Lynn Roberts built one of biggest farms in Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 June 2015 at 12:00 am

Carlton farmer, 80, was also active in Fire Department

Photos courtesy of Roberts family – Lynn Roberts is pictured about two years ago at Circle R Fruit Farm with his son Darren Roberts, center, Bernie Heberle, manager of Circle R. Lynn Roberts died on Saturday at age 80.

CARLTON – Lynn Roberts was working as a barber in his 20s when he decided to pursue his passion in life: farming.

He bought 130 acres from his grandparents, George and Beatrice Roberts, land near the intersection of Kent Road and Route 18.

In the next 50 years, Roberts would build one of the biggest farms in Orleans County and Western New York. Lynn-Ette and Sons farms more than 8,000 acres of grain and vegetables. Roberts in 1991 also started Circle R Fruit Farm, which includes another 550 acres of apples and fruit.

The two farm operations have 32 full-time year-round employees and about 100 other seasonal workers.

“He had a vision,” said his son Darren Roberts, manager of Lynn-Ette and Sons. “It was A-1, top notch or we didn’t do it.”

Mr. Roberts died on Saturday at age 80. Besides the farm, he enjoyed hunting and fishing, and was a long-time active member of the Carlton Volunteer Fire Company.

His family marveled at Roberts’ determination in building the farm, especially when corn prices were low for so long, making it difficult to acquire land and equipment.

Darren Roberts said his father had many sleepless nights during the lean years. Lynn would cut cabbage himself in the early years. His wife Annette often drove a truck with tomatoes to the market.

“That’s why the farm was so dear to him,” Darren said. “They had to fight so hard to keep it going.”

Lynn Roberts is pictured about 20 years ago with a Walker Foxhound and a coyote they hunted. Roberts often drove his truck in the community with a dog next to him.

The farm grew with the help from family and dedicated employees, Darren said. His brother Robin was a long-time manager and was critical to Lynn-Ette’s success, Darren said. Their brother-in-law Greg Jurs was instrumental in the farm’s bean operation, including the addition of its own packing line about three decades ago.

Lynn-Ette also added its own trucking fleet and diversified into fruit, led by manager Bernie Heberle.

Darren said his father surrounded himself with good employees, and inspired them to innovate in the industry, whether trying a new packing line, experimenting with fertilizer applications or using hail cannons to protect the crops during a storm.

“He said we have to find our niche,” Darren said about the farm. “He had a drive to get things done.”

The Lynn-Ette and Circle R trucks are distinguished with the large “R” letters that Lynn added about 30 years ago. The farm was making a sweet corn delivery to a processing plant in Bergen. Darren said the plant had trouble telling the trucks apart.

So Lynn started putting the big “R” on the Lynn-Ette trucks. He liked it so much, the letter “R” is now stands out with LED lights on about a dozen of the trucks.

Lynn remained a presence at the farm in recent years. He was pleased to see the farm grow. He was sentimental about his farming friends. He had pictures of many of his farming neighbors in his office.

Before farm equipment was so big and powerful, Darren said farmers would work together, sometimes just to move huge boulders from fields.

His father didn’t want debt to pile up on the farm and worked to pay off equipment within a year. He didn’t want to be weighed down with worry about those bills.

Photo by Tom Rivers – Lynn Roberts was proud of his farm and put large “R” letters on the front of farm trucks for Lynn-Ette and Sons and Circle R Fruit Farm.

Gary Kludt is co-owner of the Kludt Brothers Inc., a large neighboring vegetable and grain farm in Kendall. The two big farms have got along well for many years, Kludt said.

“We’ve been neighbors forever,” Kludt said. “We’ve always been on good terms and avoided butting heads.”

Kludt said farmers have needed to work smarter and not just harder to survive.

“You got to have some breaks in life and people you trust to get ahead,” Kludt said. “You need foresight in making the right decisions.”

Roberts surrounded himself with a dedicated group of employees, Kludt said, and Lynn proved himself a savvy businessman who could make the tough decisions, Kludt said.

Roberts took chances with the bean line and venturing into fruit production, Kludt said.

“They’ve never been afraid to get their feet wet,” Kludt said.

He knows Roberts was proud and thankful to see the farm grow and succeed.

“He took pride in Circle R and Lynn-Ette and Sons,” Kludt said. “That was his pride and joy – his farm.”