LEIPSIC — Stepping foot onto Ellerbrock Farms is almost like being transported back in time.
The 142-year-old property, located at 11429 Road E in Leipsic, is rich with family history. In fact, the same family has owned the farm for four generations, with a fifth generation possibly in line to take over.
Since it has been in the same family for more than 100 years, the farm has received “Ohio Historic Family Farm” status, which is designated each year by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Twenty-two other farms in Allen, Auglaize and Putnam counties were also awarded this distinction in 2016.
“The state’s historic family farms program provides a direct link to Ohio’s impressive agricultural heritage and history,” said ODA Director David Daniels. “While their operations are diverse, all the families share a deep pride in their land and the stories behind it.”
Dave Ellerbrock beamed with pride as he spoke of his family farm. The fourth-generation owner has lived on the property all his life, and he continues to farm to this day.
“There’s a lot of history here,” Ellerbrock said as he peered over his property. “It gives you a real sense of pride.”
The roots of Ellerbrock Farms can be traced back to the late 1800s. Ellerbrock’s great-grandfather, Frank Morman, purchased the property in 1875. Ellerbrock said it was originally part of a land grant from the Mexican-Indian Wars.
The property came with 160 acres, though much of it was swamps and woodlands that had never been farmed.
“They called him ‘Swampy Frank’ when he moved out here,” Ellerbrock said with a laugh. “But he cleared everything off, dug a ditch at the end of the property line and everything drained off.”
Ellerbrock’s grandmother, Mary Morman Ellerbrock, and her husband, Alex Ellerbrock, became the next generation of owners after Morman sold it to them.
“That was about the time of the Great Depression, so by the time my grandma got married to my grandpa Ellerbrock, (Morman) made him buy the ground instead of just giving it to him,” he said.
Ellerbrock’s parents, Don and Rose, took ownership of the property in the late 1950s before passing it onto their third-oldest son Dave in the 1990s. He has owned it ever since.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted to farm,” Ellerbrock said. “I started driving a tractor when I was 8 or 9 years old, so I’ve just always had a passion for it.”
For years, the family raised dairy cows, hogs, chickens and layer hens. They sold dairy products until the mid-1960s, and raised livestock until the early 1990s. The family has always grown corn, wheat and beans, which they continue to produce.
“We’ve always been a grain farm,” Ellerbrock said.
Though much has changed in the nearly 150 years since the farm was established, its history is still intact. Ellerbrock, his wife and their three children live in a more modern home on the property, but the old log cabin his great-grandfather built still sits in the backyard where it was constructed.
In one of the barns, you can still see the names of his grandfather and great-uncle carved into the wood. Ellerbrock even keeps old tractors from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, as well as a flatbed wagon that Morman used on the farm more than 100 years ago.
“Having lived here my whole life, you can walk past one of the buildings and see something that your grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles or siblings said or did that brings a smile to your face,” he said.
Ellerbrock also has his own memories of the farm. He said it was a “great place to grow up,” and has no regrets of living the farm life.
“We would always run around unsupervised, swinging on the ropes, jumping down onto bales of straw — that was always a lot of fun,” he said. “You were never bored because you always had something to do.”
Looking ahead, Ellerbrock hopes to pass the farm onto his children. He said he would never force them to stay on the farm, but he hopes it means as much to them as it does to him.
“It’d be nice if they could find a niche somewhere to make it grow, whether it’s raising specialty cattle or hogs, or maybe growing fruit and vegetables,” he said. “Something where they can keep interested in it and make money.”
Ellerbrock said he is fortunate to have been raised on a family farm, and he feels a sense of pride knowing that his children were raised with the same work ethic, and on the same property where he and his ancestors grew up.
“It makes it special knowing that this land has been farmed by our family from the beginning,” he said. “Hopefully through family, faith and hard work, all our family farms will survive and be enjoyed by many more generations.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-456 or on Twitter @Bush_Lima.