Like many Master Farmer couples, Robert and Charlotte Anderson have deep roots in agriculture.
They live in a two-story farmhouse that was built in the early 1900s and originally owned by Robert’s grandparents.
Robert grew up working with his dad and grandfather, as well as participating in 4-H and improving his skills by taking an AI class and obtaining a private pesticide applicator’s license.
He joined the American Gelbvieh Association in 1993 and is currently a member of the Kansas Farm Bureau.
Charlotte grew up in nearby Chapman, where she was also involved in 4-H. In fact, her family was named Kanas 4-H Family of the Year in 1984. She graduated from K-State in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer economics.
Their iconic farm house is a short walk away from a historic rock barn and several cattle pens, connected with a lane to a pasture hill — a good calving site for about 25 to 30 cows.
Their youngest daughter, Rachelle, has a pen for her 4-H steers there, and another for the heifers she chooses in November for showing the coming spring, summer and fall.
The bulk of the farming operation is about 1 ½ miles north at the farm, where Robert grew up and his father, Richard, still lives.
That location was home to a dairy from 1986, when the corporation was formed, until 1998, when the decision was made to sell the dairy herd. They switched focus to the purebred Gelbvieh herd started in 1993, and the purebred Hereford herd that they took over from Charlotte’s father in 1994.
The old milking barn is now used for storage and record-keeping space. A machine shop, main repair shop, feeding facilities, larger calving pens, and feeding and weaning pens are also at that location. A calving shed, an alley way with several smaller pens, a cattle tub and a head gate have been added to make working with the cattle easier and safer.
Robert is a full-time farmer, working in dual operations as a partner in Anderson Farms, an S corporation owned and operated by Robert, his brother Steve and his father. He and Charlotte own and operate a separate operation, Red Maple Gelbvieh.
These two entities also operate separate, with Robert and Richard making day-to-day decisions and working with Steve daily on how best to get things done. All three men are involved when it comes to large purchases. Robert makes the day-to-day decisions for Red Maple Gelbvieh, while Charlotte and Rachelle join in on decision making about what replacement heifers to keep. Robert and Charlotte make the financial decisions for that company.
Charlotte also works outside the home as a staff accountant and enrolled agent for Farm Management Services, Inc.
Both Robert and Charlotte have a long history of involvement in 4-H, with son, Ryan, and daughters, Amanda and Rachelle having a long involvement in 4-H. Rachelle, a sophomore at Concordia High School, is a 9-year member of the Hill and Dale 4-H Club, where she has served as president, vice-president and reporter. She is also active in FFA, and has served as junior president of the Concordia FFA. She is currently senior vice president and an active participant on the livestock judging team, dairy judging team and entomology judging team. She has received the Greenhand degree and the Star Greenhand degree, and has attended the FFA National Convention for the past two years.
“Showing cattle kind of gets in your blood,” Charlotte says. “It certainly is a passion for Rachelle.”
Ryan, their oldest son, is a graduate of Kansas State University and works at Concordia Tractor Inc., the John Deere dealership in Concordia. Amanda graduated from Salina Vo-Tech with top honors in business administration, and went on to get a bachelor’s degree from Tabor College. She is currently the director of winterization for the North Central Kansas Planning Commission.
“Family life and farm life go hand in hand for us,” Charlotte says. “No matter if it was working together on the farm, working cattle, harvesting or attending a fair or show, there is a special bond that is formed when the family works together and has a passion for what they are doing.”
Family vacations have typically involved attending a livestock show or showing cattle. The Andersons started with Holstein dairy heifers at the county fair, then transitioned to the beef side as the kids got older.
Ryan showed a preference for the dairy, and later for the crops side, of the business, while the girls both enjoyed the cattle, Charlotte says. As they have grown older, family vacation involved a Junior Breed Association Show. The American Gelbvieh Junior Association Junior Nationals have taken the family to Kearney, Neb.; Rapid City, S.D.; Stillwater, Okla.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Grand Island, Neb.
“Robert and I feel that these Junior Nationals are very important for your kids,” Charlotte says, “in the fact that they not only gain confidence in themselves, but also make friends from all over the United States and it can open doors as they get older. We have attended the National Western Stock Show and we were all excited when the yearling bull that we raised was selected Reserve National Bull.”
Robert and Charlotte say one of the major challenges that farm families face is the lack of knowledge about the industry that has developed as farms have gotten larger, farm families have dwindled and the divide between urban and rural has grown wider.
“Educating the public about the ag industry may be the biggest contribution that we have made,” Charlotte says. “We have maintained an active role in the community through helping 4-H kids with their projects. We have helped the livestock kids at the Fair create displays that education the people who come to look at their projects.”
The Andersons have also given back to the agriculture industry through the Kansas Gelbvieh Association, speaking with commercial producers about the benefits of using Gelbvieh genetics ore, and helping less experienced members learn how to read and understand data to select a bull that fits their needs.
The family has also worked with the public by answering questions about the livestock business, the importance of a good feeding program and the technology used to grow a healthy crop,
Rachelle has recently had an opportunity to help the girls on her traveling softball team, many of whom have little connection to agriculture, understand her family’s business.
“Rachelle was preparing for the quiz bowl and skill-a-thon contest at Junior Nationals, and the girls helped her study questions between games,” Charlotte says. “Her coach couldn’t believe how much Rachelle knew about feeding, genetics, breeding and all aspects of the livestock industry. It was not only a team builder but also a way to educate young people about the ag industry.”
Charlotte adds that it is sometimes surprising how something so commonplace to those who work in ag can come as a surprise to members of the general public.
“Our hope is that after talking with us, they realize that farming is not just about working the ground or putting hay out for livestock,” Charlotte says. “It takes being educated, staying in compliance with the regulations and planning to produce a safe product that we want the public to have. After all, we are feeding the world.”