By Alaina Bartel
Ray Twining’s great-great-grandfather began milking cows in Lorain County in 1849. Ninety three years later in 1942, Twining Farms-a 450-acre grain and dairy farm-began operating on Griggs Road in Wellington. In 1959 when Ray was 12-years-old, he began helping his father milk cows and has been doing it ever since.
Little did he know, around the same time, his soon-to-be wife was dreaming of becoming a farmer. Or at least a farm-wife.
Sara Twining spent a few years of her life growing up on a farm herself, and watched as her family grew and harvested their crops. In her heart, she knew that part of her would always remain.
“My family, like grandparents and everybody, always farmed. So even though he once in a while will call me a city girl, it’s not the truth," Sara laughed.
“She lived in Medina for two years, so I call her a city girl," Ray teased.
The beginning of their life together as farmers started out a little rough. While they were dating, Ray went head-first into a silage wagon-a machine made to tear whatever enters it apart. He ended up in the hospital for nine months with a broken neck. Sara would visit and help feed him, as his arms were strapped to the bed and he couldn’t eat on his own.
After his accident, his friend at Black River High School asked him to speak to some of their classes about accident safety. He explained to them that life in the 60’s was much different than life now. Back then, there was no such thing as a CAT scan or an emergency medical technician, and an ambulance doubled as a hearse. However, Ray wasn’t the only one teaching lessons at Black River.
After Ray and Sara were married, she was studying elementary education at Ashland University. One day, she received a call from the superintendent.
“It was a time when they are really desperate for teachers and he said, ‘I know you’re not done, but could we give you a temporary certificate and you could teach for us.’ I mean, he called me in the beginning of August for teaching in September," Sara recalled. “So I went ahead and did it, even though I wasn’t finished. Then I needed to do summer school and things like that. After I taught for two years, we had two kids, and I still wasn’t quite finished."
Six kids and a Bachelor’s Degree later, Sara’s dream of being a farm-wife was in full-swing: she was teaching, farming, and raising children. It wasn’t until 10 years ago that she realized maybe, just maybe, she didn’t want to be a farm-wife anymore.
“I think I just want to be a country woman. You know like in the magazine," she giggled.
Ray is now 69-years old, just one year older than Sara. This year, after a rough season for crop-yield and with them getting older, they have decided to end their dairy operation and sell their 25 holstein cattle.
“I told my dad he was too old to milk cows when he was 55. I said, ‘you can’t bend over these pipes.’ So here I am 15 years older than he was then, milking cows. I told him he was too old. It makes you think a little bit," Ray said, nodding his head.
This year, the Twining’s were off 50 percent of their crop-yield. Ray said normally he would get 48 bushels of soy beans, but he managed 22 this year. For the corn, he said the yield is usually about 170 bushels, but this year it was just under 70.
“We don’t need to go to Las Vegas," Sara laughed.
“We gamble right here," Ray chimed in, finishing her sentence.
Ray said it has been a stressful time gambling with the farm: wondering if and how much it will rain, if their crops will get dried out, and how much of their product will be damaged by deer, woodchucks, and raccoons.
Also, Sara said she hasn’t been able to help Ray with the property after her injury in September. A cow flipped her over and rolled her a few times, dislocating her shoulder. She was scheduled for a bone density test a few days after that, but was pretty sure her bones were doing just fine.
“If I had a cow throw me, and roll me, and all I broke was a little bit here, I think my bones are dense," she laughed.
Although they will miss the cows when they’re gone, Ray and Sara are looking forward to spending time with their five grandchildren and the rest of their family. Ray said he’s only been out of Ohio two times, and hopes to travel somewhere-anywhere. Maybe, Mount Rushmore.
“When you’re milking, you have to be back for chores at the end of the day," he said. “I’d like to go see some places."
Ray has family in Lorain and Ashland Counties, and Sara’s family is spread throughout Akron, Cincinnati, and has a brother in New Mexico that settled there after joining the Air Force.
She plans to continue teaching piano, spinning and weaving, and prayer and enjoy her time in the Lorain County Spinners and Weavers Guild. Ray enjoys remodeling, or as Sara calls it, destruction and construction, and she anticipates there will be more of those projects in the future. The pair plans to stay involved with their church, The United Church of Huntington, and will continue to crop-farm. Ray can’t give up the solace he finds in the fresh-air and open-field.
“The best part," Ray smiled, “is getting out on a tractor and forgetting everything."