MOUNT GILEAD, Ohio — The phrase “family farm” has a very significant meaning for 27-year-old Andy Creswell and his family’s farm in Ohio’s Morrow County.
Creswell is the sole proprietor of Spring Valley Farm, a 200-cow dairy along County Road 30. But with his grandparents living in the neighboring home, and his own parents in the next, and with numerous aunts and uncles in a four-mile radius, it’s an all-around family effort.
Creswell took over most of the business seven years ago, when his father, the auctioneer Bill Creswell, gifted him the herd of about 40 dairy cows.
Andy graduated from Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute in 2002, when he returned to the farm with new vision and more understanding. A new freestall barn was erected around this time, and the herd was expanded to more than four times its original size.
The family currently farms about 500 acres and milks a herd comprised of 70 percent Holsteins and the rest Jerseys and crossbreeds, three times a day.
Future plans. Andy said he’d like to see the herd expand, but not until conditions improve. His double-eight milking parlor was built to be expanded to at least a double 12. A 6,000-gallon milk tank is installed and ready to handle additional use, and several of his heifers are on a long-term production schedule, should he decide to increase the herd size.
But with 2009 being a poor year for the dairy market, Bill Creswell said they just “pulled in their horns” and kept going, because in dairying, “you can’t stand still, you have to keep at it.”
A family matter. When the Creswells face big decisions, they first get as much information as they can, Bill Creswell said. That often includes advice from Andy’s grandparents, Bob Creswell, 84, and Faith, 83. Andy said jokingly that his grandfather sometimes does more work on the farm than he does, mostly in the summer.
All told, the farm has been with the Creswells since the mid-1800s. Andy is the fourth generation, and his two young children make the fifth.
Bill Creswell said it’s important to have someone to rely on who is both knowledgeable and dependable. For the Creswells, it’s often the herdsman, Nate Jagger.
“No matter how good you think you are, you better have somebody you can trust and who can handle it,” Bill Creswell said. “I think it’s better for your mind and for your operation.”
Andy’s brother, Aaron, also enjoys the farm, Andy said, but didn’t like being tied to it all day. He found a job as a service technician with JR Equipment, a Case-International dealership in Upper Sandusky.
The family uses mostly International tractors, and a John Deere 55 combine from 1969 — a small unit they bought for only $650. After splitting the machine down the middle, replacing and fine-tuning worn parts, they harvested their own grains the past year, without issue.
Andy admits the farm is “conventional,” in the sense of not being organic, and in the sense of using basic, practical approaches. But in a time when the market is struggling with so much volatility, he’s glad they’ve kept it simple.
Several bank barns are still in use, including one that has a Farm Bureau sign out front, informing neighbors and would-be developers they’re in an agricultural district — a place where dust, noises, odors, spraying and insects occur — due to normal farming activities.
Andy chose dairy farming as a career because “I don’t like being told what to do,” but admits to consulting with his family and herdsman regularly.
He hopes his own children will become the next Creswells to farm, and plans to make that as viable an option as he can.
Even his wife, Sarah, grew up in the area, as well as his brother’s wife, Anna. All of them remain tied to agriculture in some way — Anna teaches agricultural education for Hardin Northern FFA.
When the Creswells get together for the holidays, they don’t have to go very far, and it’s truly a back-home experience for most of them.
“Everybody has roots to here,” Bill Creswell said.