Tag Archives: Millersburg

A dairy farmer at a turning point

Hershberger farm

Bobby Hershberger's farm in Paint Valley west of Millersburg, OH.

By Bruce Stambaugh

A brief glance at Bobby Hershberger’s hands, and you know his profession. Crinkled, calloused, chapped, all the marks of a born-again dairy farmer.

Not yet 50, his thick fingers belie the rest of his body. His steely eyes still sparkle, even on a gray day in Ohio’s Amish country. His rutty smile foretells his honesty, integrity, and dedication to farm, family and faith.

Modest as the day is long, Hershberger loves dairy farming. He must. He has spent his entire life milking cows, plowing ground, seeding fields, mowing hay, picking corn, feeding livestock, caring for family, serving church and community.

On good days he only works eight hours or so. On really good days, he works twice that amount. Such is the life of a dedicated dairyman.

With his equally dedicated wife, Beth, at his side, Hershberger has made it all these years, even milking just 30 Holsteins, not exactly a mega farm. The Hershberger’s also operate Pine Loft Bed and Breakfast out of their home high on a hill that overlooks Hershberger’s home farm in Monroe Township’s Paint Valley west of Millersburg, the county seat in Holmes County.

“Tilling 110 acres and milking just 30 cows, there are Amish who have bigger farms,” he said humbly. The combination of his demeanor and his gentleness tells even a visitor that there is no malice in this man.

There are 40 years of thought, vision and compassion, however. Hershberger began milking cows with his entire family. He then went 50/50 with his father, and for the last 22 years, he has been on his own. And that has worn him down.

In his lifetime of milking, Hershberger has seen a gradual but significant transition in the dairy industry. When Hershberger started helping on the family farm, farming was slower paced. Cooperation out-muscled competition, and income was much more stable, thanks in part to government milk subsidies.

But much of that has changed. In the last decade or so, the change has become more an economic stampede of sorts. To put it simply, it’s either get run over by the big guys, or step out of the way.

As hard of a decision as it was, the Hershberger’s have chosen the latter. This summer they will sell their herd, effectively ending an agricultural aspect that has kept the couple close to home 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Holsteins, after all, don’t take vacations, so neither do their owners. As the couple looked ahead and weighed their options, the decision to stop milking became pretty clear. Day in and day out, milking cows is as grueling as it is satisfying.

“The decision really came down to this,” Bobby explained. “Either we had to expand or get out.” They loved their life on the farm. But they also knew that there was more to life than milking cows twice a day until you physically couldn’t do it any more.

“Farming is a challenge,” Bobby said. “The work is never the same from day to day because something always comes up.”

“I have enjoyed being able to work from home,” he reflected, “but when you milk, you are always at home.” Hershberger said after all these years he and his wife are simply tired.

Last year was an especially horrible year for farmers, according to Hershberger. In a way, that made their decision to stop milking much easier. Bobby saw staying in the dairy business as a sinking hole.

“With prices down, you work seven days a week and end up having nothing to show for it,” he said dejectedly.

Hershberger said that the only way to continue as a dairy farmer was to expand operations. To do that, he would have to purchase or rent more land, which would require him to buy bigger, better, and more expensive farm equipment and buildings, and hire farmhands. All of that meant borrowing more money, and that just wasn’t something he and Beth wanted to do at this stage in their lives.

Hershberger wanted to be clear that this was a personal decision. He doesn’t begrudge anyone. Dedicated farmer that he is, he wants the industry to succeed. But he sees the small farmer like himself being squeezed by the system more and more.

Hershberger is a practical man. “Being a dairy farmer has gone from a way of life to a way of making a living for big business,” he said.

With that, the strong, humble man’s voice tailed off, almost in a quiet relief of the decision he had made to stop milking cows. Hershberger said he would continue to farm the fields.

“But I will have to find a part-time job someplace to make up for the lost income,” he said realistically. “I feel at peace about my decision though.”

Bobby Hershberger

Bobby Hershberger on his way home from the barn.

This story originally appeared in the Farm and Dairy tab of the Holmes County Bargain Hunter.

Leave a comment

Filed under article

A talented but modest handyman

Zack and Rachel Miller showed off the Living Acts house they helped remodel in Millersburg, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Zack Miller, 26, never thought he would consider being called a handyman. He still doesn’t for that matter.

“If you asked anyone in my family, they would all say I would be the last person to be considered a handyman,” Zack shared modestly. Yet, when Zack described what he had done, it was pretty evident he fit the definition.

“I enjoy working with my hands,” Zack said. “I like to get things done.”

Over the past nine months, Zack got a lot done. Zack headed up the refurbishing of the house where he and his wife, Rachel, 25, live on East Jackson Street in Millersburg, Ohio. Their church, Millersburg Mennonite, purchased the house last summer. The house sits adjacent to the church’s parking lot east of the church.

The congregation bought the property last summer, and soon came up with a novel if not bold idea. The church decided to create a safe haven for young adults who wanted to deepen their own spiritual faith and find direction for their lives. The house was named Living Acts.

The Living Acts house was in need of some serious updating, according to Zack and Rachel. As the host couple for the house, leadership to remodel the home fell to them, with some able and needed assistance from their parents and the church.

“Most of my skills were in refinishing,” Zack said. He had some previous experience working on two different construction crews.

To get Living Acts house updated, Zack ventured into remodeling areas he had never done before, like electrical and plumbing. Zack had to do some plumbing in bathrooms and redo lighting fixtures.

“Zack removed and replaced a faucet and toilet,” Rachel said. “Mostly though we did a lot of stripping of wall-paper, sometimes seven layers.”

“Besides the wall-coverings, we did a lot of painting,” Zack said. “We also did dry walling, some plastering, and refinished the wood floors on the first floor, which included sanding, staining and varnishing.”

One of the first things Zack did though was to remove the extensive latticework that nearly enclosed the back porch.

“I wanted to make the house as open as possible,” he said. “That’s the idea of Living

Acts, to be open to people, inviting them in.”
Zack seemed most pleased with a cubbyhole closet he built in the finished attic of the home. He tore out part of a wall, cut off studs, and built storage shelves and installed rods for clothing.

They also removed a lot of outdated carpet, and replaced a counter top. They even replaced some kitchen cupboards. They also bought furniture and area rugs.

Altogether, the cost of the remodeling was $2,000, with most of that cost covered from the proceeds of a garage sale and a bake sale. Zack said the only two rooms in the house that weren’t worked on were their bedroom and the upstairs kitchen.

The remodeling wasn’t confined to the inside of the home either. Besides the back porch, Zack improved the landscaping, built raised flowerbeds, removed some stumps and planted berry bushes.

“Zack kept a running list of things to do in his head,” Rachel said. She and her mother, Arlene Yoder, decorated the house together.

“I have gained a lot of experience working on this project,” Zack said. “No project was as easy as I had hoped it would be.”

Zack works on the maintenance crew at Walnut Hills Retirement Community in Walnut Creek. Rachel is a registered nurse at Pomerene Hospital in Millersburg. Both graduated from Hesston College in Kansas, and Hiland High School.

They wanted the remodeling project to be completed before others joined the Living Acts house. They reached that goal.

Rachel’s twin sisters, Carrie and Annie Yoder, and Kevin Roth all moved in the first week in April, when Living Acts officially began. Each of the group has committed to being a part of Living Acts through August. An advisory committee from the church oversees the residents of the house.

“We share the household duties,” Rachel said. “We are each responsible for our own living areas, but we share in the cleaning and cooking.”

The Living Acts house is designed for up to seven people.

“But five would be an ideal number,” Rachel said with a smile.

(This article first appeared in the Holmes County Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH)

Leave a comment

Filed under article

From Haiti to Millersburg, Ohio, a harrowing journey

Fritz Jeanty family

Fritz Jeanty hold two and a half year old son, Samuel, while his wife, Mamie, cuddles five month old son, Benjamin.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Shortly before 5 p.m. on January 12, Fritz Jeanty of Port-au-Prince, Haiti was on his way home when his car lurched from the force of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. He didn’t realize the seriousness of the situation until he saw people running and heard people praying and praising God for being saved.

Fritz headed for home via the main road, but quickly came upon even more devastating scenes. People carried injured victims. Debris and clouds of dust were everywhere.

People were screaming, crying and praying all at the same time. While attempting to get home, Fritz met his pastor, who had his car full of injured victims, on the way to a hospital. The pastor told Fritz that the church had been leveled.

In his tireless effort to reach his family, Fritz drove as fast as he could until the road was completely blocked with collapsed buildings and dead bodies. Fritz parked his car, and ran towards home, fearful of what he would find. Before he could arrive, however, a neighbor intercepted him with good news. Fritz’s family was safe.

“I started crying right away,” Fritz said. They were tears of joy and sadness. “I was happy my family was alive, but I was sad for all the dead and injured, too.”

When he arrived home, his wife, Mamie, and two young sons, Samuel, two-and-a half, and Benjamin, five months, were unhurt but scared. Their home was rendered uninhabitable. The grocery store Fritz owned and operated five miles away had been completely destroyed, too.

“You could hear crying everywhere,” Fritz said. “I was overwhelmed.”

With darkness arriving, Fritz had to wait until early the next morning to turn his attention to extended family members who lived nearby. At dawn, he went to look for his brother, who he discovered was all right. However, Mamie’s two sisters were both crushed in the rubble of their home. But her mother was alive.

The Jeanty family lived on the street outside their destroyed home for a week. Fritz said they could hardly sleep, with frequent aftershocks, mosquitoes, nothing but rubble to lie on and potential looters roaming. The only provisions they had were some rice and cooking oil Fritz had stored in an old car in his yard. They had some water in a drum container, and Fritz had to walk two miles to refill it.

With precious commodities running low, Fritz went into survival mode. He reentered their badly damaged home, and carefully retrieved important personal papers, including the boys’ passports.

Fritz went to the American embassy in Port-au-Prince and was disheartened to find a long, long line. But because both of his sons had been born in the United States, Fritz was told to go to the airport to be airlifted out of Haiti.

Early the next morning they found themselves on a transport plane, unsure of where they were going. When they landed, they were in Orlando, Florida, which was providential. Just the previous day, Fritz had obtained a key for his father-in-law’s home in Orlando in case they somehow ended up there.

But Fritz knew they could not stay there long without money. He had kept some phone numbers of persons with whom he had worked in Christian Aid Ministries, based in Berlin, with missions in Haiti. A friend of a former CAM worker helped the Jenaty family make contacts in Ohio.

Arrangements were made for Fritz and his family to ride the Pioneer Trails bus back to Holmes County. In addition, contacts with Save and Serve Thrift Store in Millersburg were established, an apartment found, and by the time Fritz and his family arrived in Berlin the next day, they had a place to stay amid the largest Amish population in the world.

Fritz and his family are permitted to stay for six months. He is filling in his time by volunteering at Save and Serve, which is taking donations to help buy food and living necessities for the family. Donations to assist Fritz and his family may be sent or delivered to Save and Serve, marked Haitian Relief, P.O. Box 128, Millersburg, OH  44654.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized