Three generations of farmers - Charles, Earl, and Larry Vulgamore (1951)
Listen to Earl Vulgamore tell the history of the farm and his life (recorded in 2002): The early days on the farm (with sister, Ermalea) - Part 1, The early days on the farm - Part 2, In the army and milking cows, Earning the silver star in WWII
Vulgamore Family Farms’ roots run deep in the Western Kansas soil. For five generations and nearly 100 years, the Vulgamore family has farmed around the Shallow Water area, growing their operation and raising families along the way.
In the early 20th century, Jesse Vulgamore and four of his sons—Jess, Dewey, Awl and Newt—began farming for the Shallow Water Sugar Beet Company. Another of Jesse’s sons, Charles, moved to the Shallow Water area in 1923 and broke out some land northwest of town for the Collingwood Brothers in addition to running a small cowherd on some of their grass. While his father and brothers left the area in the 1920s, Charles remained with his wife Chelsea and two children - Earl (1922) and Ermalea (1924).
In 1932, Charles Vulgamore began farming for the Smith family one mile west of Shallow Water. He moved his family into a previously-constructed Sugar Beet Company house. This original homestead still exists today and has served as the home of four generations of Vulgamores, as well as numerous Vulgamore Family Farms employees. During the 1930s, Charles Vulgamore, a true “sodbuster”, used his 1927 John Deere D (the first tractor he ever owned) to turn many acres of native sod into fertile farmland in the Shallow Water area for various landowners.
Charles Vulgamore on the farm, taken in 1940.
A young Earl Vulgamore on the farm in the mid-1940s.
Cpl. Earl Vulgamore (1944)
Charles was joined on the farm by his son, Earl, in 1946 following Earl’s military service in World War II. Shortly after returning from the war, Earl married Clara Nonnamaker and they moved into the original homestead. Over the years, the house was expanded numerous times to make room for their growing family - Larry (1948), Diana (1951), Charles (1954-1954), Linda (1956), Connie (1961-1983), and Robert “Bob” (1963-1982).
Earl’s passion was feeding cattle. During the 1960s, he experimented with feeding cattle on his home operation as well as placing cattle on feed at commercial feedyards. In 1969, Earl joined with partners to form Beef Belt Feeders, a commercial cattle feeding operation located 1.5 miles east of Shallow Water. Earl continued feeding cattle commercially and maintained an ownership role in Beef Belt until just prior to his death in 2003.
In 1971, Earl saw his son, Larry, return to the farm after completing a degree in agronomy at Kansas State University. Consisting of a few hundred acres of rented land, the farm needed expansion to accommodate the additional family. Larry and his wife, Judi Crist - who grew up on a farm 12 miles southwest of Shallow Water near Friend, KS - began to look for opportunities to add rented land and enter the cattle-feeding business. They also began to add to their family with Heidi (1973), Brian (1976), and Myles (1981).
In 1971, Larry constructed the first fence line bunks at the homestead location and began building a small private feedyard. By slowly growing the farming and cattle operation, Larry and Judi were able to purchase the first quarter section of land owned by the Vulgamore family in 1976. Larry and Judi used their equity in this land to establish Hill Top Hogs, Inc., a small hog-feeding operation. After a few years of feeding hogs, Larry returned his focus to farming and cattle. As a result, Hill Top Hogs, Inc. was changed to Vulgamore Land & Cattle, Inc. and the hog feeding ceased.
Vulgamore Land & Cattle expanded over the following decades to include more than 7,000 acres of cropland and a 2,000-head feedyard capacity. In 1998, the Vulgamore family had the opportunity to purchase much of the Smith land that Charles Vulgamore had broken out in the 1930s, and in 2000, the Vulgamores were able to trade for the original quarter section and homestead that had been the “Vulgamore place” for more than 70 years.
Paula and Brian Vulgamore with children Parker, Paige, and Camden
Judi and Larry Vulgamore
Elizabeth and Myles Vulgamore with children Breven and Gavin
The latest generation of Vulgamore family farmers includes Larry’s two sons, Brian and Myles. Brian returned to the farm in 2000 with his family after completing his B.S. and M.S. degrees in agricultural economics at Kansas State University. He and his wife, Paula, currently live north of Shallow Water in Scott City with their three children - Parker, Paige and Camden. Myles also returned to the farm with his family following graduation from Kansas State University with a B.S. degree in agricultural technology management. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have two sons – Breven and Gavin – and live in Scott City.Judi and Larry's daughter, Heidi, and husband Corbin Stevens, DVM, live in Scott City with their three children - Makaela, Sawyer and Brinlie. In addition to his private practice, Corbin also serves as a consulting veterinarian for Vulgamore Family Farms.
Since their return, the farm has grown to cover more than 30,000 acres of farm ground, spreading across more than 40 miles. In addition to continuing cattle production and custom farming commitments, the Vulgamores launched Precision Ag & Seed Services (PASS) in 2006. The main focus of PASS is to serve as sales representatives for Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. in addition to specializing in precision agriculture consulting.
In 2009, the Vulgamores established another service corporation – Shallow Water Ag, LLC (SWAG). SWAG processes, sells and spreads conditioned manure on fields for local producers. The Vulgamores continue to seek out opportunities wherever they present themselves as they look for ways to ensure the sustainability of their operation for generations to come.