Pleased to Feed You, Don Hawk

My family: Janet and I have four grown children, three sons and a daughter. Our second son, Delbert, works with me on the farm. Our other three children live nearby. We also have eight grandchildren.

How I met my spouse: Janet grew up on a farm and worked in her family’s feed mill in Zanesville. My feed salesman was theirs, too. He kept telling me there’s a girl at the feed mill. We’ve been together for 42 years.

How have you been involved in Farm Bureau? I’m back on the county board of trustees again, serving as public policy action team chairman. Janet and I have been delegates to the state annual meeting, and Janet served on the communications committee. I also served three years as county president.

Tell us about your farm: We’ve always been diversified. It’s the philosophy of the farm. We aren’t the largest of anything.

We started out as Skyline Turkey Farm, in a limited partnership with my brother. I started working with my parents’ turkeys in 1964. I had 5,000 turkeys that summer and when it was all said and done, I had the money to buy a new car. That changed my idea about the turkey business. We’ve been in turkey production for 46 years. We had a major adjustment in 1998. When the turkey processing plant we used closed in Michigan, we started looking at how we could use our farm facilities, so we looked at several different things. The lamb feeding business took our eye.

When our son Delbert was in 4-H, he had some fair lambs and took that money and bought 10 ewes and by his senior year had 40 ewes. He made the comment that he wanted to fill barns up with lambs. And that’s what happened.

We used to range our turkeys in the 1960s, but we moved them inside—fewer predators and we could raise them year-round. When we moved the turkeys inside, we had range for cows. We also had ground suited for crops. We raise corn, soybeans, wheat and hay .

In 1993, the turkey business wanted to change its purchasing structure, and so I thought, “If we lose turkeys, what would we do?” so we looked at hydroponics. In 1994, we purchased a greenhouse for hydroponic tomato production. Janet was fully in charge of husbandry. We were very fruitful when we first started, but Big Bear (grocery) was one of our larger customers and when they went bankrupt, we ended our production in 2007. We were able to harvest tomatoes from April through December.

What motivates you to keep farming? I started farming because I had four years of vocational agriculture in high school, and when I entered my senior year my ag instructor said, “Hawk if you don’t apply for the state farmer award you flunk for the year.” My dad involved me in the farm always. My dad made sure the family was involved and he had little projects for me. He had me save my money from my farm work. A desire to achieve and be successful is what keeps me farming.

Biggest misconception (you’ve heard) about farming: I’d have to go back to my turkeys. “When it rains and the turkey puts its head up in the air, will it drown?” They’re not the smartest animal on the earth, but they know how to take care of themselves. They won’t drown.

Who is your role model? My dad. He was brutally to the point. And he taught me to be straight up. I guess my mother gave me the talent of bookkeeping. And I do know and have been reminded that I’m a lot like my dad. I grew up and both of my parents were terrific foundation builders.

What do you want your legacy to be? That I care about my community and I hope I’ll have contributed something to the future of agriculture.

A Recipe from Janet Hawk

Hot Turkey Salad – Serves 6

2 cups cooked turkey, cut into cubes
2 cups thinly sliced celery
1 cup croutons
1 cup Miracle Whip
½ cup slivered almonds, sautéed in butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 chopped green onions, optional
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup crushed potato chips

Mix all ingredients except cheese and chips. Spoon into a 2 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with cheese and chips. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.

Lynn Snyder 

Lynn Snyder is senior director of communications for Ohio Farm Bureau.