It all started with a chance meeting at an Ohio Farm Bureau youth group event. After staying close through college and their early careers in different parts of Ohio, Jerry and Lova Ebbert find themselves farming together in Belmont County now for almost three decades.
Their farm, located in Bethesda, specializes in sweet corn, tomatoes, pumpkins and other produce that is sold at their St. Clairsville farm market. But, because of Lova’s background in livestock, there have been some recent additions to the farm.
“Her mother said that we really weren’t farmers because we didn’t have livestock,” Jerry said. “We have a piece of ground that is primarily fit for pasture and hay, so we now background about 90 head of cattle as well.”
Although the Ebberts have worked on this particular farm for over 20 years, they more recently decided to make it their personal residence and built a new house on the property about five years ago. That hasn’t been the only change to the farm’s landscape.
“We replaced all of the structures here, and now the farm is laid out in nine different paddocks for grazing purposes,” Jerry said. “We have also developed watering springs, built a lot of fence and have put significant conservation measures in place to keep this farm sustainable.”
Tornado hits the farm
All of those improvements were done by choice with long-term goals in mind, but there was one major change the Ebberts were forced to make on their farm due to an event that was out of their control.
“In June of 2013 this farm was hit by a tornado, and we lost one of the oldest structures on the property,” Lova said. “A bank barn that dated back to the 1860s was destroyed. The roof was off and there was debris everywhere”
As they assessed the damage, they knew there was not a very good possibility that the historic barn would ever be used again, but they knew who to call to find out.
“Our first call was to Nationwide,” Lova said. “We have always been diligent about updating our coverages and had our buildings appraised frequently, but you are never really sure if your coverage is enough. Our agent and Nationwide’s adjuster were here the next day and we walked around the farm, determining what could be saved and what couldn’t. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t prudent to rebuild the bank barn.”
Those are difficult decisions to make for any farm, but having a solid relationship with their Nationwide agents Lori Delong and Stacy Terrell, who know the complexities of a farm’s coverage needs, proved to make the process seamless.
“Building a personal relationship with a farm policyholder is a top priority for our agency because it takes a little more time with them to make sure they have the right coverage,” said Terrell, who is with the Hixson Malinowski Insurance Agency. “Farm insurance is a highly customized policy that starts with basic coverage and depending on the needs of your home and business additional options can be purchased, like coverage for machinery, equipment, buildings and livestock. We want to always be sure our customers have the coverage they need to protect their farm and business if a disaster happens.”
The ability to rebuild
The Ebberts used every bit of space they could where the old bank barn used to be to build a new structure. That barn features the farm’s signature red siding and two garage doors for easy access to the machinery and hay now stored there.
Not everything was lost from the bank barn in that devastating late spring storm. Unharmed within the bank barn’s frame was a stained glass window (featured image) The window portrays a farmer in bib overalls and a John Deere hat, carrying a lamb over his shoulder and, in essence, a snapshot of the farm’s historic past.
“The family who owned this farm before us were people of means and included four sisters and a bachelor brother who lived alone in a house here,” Lova explained. “Shortly after he purchased the farm, the brother had a heart attack and passed away. The sisters took over the farm and remodeled many things to their liking and had this window made in honor of their brother. We are just so thankful that it survived the storm and we were able to make it part of our new building.”
The window tells a story like only a farmer could, with a quiet conviction of a job well done and a life well lived. This story will continue to be told, and a heritage will remain intact, through a new family and their new barn. For the Ebberts, it serves as a constant reminder of a family that gave them an opportunity to do what they love and provides them the inspiration to continue their legacy.
Photos by Dave Gore