Portage Co. dairymen win awards

RAVENNA, Ohio – It was a secret gone wrong.

Portage County’s Sherman Brockett Honorary Dairyman award is known for being kept hush-hush until the recipient is announced at the county’s annual dairy banquet.

But this year, that cover-up posed a new problem.

When the recipient is the person who usually coordinates the award, it puts a whole new spin on things.

Despite attempts to keep the award a secret, Wayne Biltz knew something was up – particularly because the dairy committee wasn’t including him in the award preparation.

“It was either they were giving me the award or putting me out to pasture,” he laughed.

The award didn’t end up being a surprise to Biltz, but it also didn’t end up being a surprise to the 200 people at the banquet March 4.

Biltz, a longtime dairy farmer in Kent, Ohio, and dairy committee member, was a likely candidate for an award that is reserved each year for a top dairyman.

Life after farming. With more than 40 years of dairy farming under his belt, Biltz put an age-old question to the test: Is there life after farming?

When his city’s boundaries began pushing up against his backyard, he decided to turn in his barn boots for a tool belt and went to work at Henry Bierce Hardware in Tallmadge, Ohio.

Despite the career turn, Biltz stays true to his farming roots by making hay and planting corn, soybeans and pumpkins.

He keeps in touch with his dairy side by continuing his 30-year tenure on the dairy committee and being a 4-H adviser.

Biltz, who still remembers the exact date in May 1998 that he sold his cows, is respected just as much at his new job as he was in his dairy career, according to award presenter Dann Timmons.

“Some customers won’t come [to the hardware store] if it’s his day off, and for others, their first question is whether he is working,” Timmons said.

Dairy friends. Biltz wasn’t the only farmer in the spotlight at the banquet.

Carl Rufener of Suffield, Ohio, shared in the recognition as winner of the Friends of the Dairyman award.

Rufener has donned many farming hats, including grain hauler, seed dealer, lime spreader and no-till farmer, and since 1976 he’s also had a milk hauling business.

With two trucks and 16 stops, he hauls more than 2 million pounds of milk a month.

In addition, Rufener farms approximately 1,800 acres and collects antique tractors.

High producers. Leading production awards on official test was Grac-Glen Farm with 31,897 pounds of milk, 1,110 pounds of fat and 957 pounds of protein.

Dave Winchell’s Holstein herd on official test was next in production with 23,198 pounds of milk, 817 pounds of fat and 699 pounds of protein.

Congress Lake Farms topped the on-the-farm-computer production with 24,300 pounds of milk, and Herchek Dairy Farm was second with 21,600 pounds.

Grac-Glen Farm also had the highest single lactation record. The cow lactated 365 days and produced 57,430 pounds of milk, 1,551 pounds of fat and 1,483 pounds of protein.

Princess crowned. Becky Jasinski of Mantua, Ohio, was crowned dairy princess.

Jasinski, daughter of Ronald and Dawn Jasinski, is a senior at Trumbull Career and Technical Center and works on a dairy farm in Portage County.

She is an eight-year member of Crazy Critters 4-H and has shown horses, rabbits, poultry and beef.

(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)

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