DOVER, Ohio – Rex Pritchard’s pickup truck drifts off the pavement on Blacksnake Hill Road. He slides out and wades into the road’s grassy edge, surveying the cow herd in a steep hillside pasture.
It’s midmorning, the sun already casting a blinding glare, and the crossbred cows and their new calves have retreated to the shady spots along the treeline. Seeing the herd of about 150 brings a smile to Pritchard’s face.
He turns toward the opposite side of the road. There are a half-dozen homes here, all neatly kept and landscaped. The top of the hill behind them is still a hay field.
This is the remainder of the farm where Rex and his twin brother, Max, first started their farming careers.
Long time. The Pritchard boys, who both claim they used to look a lot more like one another, have farmed in Tuscarawas County pretty much since their birth Oct. 9, 1928.
While they were in elementary and high school, their mother milked the family’s 10 cows and built her own farmwife reputation: “While other moms went grocery shopping, Mrs. Pritchard was out buying farms.”
The twins share stories about heaving 10-gallon milk cans – filled by their parents’ herd and by neighbors’ herds – into the trunk and back seat of their car and delivering it daily to Green Valley Dairy on their way to Dover High.
“There used to be all these little dairy farms around here,” Rex explains. “Up and down every road, lots of families, they all had their own dairies.”
“We used to carry that milk from the springhouses, straight up hills, and didn’t think nothing of it back then,” Rex recalls.
Full time. In 1947, after their graduation from high school, the brothers went into farming full time alongside their parents. It was the Pritchard thing to do, the brothers agree.
They bought up property piece by piece and, at their highest point, farmed about 12 homesteads in the area, “a couple thousand acres,” Max guesses.
Moving forward. During their lives, the brothers experienced the technological revolution and changeover in agriculture. They started farming with horse-drawn plows and wagons – “We’d go from wheat threshing to oats and then to silage with those teams,” Max says – and eventually saw tractors on the farm.
The brothers got extra excitement with their Oliver 88. In 1952, the boys took the tractor straight from the field to the Tuscarawas County Fair’s inaugural tractor pull.
Max hooked and Rex drove – there was no argument about who would do which job, the brothers agree – and that workhorse went all the way to a full pull and the championship’s bragging rights.
In August 1972, the Pritchards bought a brand new White 2-155, which still anchors the farm operation.
The brothers claim their tractor was one of the first Whites to come off the line and, when it was delivered to the farm, was one of the biggest tractors in the area.
The Pritchard boys still get a gleam in their eyes when they talk about days gone by. They say they had the first pull-type combine and small square baler in the area.
“We did custom work ’til the others had the machinery, too,” Rex recalls.
Dairy help. Max’s wife, Jackie, ran the dairy while both Max and Rex went to work as rural mail carriers. Their closeness and similarities as twins couldn’t keep them apart.
When they retired a handful of years ago, Rex had put in 42 years and Max had at least 30 years of daily mail runs under their belts.
Along the way, while they worked off the farm, the Pritchards accepted special help from their good friend Fred ‘Fritz’ Wendling. A bricklayer by trade, Wendling also took on the title ‘farm consultant’ for the brothers, helping them gather information before making any big decisions or purchases, they say.
Easier on the body. The Pritchards fought the trend of modernization and sold their 70-head Holstein dairy herd in 1995.
They also refused to replace a good deal of their worn implements and moved toward today’s less intense beef and hay operation.
From those several thousand acres they used to farm, the Pritchards have cut back to only about 600 acres, Rex says.
“It’s easier on us. We couldn’t keep up if we still farmed all that,” the 78-year-olds say.
(Reporter Andrea Zippay welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419 or by e-mail at email@example.com.)
STAY INFORMED. SIGN UP!
Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!