By JOHN SCHMITZ

For the Capital Press

If it's one thing the chilly Northwest could use in mid-January, it's a good dose of warm, Southern charm.

Attendees will find plenty of that at the Tarter Farm and Ranch booth at the Northwest Ag Show.

Founded in 1945 as a manufacturer of wooden gates, the Kentucky company today manufactures a wide range of steel products used by ranchers and farmers worldwide.

One thing that sets Tarter apart from other manufacturers is the total control it has over its products, from the purchase of raw materials to delivery of finished equipment to dealers.

Through the years, the Tarter family has risen to become a major manufacturer of such items as farm gates, hay spears, 3-point hitch equipment, ATVs, feeders and animal handling equipment that includes cattle squeeze chutes, livestock water tanks, utility trailers, horse stalls and even rodeo-roping chutes.

The company's 700 employees turn out over 800 products available in some 7,000 farm and ranch stores nationwide and in parts of Canada and Australia.

Tarter also has a manufacturing plant in Corinne, Utah, which makes many of the products distributed to dealers in the West.

Because of its size, the company is able to save on galvanized tubular steel, the major component in many of its products, by buying in huge quantities and storing it in massive warehouses in Kentucky.

In recent years, Tarter rodeo equipment has become more and more popular, said Kayla Gooch, one of the company's product managers and sales assistants.

"Rodeo is the new NASCAR and we're getting more and more involved with different organizations, like the National High School Finals Rodeo Association, which uses our equipment," Gooch said.

Helping market the company's products with personal endorsements are horse clinician Chris Cox, national champion calf roper David Key and Miss Rodeo America. Both Cox and Key helped contribute to the design of equipment that serves their areas of interest.

In 2010, Tarter was right at home helping to sponsor and provide equipment for the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Ky.

While the company does not usually get involved with smaller custom orders, it will design and build out-of-the-ordinary equipment for larger customers.

Several of the products Tarter makes are tested by Donald Tarter, grandson of the founders, who is also a cattleman. Both Donald and his brother David are still active in the company, with their children following in their parents' footsteps.

Gooch said that Tarter will attend some 25 shows a year, and that exhibitors that serve the cattle and horse industries have become close over the years.

"You kind of become a family. It's a neat world to be in," she said.

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