By Linda Dillman
Two centuries ago, the Ohio landscape was far different than it is today, but for one Franklin County family, 200 years is a benchmark for their farm and homestead.
Rodney and Edith (Leidy) Wildermuth, who farm 375 acres along Brice Road in Madison Township near Canal Winchester, were honored by the Ohio Department of Agriculture at the Franklin County Fair for maintaining their farm in the same family since 1809.
The state started the Century and Bicentennial Farm program in 1993 to honor farming operations in the same family for 100 and 200 years. The Wildermuth farm is one of 64 bicentennial farms in Ohio and the only one in Franklin County.
In 2000, the family was a state winner of Ohio’s Outstanding Century Farm and Mrs. Wildermuth was named the Franklin County Farm Bureau’s Woman of the Year in 1988.
On July 13, the Wildermuths—with their family by their side—were honored for their life-long achievement by participating in a ribbon-cutting ceremony opening the county fair. They were recognized for 200 years of agricultural heritage and contributions to the agricultural community.
The next day the couple was back at work on their farm milking cows, gathering eggs and caring for land that includes 160 acres awarded through a land grant to a family forefather in compensation for service during the Revolutionary War.
George Kalb, his wife Mary and their 11 children took up residence on the property more than 200 years ago and built a one-room log house from hand-hewn timber. They cleared the land and began a farming legacy that continues to the present day.
When the farmhouse was built in the 1860s, the log house became home to a schoolhouse on two acres set aside in the northwest corner of the property for educating local children.
“There were and are a lot of teachers in the family,” said Mrs. Wildermuth.
According to an 1880 history of Franklin and Pickaway counties, the Kalb’s son, George Kalb, Jr., took over ownership of the farm. A daughter married into the Leidy family, but retained the ancestral homestead for later generations, including the Wildermuths.
“We were told the bricks for the house were fired here at the farm and the barn was built sometime after 1900 because the logs were cut by a saw and not by an ax,” said Mr. Wildermuth.
While the family continues to farm, development continues near their time-honored operation. Across Brice Road, hundreds of homes are clustered in a subdivision as urbanization moves closer to the country lane leading past a cow pasture to the Wildermuth’s brick home.
“I’ve had developers knocking on our door over the years,” said Mr. Wildermuth, “but the land means more than the money. We’re pretty bullheaded and won’t sell. We have the only family milking operation in the county. People just don’t like that kind of labor any more. My son and I work together. I take care of about 30 dairy cows and he takes care of the sheep.”
The Wildermuths also raise corn, soybeans, wheat and hay.
“Not all of our eggs are in one basket. We’re diversified,” Mrs. Wildermuth added, “but I still take care of the chickens. This life is the way I was brought up. I don’t know anything else but to farm. You have to have a lot of faith when you are a farmer.”