By the time Lee Doyle graduated Holton High School in 1968, he had already owned a small cattle herd, and was on his way to following in his father's footsteps in farming. While playing basketball and attending Pratt Junior College, and earning his undergraduate degree in Business Administration at Emporia State University, Lee was back on the family farm every weekend, notes his wife, Pam, whom he met at Emporia State. After graduation, Lee worked as a supervisor at Goodyear in Topeka, continuing to help his father while starting his own farming operation. "I would get off work and come to the farm," he says. "There were a lot of sacrifices for both Pam and I."
After Pam graduated Emporia State with a Bachelors' degree in Psychology and Sociology, she earned her diploma as a registered nurse at Stormont Vail School of Nursing in Topeka, followed by her Master's Degree in Adult and Occupational Education from Kansas State University in 1982. Currently director of patient services at Holton Community Hospital, she has been in nursing for almost 39 years. "It's wonderful working in your own community and knowing everybody," she says. "It's a different atmosphere in a small town hospital."
In 1979, Lee and Pam bought the farm just north of Holton. In 1983, Lee decided to devote himself to the farm full-time. Starting with 80 acres, the Doyles have expanded to 5,000 row crop and pasture acres.
Being in Jackson County's rolling terrain, expanding the farm has benefitted from technology like automatic row shutoffs on their Kinze planter. This prevents double seeding on end rows and point rows Their planter is also variable-rate-capable.
They adjust corn seeding rates to meet the needs of specific areas. "We plant a higher population rate and use a higher fertilizer rate on Kennebec soils, which is our better soil. When we get to clay soils that tend to dry out faster, we use a lower population and a lower fertilizer rate," Lee says. "We get all of that information from the yield monitor in the combine."
Updating for the next generation
The Doyles have grown more than crops. As Lee notes, "The best crop you can raise is your kids." Their daughter, Heidi spent mornings before high school hauling Lee in a pickup as he fed cattle. After graduating from Emporia State in 2006 with a degree in Integrated Studies, Heidi works as a registered agent for Griffin Real Estate and Auction Service in Cottonwood Falls, where she lives with her husband, Chuck Maggard. Chuck works as office manager for Ranch Management Group and auctioneers and sells real estate for Griffin Real Estate.
Scott, their oldest, was on a tractor at a young age. As Pam says, "He grew up and never changed." He continues to help plant and harvest, and is integral in adopting new technology and interpreting yield data. After Scott graduated North Central Technical College in Beloit in 1998 with a degree in Production Agriculture and Agribusiness, he moved in three miles down the road, where he now lives with his wife, Jill. Jill operates her catering business, Cakes, Cookies and Catering, and helps on the farm.
When Scott came back, they expanded the cattle operation, adding over 1,500 feet of fence line feed bunks, automatic waterers, and new handling facilities. They have doubled their numbers since, with 800 yearlings and 325 cow-calf pairs, split into 175 fall and 150 spring calving cows to get the most use out of their native warm season and cool season pastures.
When it comes to forage and cattle, even the Doyles' grandchildren pitch in. Heidi's son, Zeke, is too young to help yet, but will likely join his cousins, Colby, Haden, and Jace, who help rake and haul hay in summer and feed cattle during winter. "Growing up on the farm is a character-building event that helps develop values, character, and ethics," Pam says. "We wanted our kids to have that background."