GREENWICH, Ohio — When Huron County farmer Tom Putt started his family’s grain operation in the 1970s, he did so with just 300 acres. About 100 were devoted to corn, another 100 to soybeans, and 100 to wheat.
Tom, now 66, and his son, Jason, 41, still grow those same crops, but today their farm has grown to include 5,000 acres, and includes custom planting and harvesting.
The father and son duo each own their own equipment and operate as separate entities, but they farm cooperatively under the name Putt Farms.
The Putts live just west of Greenwich, and their maintained buildings and landscaping make the farm easy to spot. The buildings are mostly sided, the grass and mulching are kept up, and both home properties have well-maintained ponds.
Jason said the landscaping was something he began giving extra attention to a couple years ago, when he “took on the challenge of seeing how fancy he could get the yard.”
But the main focus at Putt Farms, especially in the spring, is what’s going on in the fields.
In the fields. So far this year, the farm, like many others across the state, has seen patterns of dry weather that led to ideal planting, followed by unexpected, heavy rains that caused flooding and the need to replant.
With a lifetime in farming, the Putts are used to challenges. Tom’s father, Kenneth, moved the family to the Greenwich area in 1961, after he decided he wanted to quit dairy farming and focus on grain farming.
The Putts had previously farmed near Sugarcreek, at the present-day Andreas dairy farm, and their ancestors have farmed in Ohio since immigrating from Switzerland.
On the day Farm and Dairy visited, Jason Putt was planting corn in the evening and had already received 71 phone calls — two-thirds of which were farm-related.
He said the challenges are one of the things he likes about farming.
But Jason also endured some life-changing challenges. In January of 2012, he lost his wife, Kelly, to lymphoma. She had been diagnosed just two years earlier, and left behind two children: Hayley, now 10, and Jacob, 8.
“They keep me going,” he said, adding that they remind him of their mother “all the time.”
Both show animals in 4-H and are starting to regain their interest in the farm.
“It’s taken a while, but now they’re starting to warm back up to it,” he said. “They’re starting to get a little older and wanting to drive things.”
Jason is an only child. Although he gets along well with his father, he said it helps that they both own their own part of the business.
“One of the things that helps is both of us having our own machinery, so if one of us wants to try something, you’ve got your own entity and you go pursue that,” he said.
Their equipment includes one 24-row corn planter, and two 40-foot grain drills. The equipment is modern, with precision technology, but Jason said it sometimes makes sense to farm with technology that’s a few years old, than to spend the extra money for the upgrades.
When it comes to harvest, the Putts try to haul as much of their grain to end-users as possible. Some of it goes to ethanol plants, to livestock farmers and the wheat goes to a milling plant in Willard.
Growing the farm
The Putts have an eye toward growth, and gained more than 1,000 acres last year.
But acquiring new ground is one of the biggest challenges, Jason said, because of the price. Land in the county typically brings $6,500-10,000 an acre, he said.
When the Putts do get some new ground — whether through rent or through purchase — they do their own waterways, buffer strips, ditching and excavating.
Jason has a degree in diesel technology from the University of Northwestern, and over the years they’ve learned how to do their own bulldozing and excavating. Both also attended the local joint vocational school, where they learned recordkeeping and mechanical skills.
Tom said Jason has been keeping his own farm records since he was in grade school, adding his son learned at a young age, that “if he had no money at the end, he knew he had to do a better job the next year. .. You learn much faster when it’s your money.”
Today, Tom and Jason are learning together — not only what it takes to run the farm but how to work with their employees, and make time for their own families.
Tom’s wife, Judy, has worked off the farm at the local Wal-Mart, for almost 25 years.
The farm has as many as seven workers during the busiest part of the season, and everyone has to learn to work together.
Jason said he reminds his workers that different people have different strengths and weaknesses, and that those differences need to be embraced without arguing.
It comes down to compromise, Tom said, and accepting that there are differences of opinion.
“You can’t have everything all your way,” he said. “You try to work with people and get it worked out.”
In 2016, Jason was named the Beck’s Young Farm Leader by the seed company and the Ohio Soybean Association for his leadership as a farmer and as a father.
As his children grow, Jason hopes to eventually get more involved in the Ohio Soybean Association, and possibly take on some leadership responsibilities. In the near future, he also hopes to travel to Europe, for the Agritechnica show, known as the world’s largest trade show for farm equipment.
For now, though, he’s focused on the farm and making sure Hayley and Jacob get off to a good start. He recently gave up tractor pulling to spend more time with his family, and between farming, homework, housework and 4-H — he finds himself a busy man.
But the Putts have a strong network of family and friends, as well as employees. They know what needs done, and what’s at stake.
“Everybody works together,” Jason said.