WELLINGTON, Ohio — Lorain County dairy farmer Jim Sheffield may not have the biggest herd around, or all of the newest equipment.
But his registered Holstein milk cows — which today number 130 head — have done the 72-year-old well over the years.
Sheffield and his wife, Lora, and their family manage Jaloda Farms, which stands for their names.
They have five adult children — all with similar first letters: Dan, David, Darcy, Dale and Daren.
How it works
Along with the cows, the Sheffields farm about 430 tillable acres and still use conventional tillage methods like a five-bottom moldboard plow, and a chisel plow.
Jim’s oldest son, Dan, handles the milking, and his youngest son, Daren, is a production records specialist for the National Holstein Association.
The Sheffields milk twice a day in a double-five parlor. The barns are well kept, but for the most part are not noticeably large or new. The farm maintains what it has, and operates sustainably.
Asked about his biggest accomplishments, Jim half-jokingly said “surviving.” Many farms have disappeared from the county over the years, including a once-prevalent cheese-making industry.
“Over the years, I can remember when there were 30 or 40 herds (in the area) and now we’re down to six or seven,” he said. “Cheese plants were all over area (and) Wellington was known as cheese capital of world.”
The Sheffield family has milked cows at the same farm since 1916, when Jim’s grandfather bought the place — located at the intersection of state Route 303 and Hallauer.
In many ways, their “survival” can be tied to their steadfastness, and determination to succeed. They got their biggest challenge in the 1965, during the Palm Sunday Tornado storm. Multiple farm buildings were either destroyed or severely damaged and a few cows died.
Jim’s mother was seriously injured in the storm and rendered a paraplegic the rest of her life. At least a half-dozen people in the area were killed.
It would have been easy to give in, or change direction, but the Sheffields persisted and rebuilt the damaged buildings. Their historical brick home — dating back to 1853 — was one of the few things mostly undamaged.
Esther Welch, who is editor of Ohio Holstein News, has known the family since at least the 1960s. The way they responded to the aftermath of the storm was one of Jaloda’s most defining moments.
“I think that’s a real heart-warming thing,” she said. “The tornado hitting and they picked up and went on.”
The Sheffields got another test this year when the wettest spring on record threatened to prevent their crops from being planted. Jim said his father would have been fretting over a year like this, but he’s learned to be calm and have hope.
“I got so I get used to it,” he said. “You don’t like it, but you know you’re going to get in the fields sometime.”
Jim and Lora are very active in their community. Jim currently is the sexton for the local cemetery, and has held other positions in the community.
But their biggest work is with the Holstein breed, and District 8 of the Ohio Holstein Association. Jim has helped coach youth dairy judging teams for more than 15 years and he’s a regular part of helping organize the district’s dairy show and dairy products auction at the Lorain County Fair.
Last year, he received the Holstein Association’s Distinguished Service Award, and this year, he was given the Senior Buckeye Breed Builder Award.
Welch said both awards go to Ohio Holstein members who have done a progressive job in their dairy herds, and who are actively serving within the association in their community.
As she sees it, the Sheffields were very deserving.
“I call them ‘very sweet people,'” she said. “They’re very caring people and good farmers and interested in helping the community.”
As for the cows, “It’s not a big herd, but it’s a very fine herd,” she said. “It’s a good herd.”
Regina Berg, representative for district 8, said Jim Sheffield does a great job helping youth with dairy judging and taking them across the state. He also helps with association membership and many other functions.
“He’s just always there, active and quite aware of what’s going on,” she said.
The Sheffields’ herd maintains high milk production numbers, and has received the Progressive Breeder Registry award for three years, and the Progressive Genetics Herd Award for 20 years. They’ve developed three Gold Medal Dams and 25 Dams of Merit.
Jim’s focus now is the next generation — his sons. He’s open to the idea of expanding with another barn, but he’s also determined to maintain what they have.
“I would think we’ll be milking cows here for quite a while,” he said.