At a young age, Dale Broeske dreamed he would be another Luther Burbank, an American horticulturist. In his teens, Dale worked on several local farms. After he completed one year of agricultural school at Ohio State, Dale was drafted into the Navy. When WWII ended in 1945, Dale returned to Ohio State and completed his Bachelor’s degree. He then worked at the Crawford County Farm Bureau for a few years and worked for his father in pliable packaging. Soon after, Dale’s father decided he wanted to farm and asked if his son would help.
Dale Broeske lived in Columbus before he moved to Richland County in 1953. While living in Columbus, he and his father searched for a farm. Dale’s current property, one of the farms he looked at in the search process, was affordable and seemed like a good property for dairy farming. Before purchasing the 208 acres, Dale and his father inspected the fields; they heard from the neighbors that corn did remarkably well on that property. During the fall of 1952, the owner of the property reportedly hauled nearly 100 bushel of corn – great yields at the time.
Dale did not have relatives living in Richland County when he decided to purchase his 1860’s farmhouse. However some of his distant family lived in Ashland County; they were not involved in farming, but operated a greenhouse.
Over time, Dale purchased two more farms and rented two farms nearby. Looking back, he regrets not purchasing the two farms he rented because the price of land was low. Dale rented properties by paying a cash rental fee; it was not based on yields like some renting agreements are today. Farmers considered rented land their land.
Even though Dale’s father helped him around the farm until his death in 1967, Dale did most of the work. He admitted that it was exceptionally hard starting a dairy operation with little money. Dale’s crops the first year were fairly standard among all farmers at the time; he planted corn, oats, wheat and grass. Most of these crops were used in the dairy operation. Dale used hay for the cows to eat and he ground corn and oats into feed. Farmers did not have huge dairy herds, just enough to survive. At his peak Dale owned a 50-head dairy cattle herd and a 50-head beef cattle herd. He also raised some sheep early on in his operation. Once herd numbers expanded, Dale sold leftover milk – along with crops.
Leftover milk was transported and sold at the Page Dairy Company in Mansfield until it closed in 1975. Shortly after, Dale sold his milk at Lawson Milk Company in Akron. Initially, he took crop yields to Bellville to sell but later expanded to Mansfield and Marion when his yields grew.
Dale owned and operated one of the first milking parlors in Richland County. He mentioned that individuals from all over the county would come just to look at his operation. Dale’s brother owned a milking parlor in Allen County, which had a great influence on his decision to implement one into his own operation. Dale had an elevated parlor with a row of four stanchions angled to a walkway. Cows were manually forced in stanchion stalls but once milked, a gate would open at the other end of the stall letting the livestock back into the barn. Dale mentioned that it was often a challenge to get young cows in the stalls; grain was used as an incentive.
Unlike other dairy farmers at the time, Dale did not milk into individual cans; he used a pipeline that distributed milk into many cans that he eventually placed into a cooler. This process changed when Dale purchased a bulk tank. Instead of distributing milk into cans, piping transported milk directly into the tank. Because of this, milk was not handled as much and it ultimately improved the quality of the milk. Dale’s tank held 350 gallons of milk. While other farmers bought more efficient equipment over time, Dale did not upgrade his milk parlor. Except for feeding mechanisms in the parlor, he used the same system from day one until he stopped milking. Money was not the main factor for Dale not upgrading, he was satisfied with what he owned and the job that it did.
The Broeske name has been synonymous with Allis Chalmers tractors over the years. When Dale was a teenager working on his neighbor’s farm he operated a WC Allis Chalmers tractor and worked with horses as well. The tractor was used for plowing and tilling; the horses were used to plant and mow hay. It was not until after WWII that Allis Chalmers started to manufacture tractors with hydraulics, like the WD model which was Dale’s first model tractor. Dale indicated that he stuck with Allis Chalmers because it was the first tractor he had ever used; it was dependable.
One man’s tractor also created a community-like atmosphere at the time. Dale mentioned that when he was a teenager, “Farmers all traded helped at thrashing time”. . . “Neighbors around would come in and you went there, you just traded help.” Dale and his son Ronald have been Allis Chalmers enthusiasts for many years now. Dale typically displays one of his restored Allis Chalmers tractors at the Richland County Fair every year. However, each year it becomes more difficult for Dale to perform the necessary physical requirements to restore the tractors.
Like his colleagues, Dale used fertilizer and chemicals on his crops. He started with 3-12-12 fertilizer and purchased it by the truckload. Around the third year Dale started farming he introduced chemicals into his operation. He was convinced after a neighbor used his Ford tractor to spray his fields; two days later, the weeds were gone. Dale’s son controls the farming operation today but Dale stated, “I’m not afraid of the genetically modified corn.” Although Dale does not dictate farming operation practices today, it is clear where he stands.
The Broeske’s have also implemented no-till techniques into their farming process. Dale’s son no-tills his bean fields and other grounds with insect problems. Because plowing disturbs insects, the Broeske’s no-till a field with a slug infestation. He mentioned that no-till can be beneficial in many instances, but with crops like wheat, yields are not as high.
The construction of Interstate 71 came as a surprise to the Broeske family. Surprisingly, Dale had no idea about the new interstate project until he observed workers putting flags in his land. They offered to buy Dale’s land, where the project was going to be, for 350 dollars per acre. Dale was not pleased with the price of the land but he had little choice; either accept the offer or go to court. Eventually, the constructed interstate split Dale’s land in half.
The Broeske farm has provided many memorable stories over the years. One story was about the gentleman in charge of artificially inseminating Dale’s cattle. He got his car stuck in a flooded area on Dale’s property. Dale commented, “He got caught, I don’t know what he thought he was going to come through. . . He was sitting there with the doors open, his car was in the water and the water was running through.”
Dale’s first aerial photo taken of his property highlighted a significant change in equipment on the Broeske farm. That specific year Dale switched from a two-row corn planter to a four-row corn planter. Dale skipped a few rows due to equipment inexperience. He concluded that even though a four-row planter was more complex to operate, his planting time drastically decreased. The Broeske’s use a six-row planter today.
When asked about his own recommendations he would give young farmers today not born into an agricultural family Dale replied, “I don’t know how they do it if they don’t start out with a good base and a good piece of land.” Dale’s son was fortunate to have a good base.
Dale’s daughter, Becky, was also provided with a good base. She obtained land from Dale to open Beck’s Greenhouse. Her education and previous work experience provided her with the necessary experience to open her own business, but her parent’s support helped
The history of Dale Broeske’s dairy enterprise is characteristic of a true agricultural pioneer. Dale had always been interested in plants, but when he and his father bought land in Richland County – their dreams became a reality. Dale will be forever highly regarded in the local agricultural community for his dairy operation and restored Allis Chalmers tractors. The Broeske family legacy will continue with Dale’s son and grandson.