CANFIELD, Ohio — If a white oak tree on the Anderson Farm could talk, it would tell stories that we might not believe. However, the one consistent tale would be of the generations of one family working the land.
The 92-foot white oak tree is estimated to be around 350 years old and has witnessed the Anderson family work the land for over 200 years.
Wayne Anderson passes the tree, located behind the barn, every time he treks out to his corn and soybean fields. Anderson is the seventh generation on the Mahoning County farm and has taken over the operation from his parents. His dad, Raymond, died in May 2013 and his mom, Nelda, has turned over the reins to Wayne.
The Anderson Farm has been recognized by the Ohio Department of Agriculture and U.S. Senate as being a bicentennial farm.
In 1809, Abraham Kline came from the Philadelphia area to buy 260 acres on South Raccoon Road in Canfield that eventually would be owned by the Anderson family. Kline raised grain crops in his farm. In 1816, the farm passed to Abraham’s son, Jonathan, and in 1867, a home was constructed by Jonathan’s son, Peter. The house remains on the farm today.
The land continued to be passed down in the Kline family, with J. Allen Kline inheriting the land in 1896. J. Allen bought cattle in Kansas City and Chicago, transporting them to Ohio by train. On the farm, the cattle were grass-fed and then sold to local packing houses.
J. Allen’s daughter, Dorothy Kline married Leroy Anderson and they acquired the land in 1938. Anderson began a Hereford herd and the farm contained lots of pasture and fence rows at that time.
Dorothy and Leroy’s son, Raymond, eventually got married to Nelda and they gained ownership of the farm in 1957.
Raymond tore out fence rows and pastures, and built a feedlot operation, transitioning more to grain crop production too. The family started installing tile into the fields to make the ground more productive. A feed bunk and upright silos were also added to the farm.
The couple increased the cattle herd to 200 head. They purchased steers in Virginia, fed them to choice grade and then shipped them to market in Philadelphia.
In addition to beef cattle, they raised 100 hogs and had a milk cow and chickens for their own use.
Sold the cattle
In 1996, Raymond and son Wayne, who had started to take over the management of the farm by that time, sold the cattle and discontinued the feedlot operation to focus on the soybean, corn and wheat crops.
Wayne said the farm was 360 acres in size when he was young. Then in 1966, his grandfather, Leroy, sold 100 acres along Western Reserve Road. In the 1970s, state Route 11 went through the farm and reduced the size by another 70 acres. Today, the farm acreage remains at 197 acres.
Wayne said one of the changes in agriculture the farm has witnessed is the size of the equipment. He said the farm got smaller, but the equipment needed to operate it has gotten larger.
Since he is a one-man operation, the equipment has to be able to get the job done efficiently and without requiring a lot of down time to make adjustments.
Wayne has also witnessed the growth of electronics and high-tech ag equipment. Some of that technology, he said, is necessary now on the farm, but sometimes other producers show too much reliance on it.
He prefers to keep his machinery more mechanical than electronic, because some days it can mean the difference between getting work done in the fields and a day waiting for the repairman to show up, sacrificing dependability for the ease of operation. He purchases new implements but prefers used tractors and combines with low hours.
“If there is fuel in the tank and it starts, then I’ll be working,” said Wayne.
But not completely. Fertilizing the fields is one place where Wayne feels technology is beneficial. He uses global positioning satellites (GPS) to ensure his fertilizer is being spread efficiently across the corn and soybean fields. Using GPS helps prevents skips or too much overlap in the fields, minimizing use and giving his fields more uniform coverage.
Another change Wayne feels is positive is the technology in seed genetics. He said the benefits of growing Roundup Ready soybeans and genetically modified corn are something his ancestors probably wouldn’t have believed. He said the benefits of having insect protection from rootworm, cutworm and the European corn borer, as well as the drought protection, are something that helps keep his farm profitable.
“From the business side of farming, I don’t see how it’s beneficial not to use genetically modified seeds,” Wayne said.
All about management
Wayne said his farm operation is all about strategy. He said strategy is needed in order to ensure the farm is profitable and the work gets done since he is a one-man operation.
He said he is always trying to get the most production out of his fields.
However, one thing he is adamant about is not being in the field when it’s too wet. He’s found on his farm that if he tries to work the ground when it is too soggy, the yields are impacted for three years when compaction occurs.
Wayne has found he gains better yields using wide rows of 38 inches, as opposed to conventional 30-inch rows. He said everyone has a unique situation on their own farm, but he doesn’t till the fields before planting corn and uses minimum tillage on soybeans with a rolling disc and harrow.
Wayne said he knows that his family wants to keep the farm a farm in the future. However, without someone waiting in the wings to take over the operation, the family is searching for a plan to ensure the wish is carried out. He said he and his five sisters feel obligated to their ancestors to preserve the farm.
“There is too much of my sweat out there in those fields to see it become houses,” said Wayne.
One path the Anderson family is considering is entering the farm into a permanent easement, or farmland preservation program through the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
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