John Scherer and the Scherer Family History

John Scherer

John and Terry Scherer have always believed in hard work, even if that meant going above and beyond. Their persistence in No-Till Farming over the years, despite low yields initially, is a testament that the Scherer family has always put conservation first in farming.

The Scherer family history in America began near Richland County and the family remains there to this day. John Scherer’s grandfather emigrated from Switzerland in the late 1800s. He lived in Tiro, Ohio for a short time before he purchased 35 acres where John’s son, Terry, now lives near Shelby, Ohio. The Scherer family rents their land from John’s brother, so it has been intentionally kept in the family. John’s house was built after his marriage in 1954 at a cost of 15,000 dollars. His mother taught in one-room school houses and devoted her time to the Ladies’ Aid Society. 

John’s dad worked at Arcelormittal for a short period of time before he started farming and his mother kept the books at the schools – Morton School still stands today, west of Shelby. During his younger years, John’s parents started farming because they genuinely enjoyed it; every house on their road, West Smiley, housed a farmer. Farming not only generated money for families, it sustained them.

After the Scherer family moved to Richland County they primarily focused on growing wheat, corn, hay, potatoes, oats and soy beans. John frequently traveled into town with his father and a bag of wheat so it could be ground into flour at Spring Mill.

Some of John’s first memories include binding wheat and cutting hay in cool nights, because days were simply too hot. All manual labor eased after World War II when tractors came along. John’s family used both a team of horses and a tractor until after the war, when they retired horses and adopted more efficient technology. 

Following the war, the Scherer family implemented many new advancements and added to their farming operation. Like many other farmers at the time, tile was added to fields, dairy cattle herds were made larger, and electric-powered equipment thrived. Luckily for John, Shelby Electric built a power plant in Shelby long before other cities could get electricity. Electricity vastly helped dairy farmers install machine-operated milkers and systems. John noted that Shelby Electric is famous for producing the Centennial Light, the world’s longest-lasting light bulb which is now used in Livermore, California as a part of a firehouse. Although electricity is often blamed for many barn fires during its conception, the Scherer family did not experience fires when it came to the implementation of electricity on the farm. 

After John’s father died, John stopped raising dairy cattle and focused on beef cattle. Beef cattle prices fell soon after John’s focus switched and left the Scherer family wondering if they had made the right decision by getting out of the dairy business. Soon after, the Scherer’s stopped raising livestock altogether and focused on planting and harvesting crops.

Luckily for John, selling crops was not as difficult for him as other farmers in Richland County. The Shelby Equity was located on Main Street in Shelby, Ohio – just minutes from John’s residence. Today, the Scherer’s take their grain to Sunrise in Crestline, Ohio because Shelby Equity is no longer in operation. 

The advancements in crop chemicals over the years has not only been a major component of farming operations all over Richland County, it altered the farming process for many farmers at its time of introduction. John bought his first chemical sprayer in the 1940’s hoping to get rid of Spittle Bugs – known for wiping out acres of alfalfa at a time. Early on and even today, John’s family used 2, 4-D to get rid of thistles and weeds growing alongside crop rows in his field.  He noted that his family also did not use any chemical protection, like what is required today, and many chemicals used by the Scherer’s were banned because of health reasons. Today, the Scherer’s use Roundup Ready seeds, a popular choice among most farmers. 

Although the Scherer family’s chemicals were similar to many other farmers at the time, their implementation of No-Till Farming has been greatly recognized. According to the Scherer’s, No-Till Farming is the process where field soil is intentionally not disturbed. Instead, farmers use special equipment to insert approximately two inch deep holes into the ground for their seeds. This method has shown to prevent weed seeds from being disturbed over time, leading to less weeds in fields. Also due to less soil compaction, soil that has not been tilled contains more oxygen and organic matter – conditions that encourage crops to flourish. On the negative side, some soils that contain clay may not be conducive to no-till practices and yield numbers may decrease at first. Ultimately, Terry Scherer decided to stick with No-Till Farming because it was easier and it saves the soil. 

In addition to no-till, other conservation practices and local business has always been important to the Scherer’s. John pointed out that, “People who really do an excellent job at conservation don’t get rewarded enough for what they do.” Terry sacrificed time planting over the years implementing no-till, which requires farmers to plant slower and harvest later. He also operated a local vegetable stand at his house west of Shelby, but has since downgraded to a self-serve stand. When the Scherer’s first started raising vegetables Terry hauled them to the Mansfield farmer’s market. Now, he takes produce to Shelby’s market when he has a surplus. 

The Scherer farm, west of Shelby, once made national news. The Secretary of Agricultural of the United States came to the Scherer residence to assess a major drought that struck the region in the 1980’s. Over a dozen news crews showed up from all over Ohio, not to mention the United States Secret Service. The weather conditions affected the crops so bad that year that nearly half of the Scherer’s crops failed to germinate. 

There is no doubt that obstacles surfaced over the years on the Scherer farm, but their ability to continue No-Till Farming is nothing shy of commendable. Although small, their farm represents a legacy of rich farming heritage in Richland County, Ohio.