Dennis Cooney, a fifth generation Ada farmer, poses with his awful rare 1913 "Economy Corn Grinder" at a Bluffton Farm & Tractor Show recently. - Ada Herald
Dennis Cooney, a fifth generation Ada farmer, poses with his awful rare 1913 "Economy Corn Grinder" at a Bluffton Farm & Tractor Show recently. (Ada Herald/Joe Schriner)

ADA — 1913.

That was the year Dennis Cooney’s “Economy Corn Grinder” was manufactured.

1999.

That was the year Dennis learned the corn grinder was in the basement of an old hardware store in Kenton. A store that was slated to be demolished.

He bought the grinder, then had just three days to get it out of the basement.

It was a task.

The thing’s not small, or light.

However, Dennis did get it out. And what’s more, in the next year he took the whole thing apart, then restored it so it was like new.

The intent of the six-horsepower machine is to grind corn for animal feed. However these days, Dennis uses it more as an exhibit at tractor shows, and such, like it was recently on display at the Maple Crest 10th Annual Farm & Tractor Show at the Bluffton Fall Festival.

Farming is in Cooney’s blood. And with good reason.

He’s a fifth-generation farmer.

The farm he’s on was established by his great, great grandfather in 1820.

I asked where the farm is.

He responded: “Do you know where the old (now closed) Roadside Rest Area was just outside Ada on Rt. 309?”

I said I didn’t.

He said most people would.

I said: “Okay.”

Dennis, now 72, grew up on the farm. Then he enlisted in the Marines and saw fighting during a tour of duty in Vietnam in 1970.

When he got out of the Service, Dennis came back to Ada. His father was in his mid-50s by then, and was tremendously heartened to hear his son wanted to carry on the family heritage of farming.

Dennis said he started doing a lot of the “heavy work” on the farm. A farm that is 640 acres.

“We’ve never been rich,” he said. “But we have never lacked for anything.”

In addition, Dennis said he and his wife Laurene have put their two daughters through the Education and Pharmacy programs at ONU, respectively.

While farming has been a good life for him, Dennis said he’s concerned about the state of farming these days in America in general.

The complexion is changing.

More and more family farms are being swallowed up by corporate farms, and the like, pushing more and more family farmers off the land.

The small family farm was, indeed, the backbone of America, Dennis added. But that seems in jeopardy.