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Tarter: A Proud History - A Strong FutureTarter Gate, founded in 1945, is still managed and owned by the Tarter family, and is one of the most diverse companies in the agribusiness-manufacturing sector. Tarter, unlike many other manufacturers in the industry, maintains total control of all phases of manufacturing, from raw material purchase to final delivery.
C.V. Tarter founded the Tarter Gate Company, located in Dunnville, Kentucky in 1945. He made wooden farm gates by hand and sold them throughout the local area. He sold the business to his son and daughter-in-law, Roger and Vivian Tarter. They, along with their sons, Donald and David Tarter, expanded the business to include tubular and galvanized-steel gates along with other livestock-related products. Today’s Tarter is a company C.V. would hardly recognize, although his great-grandchildren are carrying on the work he began more than a half-century before. In 2008, the company changed its name from Tarter Gate Company to Tarter Farm and Ranch Equipment.
That next generation of Tarters is overseeing what is today the largest manufacturer of farm gates and animal management equipment in North America.
Today’s Tarter has almost 1,00,000 square feet of production facilities in two Kentucky communities and a full manufacturing and distribution center in Corinne, Utah.
Tarter: How it All BeganWithout a penny in his pocket, 17-year-old Roger Tarter moved to Casey County with his parents around 1940. The Chrisman Vanwinkle “C.V.” Tarter family came from Russell County and settled in the Dunnville area.
His father, C.V., went into the gate business in Dunnville in late 1940. “We didn’t have a sawmill then, so we bought our lumber locally. In that first year, we probably made about 32 wooden gates a week. We made them all with hand tools.”
When 32 gates were finished, Roger would load them on a truck and “peddle” them in the Bluegrass area. The first Tarter wooden gates cost from $2.50 to $3 each, depending on the quantity purchased.
In 1943, Roger left the gate business temporarily to spend three years in the Air Force. While in the service, Roger’s father bought a sawmill and began sawing all his own lumber for the manufacturing of gates.
The Tarter gate business flourished during the years of World War II. “Gates were a farm product,” said Roger. “Therefore, we had a priority on gasoline. No steel gates could be manufactured, so wood gates were going well. We spread out, selling gates all over Kentucky, and into Indiana and Ohio.
Returning to Dunnville in late 1945, Roger began delivering and selling gates. His salary was around $45 a week.
In 1946, Roger purchased his first new truck, a two–ton International. “It cost $2,040 and I paid for it in six months.”
Roger, and his wife, Vivian, bought the entire gate business from his father in 1948 for $7,000. “Dad wanted to move back to Russell County and farm,” said Roger. “We were manufacturing only wooden gates and tobacco sticks then. And I believe labor was 50 cents an hour.”
By 1950, Roger had five men hauling gates in five states. In the early ‘60s, Tarter Gate went to the “can’t-sag” gate, which had steel uprights with wood panels. “That became our main out-of-state seller till 1968. In 1968, we went into the all-steel, spot-welded panel gate. And we built about an 8,000 square-foot building. We were selling between 1,000 and 1,500 panel gates a week in 1968.”
One year later, Roger’s company began making tubular gates. “We started buying our own steel in ’71, and we started having our tubing run through a tubing mill in Tennessee. Then, we put in our own tube mill. I think the full line of equipment cost about $500,000.
He said his parents taught him how to be a good business man. They also taught him to always be honest. “If you can’t take a man for his word, there’s not much to him, is there?” Roger said.
“To be successful in business, you’ve got to hustle…work…and the main thing is setting your head to do something. You’ve got to set goals. And you’ve go to take some chances. Most of the major decisions I’ve had to make have been the right ones.”
- Excerpts from an interview by Charles Pearl, appearing in The Casey County News in August of 1980
C.V., Roger, and Vivian have all passed on, but Roger’s sons, David and Donald are now the owners of a business with over 800 employees and 950 different products spanning 10 categories. They sell product in 49 states and Canada, and continue a pattern of growth that has been maintained for almost 70 years.
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