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Brown's Give up Business


Dairy farm family gives up business

From The Marietta Times, Saturday, May 7, 1977

By Adella Wacker, Times Staff Writer

            Time and the Willow Island Locks and Dam have nudged brothers Richard D., 54, and Donald M. Brown, 52, out of the dairy business. 

            On April 26 Richard—Dick—paced in his muddy boots outside the milking parlor, watching Newport Pike for a cattle truck.  That afternoon the last of the mostly-Guernsey dairy herd went for sale at the Farmer’s Livestock market on Marietta’s West Side: three for slaughter, 11 for dairy.

            The following morning Dick was able to sleep in, getting up at 6:30 a.m. instead of starting his day at 4:30, because for the first time in 36 years he would not have to worry about milking cows in the damp morning darkness. 

            Dick’s son, Richard L., 24, helped load the Guernseys on the auction truck at the Brown’s farmyard.  His wife Ruth Eloiuse watched.  Don’s daughter, Jayne Snell, took pictures. 

Don was at work at American Cyanamid Co., however.  He has worked there since the 1960s when construction on Willow Island began.  Dick also works at another job in addition to farming and milking.  In April he completed 30 years as a bus driver for the Marietta Local and Marietta City School District.  He quit driving the Newport Pike bus route and went to work full time in the bus garage. 

            The U. S. Army Corp of Engineers demanded 25 cropland acres from the Browns for the locks and dam project in about 1966.  “I just didn’t see how there was a living for the both of us,” said Don about his decision to work outside the dairy farm.  “I knew we weren’t going to be able to have as many cows.”

            The remaining 260 acres along the Pike include a lot of woods, 30 acres of cropland and 76 acres of pasture, Don estimates. 

            They could have enlarged their operation by buying feed rather than growing it, enlarging the herd to 100 or more head and trying to make that way.  As his wife Isabelle said, “You’ve got to be into it pretty big if you’re going to make a living at it nowdays.”

            Or they could slowly go out of the business.  The brothers considered the dairy market, the size of their farm and their age, and decided two or three years ago to let the size of their herd dwindle.

            “We all hate to see ’em go,” Isabelle said, “but we were going to have to start replacing the herd.”

                                                            Into Milking

            Mrs. Snell, who lives with her husband in the original brick family home on the farm, regrets seeing them go.  Back from a career as an airline stewardess based in Washington, D. C., she had just learned how to make homemade butter.

            She has stories about like the time company representatives came to the Brown farm to demonstrate the new Surge milker to area farmers and got their clean clothes covered with mud and cow manure.  Or about the half-Brown Swiss and half-Hereford cow the Browns decided to keep. 

            But they all agreed selling the dairy herd was the best thing. 

            “You reach a certain point in your life when you wonder if your husbands are going to have to work this hard the rest of their lives,” said Isabelle.

            Don had thought along the same line: “I guess the older we got the less we felt like putting in long hours….It takes a young man to do it all that.”

            Dick hopes he will be able to take a little more vacation time.  Don repeated a saying about dairy farmers that pegged the situation: “One thing you know, you’re not going to need any good clothes because you’re not going to go any place.”

            Although, the Brown’s say they had it better than most diary farmers.  At least they could trade milking and farm chores with each other.  Between them they had three sons who helped when they were at home.  Don’s sons, Mark and John, have moved away.

                                                            Sold Golden Guernsey

            The Brown brothers started out with Brown Swiss dairy cows.  The family moved to the farm in 1938.  Don was 16 and Dick, 18, when they began dairying.  Later they sold Golden Guernsey milk to William Greenwood, Newport.

            After World War II and Korea were over and they returned home from the Navy, the brothers stepped up to a Grade A operation.  In 1965 the dairy herd hit its peak with 53 head.

            It was about 1966 when construction of the four-lane Ohio 7 highway began next to the Browns. A year later, they moved the original Brown home across that highway, across from the acres bought by the U.S. Army Corp of engineers to the other side of the Pike.  The brothers and their families live in two other houses on the farm.

            So it’s been about 10 years that the Willow Island Locks and Dam changed their scenery on the river.

            “I’m still kind of bitter about it,” admits Don.