No Secret To Success For This Master Farmer -- Just Faith

Inside Dakota Ag

Master Farmer Ricky Lawlar does all he can to succeed and “puts the rest in ‘God’s hands”

Published on: December 31, 2012

Ricky Lawlar says doesn’t know the secret to success. But he says he’s learned what helps him sleep at night despite the big risks of weather, markets and trade policy that are beyond his control

“Do everything you can and then put it in God’s hands,” says Lawlar, Watford City, N.D. “God does the rest.”

Lawlar was recently named one of four Master Farmers by the Dakota Farmer.

But there’s a flipside to philosophy.

“We had the best wheat crop ever last year, but we can’t take credit for it,” he says, laughing. “We just did what we could and God did the rest.”

Lawlar, 67, and his wife, Shirlene ,farm with their son, Howdy, and his wife, Jodee. The Lawlars grow spring wheat, winter wheat, barley, lentils, flax and other crops; raise bred heifers; and run a cow-calf operation.

The Lawlar family gathers on the ranch house porch. Pictured counter counter wise from the right is Ricky (holding his grandson, McCoy), his wife Shirlene, daughter-in-law, Jodee, and son Howdy. Not pictured, Howdy’s daughter, Jaydee.
The Lawlar family gathers on the ranch house porch. Pictured counter counter wise from the right is Ricky (holding his grandson, McCoy), his wife Shirlene, daughter-in-law, Jodee, and son Howdy. Not pictured, Howdy’s daughter, Jaydee.

He farms in the middle of western North Dakota’s oil boom and has worked in the oil fields in North Dakota and Alaska himself.

 “Roughnecking pulled us through some tough times,” Lawlar says, of the work he did on the oil rigs.

Howdy Lawlar says he learned many lessons from his father about how to succeed in farming and ranching.

Ricky and Howdy Lawlar recently put up new grain bins. They direct seed spring wheat, durum and a variety of other crops.
Ricky and Howdy Lawlar recently put up new grain bins. They direct seed spring wheat, durum and a variety of other crops.

The key is being patient and persistent. “He says that if something takes you more time to accomplish, it will usually benefit you more in your future,” Howdy says. “You may have to work harder now and you may not see the end results right away, but when you do, they will be worth it.”

Other Lawlar rules:

  • If you have a good year, do not spend it all that year. Put some away for the year that you don’t do as well.
  • Keep track of everything. Make sure you account for every dollar.
  • Quality is better than quantity. The end result will be much better if you have better quality overall.

Carlyle Stenberg, a longtime friend and neighbor, says he’s always been impressed by Lawlar’s optimism, even during tough times, and his willingness to adapt to change and try new things.

“He always has a real cheerful attitude,” Stenberg says.

Lawlar serves on the McKenzie County commission and the county Farm Service Agency committee. He’s been on the Watford City school board. He is a volunteer minister and regularly preaches at a local nursing home and substitutes at various churches. A licensed auctioneer, Lawlar has conducted many auctions for non-profit groups in the community such as Right to Life, Dollars for Scholars, Pheasants Forever and 4-H.

Lawlar says he enjoys public service about as much as farming and ranching.

“We have a great community,” he says. “I hope I am helping make it a little better.”

About Master Farmer

Master Farmer is one of the oldest farmer recognition programs in the U.S. It recognizes active producers -- men and women -- for their achievements in farming or ranching and for their contributions to their community, state and/or industry.

Easy to nominate

It’s easy to nominate someone for Master Farmer recognition. Just email your nomination to me and tell me why you think the person deserves to be recognized. My email is ltonneson@farmprogress.com

Read about the other 2012 Master Farmers.