KIDRON, Ohio — Hanoverton-based dairy farmer Richard Zehentbauer smiled as he looked across the sea of equipment on display behind the 120-cow dairy barn at Steffen Farms, site of the Ohio State Extension and Wayne County Dairy Service Unit 2014 Twilight Dairy Tour July 15.
“I needed a break from the farm and I’ve never been here before — this is spectacular,” he said. “And this farm is a really great place to show.”
His wife, Jenny, had a slightly different take on the couple’s visit to the 141-year-old Steffen family homestead.
“This is a date; it’s the only way I get to see him this time of year,” she laughed. “And he keeps leaving me because he runs into people he knows.”
The Zehentbauers were among an estimated 2,000 attendees at this year’s Twilight Dairy event, which featured a dinner, a tour and historical photos of the farm, and more than 80 local sponsors.
Wayne County Commissioner Ann Obrecht said the largely volunteer-run tour is the region’s largest dairy event, and is important to both visitors and vendors.
“The vendors themselves help with putting it on, along with the FFAs and others,” Obrecht said of the tour, which features a different host farm each year. “Everyone gets to see a well-run operation and you can see all the equipment dealers who participate. It is a huge networking event for the entire industry, and agriculture is our No. 1 industry in the county.”
Molt Mallard, sales and support manager at American Equipment Services, a JCB dealership in Shreve, Ohio, agreed.
“This is a great opportunity for us to see 2,000 of our customers in a four-hour event that is a relaxed atmosphere with great food,” Mallard said, “And the weather is great; last year it was 104 degrees.”
A group of tour attendees gathered around the company’s massive Fastrac tractor, which company representatives had driven 149 miles from Wilmington, Ohio. Mallard said farmers from the area represent one of the company’s strongest customer bases.
“A lot of our customers are farmers who work 365 days a year, and we have sold thousands of these in Wayne County,” he said.
Wooster residents Chris and Tammy Finney, though not farmers themselves, both grew up on family farms. The Twilight Dairy Tour has become an annual family outing for the couple and their three children.
“We like to see farming and show the kids the equipment and how life is on a farm,” Chris Finney said, as his 3-year-old son Luke and 5-year-old daughter Ruth raced in and out of rows of tractors, mowers and tillers and 10-month-old John struggled to see the action from his stroller. “They really like seeing the equipment; Luke wants to be a farmer or a firefighter.”
Likewise, the tour was an educational outing for Lori Eisenbrown, of Medina, who attended the tour with her daughters, Alexa and Kayla, and family friend Drew Killinger.
Eisenbrown said she was particularly interested in seeing the deep sand bedded free stalls and flush system in the dairy barn, constructed in 2008, along with introducing 5-year-old Drew to how a farm works.
Alexa Eisenbrown, who is raises cows for her 4-H projects, said seeing the Steffen Farms operation was an enlightening experience. Her sister agreed, but added one very important comment.
“The ice cream is great too,” Kayla Eisenbrown said.