UNION CITY, Ohio, Ind.–Herb Nieport was named Farmer of the Year at the recent 2023 Stateline Heritage Days here.
It was a surprise to him as son, Scott, was asked to get him to the event. So, Herb was told by Scott that he got invited to a luncheon and asked the patriarch of the family to go along.
Unbeknownst to him, Herb was going to be receiving this special award that is handed out annually.
Running his operation with sons Scott and Matt, Herb received the honors and was handed his award by John Fraze, a seed consultant representative who traditionally gives away that award each year.
Has Herb ever been given any other honors in his life?
“I got second place in Ohio for Young Farmers in the early 1970s,” he said.
In the parade on Saturday of the festival, Herb, a 1961 graduate of St. Henry High School, drove his new Clauss combine with his wife Ginny in the passenger seat. One of the granddaughters rode along, and a grandson got on board along the way.
“The farmers and machinery were behind me in the parade,” he said.
Agriculture has always been in his blood. He was in the hog business with his father on a 15-acre farm.
“When I got out of high school, I had 40 litters of hogs,” he said. “Dad had bought the first heated electric farrowing house in Mercer County. I bought my farm in 1965. I now have 3,200 acres on seven farms in Ohio and Indiana. When I started out, my goal was to farm on land I owned.”
He and his wife Ginny were married in 1960 in St. Henry. They now live in a condo on the Indiana side of Union City, but most of their lives lived on their farm in the rural Ansonia area on State Route 49. Scott and his family, wife (the former Sophie Hurley) and son, moved there three years ago.
“I bought that farm from (the late) Herald Baird,” Herb said. “I had good bankers in Ansonia, Wayne Maloon, and Cocky Lorton. For some reason, they came to me and asked me to purchase five farms.”
Nieport, who worked at New Idea in Coldwater for three years at one point in time when extra money was needed to supplement the family income, said when hogs went to 32 cents, he had enough money to pay the downpayment on the farm.
“I raised 1,000 heads of hogs for two years,” he said.
Subsequently, he went to just raising corn and soybeans, and, in 1993, his operation went to no-till.
“At first, it was an ugly farm then, over the years, built up to good yields and better chemicals and seed to work with no-till,” he said.
As noted, this is a family operation.
Son Scott is the fixer-upper.
“He fixes everything we break,” Herb said.”He’s my corn planter man and said he likes his life.”
Son Matt went to college for agri finance and takes care of the marketing, the manure hauling, and sells seed corn for Beck’s. He also does the soybeans and spraying.
“My Dad bought acreage in the Darke County area in 1965, then sold it to Scott, who rented out the acreage,” Herb noted. “Dad (Joe Nieport) made a decent living and farmed until 1994.”
Herb’s farms are mostly south of Union City near State Route 502.
“I bought one farm and never told my wife,” he said. “Ginny has always been supportive.”
Ginny, the former Virginia Koesters who came from a family of 13 from Carthagena, retired from teaching 11 years ago and is now semi-retired.
“He proposed to me before I went to college,” she recalled. “It’s been a good life.”
In addition to the two sons, there are three daughters. Marcia Dakin, Shelly Hartings, and Tammy Nieport. There are also 17 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and one on the way.
Shelly and her husband have farms in Cranberry in Mercer County.
He admits farming has been rough at times, but he persevered.
“Some farmers cashed out, but I didn’t buckle because I don’t believe in bankruptcy,” remarked Herb.
At another point in time, Herb joined the National Guard “because I couldn’t farm and get drafted.” He went with a unit in Piqua.
“They got all of our guns, but we were never called to Vietnam,” Herb said.
However, his unit was called out on riots, one of which was in Columbus.
“We learned a lot,” he stated.
He was a member of the National Guard for six years, serving six months of active duty in Kentucky, and then went to Oklahoma for his AST in artillery.
He had been on the Soil and Water Conservation Board, on the Ansonia School Board for two terms, a 4th Degree Knights of Columbus, on the Darke County Landmark Board, and a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
He and his sons were FFA members, having received the American Farmer and State degrees.
“I was the oldest of nine children,” Herb said. “Seven of us were boys. My younger brother took over Dad’s business, and he died at age 55.”
He attributes his success in farming to the no-till part of it.
“We still take agricultural classes to keep up with technology,” the honored farmer said. “We have a good relationship with our bank. We take our business seriously, put in a lot of hours, and we work hard and play hard”
Herb is proud to be working with his sons and is even trying to get the grandchildren involved.
“All of our kids have good work ethics,” Herb said.
Marcia, who used to work for a road crew, is now the owner of a dog-breeding business called C Creek Frenchies. Shelly home-schools her children and is a physical therapist, while Tammy is a traveling occupational therapist working out of Rest Haven Nursing Home.
What do the Nieports do in their downtime?
“We go to Florida for three months,” Herb said. “In the spring, we are in the shop getting ready.”
He said he purchased his first combine for $26,000 and bought the Clauss he drove through the parade for 17 times that amount.
“We go to classes to learn the technology part of it. New planters are now all that way.”