Hard work, fiscal sense the formula for Horn beef farm

JELLOWAY, Ohio — Tucked in the gently-rolling hills of northeastern Knox County is a family farm that dates back nearly a century. Horn Acres — a crop and dairy operation turned beef, has raised at least four generation of the Horn family — seen the major wars of the 20th century and witnessed the evolution of the tractor and modern farming.

If you’re traveling on state Route 3 just south of Jelloway, or along Danville-Jelloway Road, the serene lay of well-maintained pastures and row crops are hard to miss. Frances Horn, the farm’s owner, has lived there since July of 1955, when she and her husband, Gene Horn, located and began milking cows.

They started with about 35 head and eventually reached 100 head, before Gene’s death in March (age 79) from health problems.

Dairy to beef

Today, the farm is in its infancy as an all-beef and crop operation, with about 100 head of fat cattle, 120 breeding cows and 30 bred heifers. They sell their beef at the local United Producers livestock auction in Mount Vernon.

Brothers Dan and Doug Horn are the managers, each working full time caring for the herd and a little more than 600 total acres.

As beef farmers, the family no longer has to bother with early morning and late evening milking, or keeping the parlor clean and running. But asked whether the workload is any easier, Dan Horn insisted half-jokingly, “not as much as I had hoped.”

Farming smart

The sons keep the farm operating on most of the same philosophies as Gene Horn — hard work and a farm size that avoids the need to hire help, and saving up before something is bought.

“Don’t buy anything until you have the money first,” insists Frances Horn, who said that is how the family views most of its expenditures.

Dan Horn handles most of the mechanical work on equipment, himself holding a degree in agricultural mechanics. Doing their own work “has saved us a lot of money,” he said, and has kept the farm mostly “self-contained” to its own family labor.

“You’ve got to be dedicated to be a farmer,” said Frances Horn, adding the family seldom bought large equipment, or equipment it couldn’t first pay for. They still use a typical, four-row planter to plant corn.

Her own farm experience included everything from helping to paint the barn and historical home, a chore that “scared (her) to death” from climbing up so high — to learning to drive a John Deere B — a two-cylinder tractor known for its characteristic slow-running, putting sound.

“I didn’t like it, she said. “You get to going up a hill and around and you think it’s going to stop. I don’t know how many times Gene would say ‘keep going, it’s not stopping.’”

Fond memories

The brothers remember their father as hard working and dedicated to the animals and equipment. He had a particular affinity for Oliver tractors and owned several models, from a Cockshutt 40 on up to a large White tractor.

A Korean Conflict veteran, he also was clerk of his township for nearly 20 years and president of Knox County Farm Bureau for 10 years. He and his wife both led the Jelloway Valley 4-H club and were actively involved with North Bend Church of the Brethren.

“He enjoyed the dairy and I did too,” Frances Horn said.

She met Gene during the Korean Conflict, herself an enlisted member. She also held positions with Montgomery Ward, Loudonville Farmers Equity and was the board of elections director for Knox County for many years.

The couple have nine adult grandchildren who all live off the farm, but come back for the holidays. Doug Horn said watching the grandkids grow up on the farm is among his best memories of the farm.

For Dan Horn, the most memorable thing was working with his dad for 40 years, four decades that taught him how to work, save, and take care of their investments.

Good sense

Frances Horn said the farm’s restored farmhouse and the gently rolling hills have generated a lot of positive comments over the years. The main barn was covered with metal siding a few years ago and the other buildings are well painted.

But as nice as the farm looks, their formula is no secret.

“It’s just good hard work, mostly, and a lot of time and hours,” Dan Horn said.

About the Author

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties. More Stories by Chris Kick

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