WILLIAMSFIELD, Ohio — The Polchin family of Cherry Valley, recognized by the Ashtabula County Dairy Service Unit as the Farm Family of the Year, represents both the past and the future of farming in the U.S.
John and Ruth Polchin and their son and partner Tony, 44, accepted the Dick Johnson Award plaque at the annual banquet at the Williamsfield Community Center.
Polchin’s daughter, Rosmarie Eldred, said her parents’ farm on Sentinel Road connects to her brother’s dairy farm and they share the work.
Eldred said her grandfather, John Polchin, came to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia. He and his wife Teresa bought the homestead in 1928 and started the dairy in 1936 or 1937.
Her father grew up there and married Ruth. Besides running the dairy, her father worked for Pymatuning Valley Schools as a bus driver and mechanic, Eldred said.
Her mother worked for the Mahoning Board of Education at the Northeast Ohio Special Resource Center.
Ruth also found time to work with a 4-H club and John has been a township trustee for 21 since 1983.
Both are active in St. Joseph Calasanctius Church in Jefferson, she said.
Their dairy milks about 40 registered Holsteins and has 35 to 40 heifers, Eldred said.
Polchin has been involved with the National Holstein Association, the Ashtabula Holstein Club and the Ohio Holstein Association. He is also a past member of the Ohio Farm Bureau.
Like most farm families, they squeeze a few outside interests into their busy schedules.
“They love to polka dance,” Eldred said. “You rarely see them apart — they’re always together.”
Married for 45 years, they just resided the house, she added.
Eldred, who majored in dairy science at Ohio State University, works for two veterinarians and is married to Myron Eldred.
Myron and his brother Rick, milk about 90 cows. Their herd numbers about 160 and they have about 350 acres, she said. Myron and Rosmarie have two children, Raeann and Katie.
John Polchin gave much of the credit for the success of the operation to his son.
“Tony does most of the milking, since I was working away” from the farm, the elder Polchin said.
Between them they have about 250 acres, he said. Sometimes they rotate chores, but he added, “Tony does the bulk of the heavy work.”
Both John and Ruth Polchin were completely surprised to be named Farm Family of the Year.
“I was overwhelmed,” Ruth said.
She said she and her family go to great lengths to make their cows comfortable including rubber mats on the floors.
Their cows have good pedigrees, she said, and more. “They are beautiful,” Polchin said.
She emphasized her husband’s integrity and noted they have worked side by side on the farm and that keeping a sense of humor is vital.
All the grandchildren are in 4-H and could go into the family business, she said.
“We have family unity here.”
Rachel Kalas was crowned Ashtabula County Dairy Princess 2009. The daughter of George and Janet Kalas of Colebrook, Kalas said she has been in 4-H for nine years.
She loves cows, she said, and her favorite chore is to feed the calves.
Kalas is a cheerleader and wants to major in animal science in college, then go on to veterinary school and have a large animal practice.
“Dairy farming is not just a job — it’s a way of life,” she told the crowd.
She was crowned by Sarah Sundberg, Ashtabula County Dairy Princess for 2008.
The Stuart Struna Memorial Extra Effort Award went to 4-H members Deanna Comp, Kristen Mook, Bonnie Brand, Joshua Butler and Nicole Mann.
4-H members Mikayla Lingo and Sydney Baldwin won donated calves for their entries in the Calf Essay Contest.
Three county farms had herds listed in the Ohio Honor Roll: Alfa-Creek Brown Swiss ranked second; Bossy’s Way Farm ranked 10th and Alfa-Creek Farms ranked 19th.
Top herds for 2008 which completed 10 official DHIA tests were, from first through 10th: Bossy’s Way Farm; Alfa-Creek Farms; Alfa-Creek Brown Swiss; Wilson Dairy Farm; Springer Dairy Farms; Whitetail-Glen Farm; Gaylord Millard & Son; Polchin Dairy Farm; Richard Bialy Farm and Pine Grove Jersey Farm.
Johnson may not be able to present award next year
WILLIAMSFIELD, Ohio — Rita Kibler may not have been the only person in the audience with tears in her eyes when her father presented the plaque to the Farm Family of the Year for the Ashtabula County Dairy Service Unit.
Dick Johnson, 78, stood up at the Ashtabula County Dairy Banquet, told a story about his youth and called John and Ruth Polchin of Cherry Valley up to receive the Dick Johnson Award.
Not only did Johnson test milk for the Polchin’s dairy before his retirement in 1998, he said he can remember when his father, Joe Johnson, used to deliver Young’s Minerals to the Polchin farm.
The crowd of about 175 applauded the family, which includes the Polchin’s son and partner Tony and their daughter Rosmarie Eldred.
But there were some frowns when Johnson announced he doesn’t expect to be calling up the Farm Family of the Year in 2010.
At 78, the former dairy unit milk tester said his health problems will likely keep him from the job, which he has done for 10 years.
Before the award was announced Johnson said over dinner that he had been a milk tester for 25 years, following a stint in Korea for the U.S. Army in 1952, 10 years running his own farm with his wife, Marjorie and 10 years managing another farm in the South.
In 1973 he started testing milk for the dairy unit and put in 25 years until technology caught up with him and he retired.
“They started pushing a computer at me,” Johnson said, finishing off his cherry pie. Before he rose to make the award, he said matter-of-factly, “I don’t want to promise them I’ll be here next year.”
Currently he lives with his daughter’s family in Lordstown. “I have a job as a herdsman there,” Johnson told the gathering. “My responsibility is to take care of four goats, 19 chickens, five rabbits and six baby rabbits,” he said. “I put my whole heart into it.”
Still able to get around on his own two feet, Johnson joked about the miles he has put on his motorized wheelchair, mostly at the Ashtabula County Fair last summer. When asked how he has chosen award recipients, he said, “They’re just folks I tested milk for over the years.”