduated in 1978 with a degree in agronomy degree, and worked for the summer as a crop scout in Hugoton. In the fall, he took a job with the Lyons Coop for the winter. In the spring, though, he and his father formed a partnership to farm together — a partnership that lasted for the next 26 years.
The timing for starting out in farming could not have been much worse. Kendall bought a property from his parents a short distance up the road from the farm where he grew up. An aunt and uncle had started building a house, but didn’t finish it. The property had a cattle shed and a perimeter of ash and locust trees.
He took out some of those trees and planted a windbreak of cedars and pines on the north and west side of the property, and then purchased a trailer house to live in.
“In the awful farm economy of the 1980s, that was a cheap way to live,” he says. “But by the time 10 years had gone by, I had realized that trailer houses are depreciating assets. The farm was doing better and I decided it was time to build a house.”
Working with his grandfather and father had taught him lessons of conservation, and the energy crisis of the 1970s had left its mark. Kendall researched energy efficient types of construction and home functionality. He chose to build an earth berm type house with a massive stone fireplace.
During the excavation, Kendall discovered evidence that the site had previously been occupied by Native Americans. Several artifacts uncovered in that excavation, including pieces of pottery, a buffalo tooth and several corn grinding stones, were incorporated into the stone fireplace.
The missing piece of Kendall’s life was a wife and family, but that was resolved when a mutual friend introduced him to a farm girl from Dodge City who had a career in education and had recently settled in Lyons after teaching in Greensburg and Silver Lake. In 1993, he and Melinda were married.
Soon the arrival of children made it clear the house was a bit small for a growing family. So, Kendall and Melinda undertook a remodeling and room addition project that turned the attached garage into a family room with two more bedrooms above it. A new detached garage completed the layout.
Melinda kept her finger in the education system by working as a para professional for the school system, and then owned and operated her own preschool for several years. Later, when a kindergarten teaching position opened in Lyons, she continued her career and her passion for teaching children. Her other passion is music and a baby grand piano is a key element of the family’s living room décor.
Melinda also continues to have roots in western Kansas, where she still owns the quarter-section of Stanton County land that was given to her by her grandfather when she was a baby. As members of her family have passed away, she has taken on more of a manager’s role for their land holdings in Ford, Gray, Finney, Stanton, Grant and Hamilton counties.
Income from that land has been very beneficial in helping the Hodgson purchase more land and expand their operation in Rice County.
Conservation has been a key element of the farm through the generations. Kendall’s father converted to conservation tillage in the early 1970s, but knowing they were still losing precious topsoil convinced him to go to no-till in 1999. Now, Kendell works to not just stop erosion, but to actually build healthier soil.
“No-till has reduced soil erosion dramatically,” Kendall says. “We soil test every other year to show us what nutrients are lacking and which are adequate. We graze our livestock in the fields as much as possible to spread manure naturally and our cattle lots are scraped and manure spread on the fields every year.”
The cow herd is a closed herd except for the purchase of bulls and EPDs are utilized to help predict the characteristics of each calf crop. With oldest son, Tanner, who graduated from Kansas State University last spring with an agricultural business degree returning to the farm, they plan to move to an AI program for the cow herd, giving them better control over genetics.
Second son, Logan, is a junior at Kansas State University with a major in agricultural technology management. He has worked on the farm most of his summers but last year worked for a local feed yard doing a variety of jobs.
“There was an ownership change while he was working there and they really appreciated his knowledge of computers that helped with the transition as well as his general work ethic,” Kendall said.
Daughter, Bailey, just turned 15 and loves working with animals, especially pigs, As a freshman in high school, she is involved in Quiz Bowl, volleyball and will be in track and softball. She enjoys being a member of the newly installed FFA chapter in Little River, and is vice president of her class and an A-honor roll student.