Other boys his age wanted to go camping. But 7-year-old Frank Burkett III begged his mom to take him to his grandparents’ farm.
“I always loved the land and the animals,” said Burkett, who grew up in Tuscarawas Township about 15 minutes away from the Jackson Township farm. “It’s a dairy farm, and I’ve always loved the work, just the physical nature of work, even as a kid. … If I could get a ride to the farm, I was there.”
You can still find the 1994 Tuslaw High School graduate at the farm. Burkett, who earned a degree in agricultural systems management from the Ohio State University in 1997, now lives on the family farmstead and co-owns and manages Clardale Farms with his three uncles, Bruce, Dennis and Tim.
Clardale Farms, named after Burkett’s grandparents Clara and Dale Rohr, has grown five times larger in the past 24 years. What once was a 140-dairy-cow operation now boasts nearly 700 Holstein cows, produces 6,000 gallons of milk every 24 hours, raises 800 replacement heifers and cultivates more than 900 acres for feed production. The farm also now employs 12 full-time workers with a mix of family and nonfamily employees.
Besides the farm, Burkett also co-owns Hills Supply, a dairy equipment and supplies provider with nearly 40 employees in Canal Fulton, Circleville, St. Marys, Williamsfield and Van Wert. He acquired the company with business partner Mick Heiby in November 2018 after the family of owner David Hill approached them about buying the company that opened in 1979. Hill, who died in December 2016, had been one of Burkett’s best friends.
Burkett also is beginning his second term as president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, which is the highest elected office in the state’s largest farm and food organization.
Burkett, a longtime member of the Stark County Farm Bureau and past board member for the Ohio Dairy Producers Association, joined the state federation’s Board of Trustees in 2007 to represent members from Columbiana, Mahoning, Portage and Stark counties. He became the board’s treasurer in 2011 and first vice president in 2014. April will mark his fifth year as president.
Burkett jokes how he initially rebuffed requests to join the state board. He told them he was too busy. Even when he agreed to join the board, he told them he did not want a leadership position.
“As much resistance as I gave in 2007, I quickly learned this is an organization you can’t out give. It comes back to you five-fold,” Burkett said. “… It’s an organization with incredible people.”
This year, Burkett, who lost his wife, Christie, to brain cancer in 2010, is celebrating a new role in his life: husband and dad.
On June 14, he married Amber Eames in a small backyard ceremony at a friend’s house on Lake Cable.
Amber and her two children, Ellie, 8, and Kaden, 6, have moved from Vandalia, Ohio, to Burkett’s Jackson Township farmstead. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Burkett’s busy travel schedule has been stalled, which he said has allowed the new family to settle in.
“It’s been an incredible, amazing fun change,” he said.
Burkett’s Local Favorites:
Most interesting place: MAPS Air Museum. “Going up there is more than going to a museum and looking at restored planes. You’re experiencing it through some of the stories that the veterans are sharing. I think it’s a really neat place.”
Most unique or unusual product made in Stark County: Mid’s True Sicilian Pasta Sauce. “We love it that it’s made here. We’re glad that they’re successful, and they have a great product.”
Favorite local restaurant: Sylvester’s North End Grille. “As soon as I take someone there, they usually find their way back.” His favorite is the pork chops. Burkett also named Kozmo’s Grille and Bender’s Tavern among his favorite restaurants.
Favorite flower shop: Coach House Floral. “I’ve been going there for 25 years, sometimes to be a good husband or boyfriend and other times to get out of trouble. I remember several times throughout the years, whether it was my grandma, my wife or my mom, they would say about how (the flowers) last so long. … They’ve always come through when I’ve called at the last minute.”
Favorite ice cream place: Oser’s Dairy & Deli. “I love their milkshakes, their self-serve, and they have a unique assortment of hard dip ice creams as well. … I was indoctrinated as a kid. I remember a lot of times at the farm getting done with a hard day’s work and we all would literally pile in the back of the pickup truck, 10 of us maybe, and we would go down to Oser’s and get ice cream. Some would get cones, and some would get quarts.”
Most memorable spot: Lake Cable where Burkett married Amber on June 14, 2020.
Favorite pizza place: Prato’s Pizza. “It has great chicken, pizza and jojos. The people you’re dealing with are the owners, and they are really nice, fun people.”
Favorite lunch spot: TJ Dillon’s Pub in Massillon. “I’m probably there a couple times a week. They really have good food. … I’ve never had a bad meal down there.”
Favorite local volunteer opportunity: Jackson Township Haunted Hayride. Burkett has been driving the tractor that pulls the hay wagons at the event for the past 20 years. He also has helped provide the cornstalks, hay wagons and tractors.
“I love those type of events because you get to see families out, and it’s great to see that interaction,” he said.
He also volunteers at RiverTree Church.