RAVENNA, Ohio – Portage County dairyman Alan Tomlinson died last Thursday, two days after he and his wife, Tommie, received a high tribute from their peers.
The Portage County Dairy Committee bestowed its Sherman Brockett Honorary Dairyman Award March 6 to the Tomlinsons in recognition of the couple’s devotion to ag education and dairy promotion.
Alan Tomlinson, who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer last September, died March 8 (see obituary on page A4). Committee members had presented the plaque at the couple’s home Feb. 23.
In an emotional presentation at the county dairy banquet last week, Tommie Tomlinson expressed the family’s appreciation of the award. “This is the greatest honor someone could receive, to be rewarded for doing something they love,” she said. “Dairy farming was our life.”
The Tomlinsons were forced to sell their 54-head herd when Alan’s health deteriorated rapidly and the couple sought treatment for his cancer in Houston, Texas.
Started in 1979.
The Tomlinsons didn’t intend to start milking when they bought a group of 14 calves to raise in 1979. But when the time came to sell them as bred heifers, they found they couldn’t part with them. So, even without milking equipment, they kept the heifers and milked the first three cows for four months with a single portable milking unit.
Receiving the Sherman Brockett Memorial Award was significant, son Henry Michael said, because Brockett helped them get started in those early years. In 1993, the Tomlinsons’ barn burned and they built a modern double four herringbone parlor.
Both Alan and Tommie were active within the dairy community, through dairy committee activities, the farm-city tour and other ag promotion events. “Alan was very proud of being a dairy farmer,” Tommie Tomlinson said. “He always said ‘be proud of everything you do or don’t do it.'”
The dairy banquet crowd of more than 200 gave the Tomlinsons a standing ovation during the award presentation.
Friend of Dairyman award.
During the annual dairy banquet, the committee also presented its Friend of the Dairyman Award to Pete Varley, former branch manager for the Western Reserve co-op in Ravenna.
Although the ranks of Portage County milk producers are thinning – only five herds were on official Dairy Herd Improvement test in 2000 – herd production remains on par or above the state average. There are 32 total Grade A and Grade B shippers in the county.
The average herd on DHI test in Ohio produces 19,808 pounds of milk a year; Portage County herds on test averaged 19,882 pounds of milk last year, 737 pounds of butterfat and 629 pounds of protein.
Grac-Glen Farm topped the county’s milk producers in production in 2000, with a herd average of 957 pounds of butterfat, 804 pounds of protein and 26,759 pounds of milk.
Alger Dairy ended the year with a herd average of 918 pounds of butterfat, 759 pounds of protein and 25,381 pounds of milk.
The Most Improved Herd award went to Pine Log Holsteins, with an increase of 1,448 pounds milk and a herd average on 25 head of 673 pounds of butterfat, 596 pounds of protein and 19,216 pounds of milk.
During the banquet, newly crowned Portage County Dairy Princess Mallory Reaser was introduced and retiring dairy princess Heather Alger reviewed activities during her reign.