The End of Era

Buckeye Farm Beat

The donation of the Ohio Farmer bound volumes leaves an empty space on the shelves and the heart.

Published on: September 7, 2011

Books are heavy. Especially the books that contain bound volumes of a publication the size of the Ohio Farmer. For the last 166 years essentially every copy of the magazine has been stacked on shelves in the offices of the editor. This morning that ended.

David Grubb and Jeff Sholl with the Ohio Department of Agriculture helped me box and load the magazine’s bound volumes into a van to take them to the ODA library. We didn’t count the volumes. There were more than 20 big boxes and without an elevator in our building the job of rolling them down the stairs on a dolly was enough to have all three of us dripping sweat.

I am pleased to know the past issues will be available to the public at ODA and relieved to no longer feel responsible should a fire or flood or burglar eliminate all those years of Ohio farming history. However, it looks a little empty here without those tall black books stacked on the shelves.  

I frequently get calls from readers who remember their grandfather or brother of sister on the cover the Ohio Farmer. “It was in 1942,” they will tell me. “Might have been 1943 or ‘44. But I think it was the Ohio Farmer or Hoard’s Dairyman. You don’t happen to have an extra copy of that issue do you?”

I’d respond that no in fact all I had are the bound volumes here. I’d tell them there also are complete sets of the Ohio Farmer the Ohio Historical Society near the state fairgrounds and at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Library. I’d say, your best bet it to come in and make a copy of the cover. Very few folks ever took me up on it.

In 2000 C. LaVon Shook wrote A History of the Ohio State Fair to commemorate the event’s 150th year. He used our bound volumes as a reference and spent many hours at a table in our office making notes from the old pages. In a dedication of the book he signed for me he noted, “It was the Ohio Farmer and its leadership that helped inaugurate and develop the Ohio State Fair. And now if it were not for the Ohio Farmer and its editor the history of the state fair could not have been written.”

In his 577-page work, Shook cites The Ohio Farmer and its predecessor The Ohio Cultivator many times. Most often he notes the editorials written by M.B. Bateham, who founded The Ohio Cultivator in 1845. (The publication was taken over by The Ohio Farmer in 1862.) Right from the start Bateham was calling for the establishment of a state agricultural board and a state exhibition. As Shook notes, this goading resulted in the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Ohio State Fair.

To have the original versions of those words in the same office has always been an inspiration to me. To know that the work of a dozen other editors is on the shelves a few steps away is powerful motivation.  Hopefully, someday all of those historic pages will be scanned and made available on line. Readers who want to see a photo of there great, great grandfather will be able to find one only a click away. Meanwhile they will have to go to another place to find a copy, and I will have to find something else to fill those empty shelves.