TALLMADGE, Ohio – There’s only six head in his entire herd – and the herd is merely a hobby these days – but Jim Polcen still washes them and hauls them and shows them at the Summit County Fair.
There were only three herds at the fair this year. Not a Holstein in sight. Just these Guernseys, plus a couple Milking Shorthorns, and a herd of Jerseys.
But it’s important to keep bringing the cows to represent the dairy industry at the Summit County Fair, Polcen says.
It’s been a tradition for 33 years, and there’s no reason to stop now.
Fairgoers from Barberton to Stow to Brecksville have questions about cows, and Polcen is here to give them answers.
History. Jim Polcen’s been dairying at High View Acres all of his 69 years, at first milking Holsteins and eventually changing over to Guernseys in the 1970s when his son, Jonathan, bought a registered heifer for a 4-H project.
At one time, the Polcens showed 16 head here, taking up a good portion of the tie-stalls themselves.
And that was before they had the 20-foot aluminum gooseneck trailer they rely on today, Jim reminisces.
“You’d be up half the night hauling them all home,” he recalls.
And he did it three times those summers, trucking the cows from home to the fair here, and also to Geauga and Cuyahoga counties for 29 years, too.
Still, it’s all worth it. Those indelible memories pay him back every day.
City. Polcen has watched the farm where he was born whittled away from more than 100 to just 8 acres today.
All around him, he’s got houses. His Sagamore Hills farm, he admits, is in the city.
But there aren’t any plans to sell out. He’s got enough ground to make his own hay, and spreads manure on his brother’s sweet corn patches. The rest of the feed he buys.
And he vows to keep going until he can’t physically do it anymore.
Alone. Of all those dairy cows at the fair this year, Polcen is the only exhibitor from Summit County. The rest come from counties and farms nearby.
He’s the fair board member in charge of the beef and dairy and horses, and is sad to see the numbers dwindling.
Just last year, the bovine exhibit had 20 more head. But they’re not here this year, choosing instead to travel to a national show where there’s more fame, more prizes, more visitors.
Who can blame them?, he asks.
But Polcen isn’t intimidated or scared that the agricultural part of the fair is falling by the wayside.
He goes about his days on the grounds, explaining why his supreme champion’s hip bones stick out, showing fair visitors how he feeds, letting them watch him milk, telling that his oxen-in-training has horns but isn’t a bull.
“Most of them just stand and look, don’t say anything. I don’t think they know what to say.”
So Polcen reaches out and strikes up a conversation. He’s not about to let fair visitors keep their questions inside.
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 800-837-3419 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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