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Maynard Surber: An agricultural innovator 

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Steve Roush

By Steve Roush
HCP columnist

NOTE: This is Part 4 and final installment of a series leading up to the Highland County Historical Society inducting the 2023 class of its Hall of Fame. This week, we profile the late Maynard Surber.  
Ladies and gentlemen, when it comes to farming, Maynard Surber was an innovator, and his family members were pioneers of agriculture in Highland County. 
He was born April 4, 1920 in Highland County’s Whiteoak Township, and was actively engaged in dairy, livestock and crop farming with his brother, Cedric, for more than 70 years, beginning in 1936. The family farm was first established in 1802 and is one of the 15 oldest active farms in Ohio today. 
Mr. Surber graduated from Mowrystown High School in 1936, the Ohio State University Short Course in 1936-37, and was in the U.S. Army’s Officer’s Candidate School at Ft. Riley, Kansas in 1943. 
He was a Veteran of World War II, serving from 1943-45 as a Battalion Commander, was drafted in 1943 and commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Cavalry, and ultimately attained the rank of Lt. Colonel. 
He was also a founding participant to create the Highland County Fair and was a founding board member in 1946. He also served as a member of the Bright Local Board of Education for two terms and was an active member of many local civic and church organizations. A member of the Union Church of Christ, Mr. Surber was an Elder, Sunday School teacher and chorister for more than 50 years. 
He was also a soloist and song leader at civic and school meetings, fundraisers and funerals throughout Highland County.  
After World War II, Mr. Surber became an innovator and early adapter of new technologies in crop and livestock production. His projects and techniques appeared in many farm publications through the years. 
He was one of the first farmers to implement no-till crop farming in the early 1960s, which is now a standard in Ohio, and cage laying hens. He was ahead of the curve of “value-added” crops, and introduced canola and speltz into crop rotations. A leader in registered Ayrshire dairy cattle, the farm produced a National Grand Champion, and proved and sold two bulls to the national companies for artificial insemination. 
He helped to create “farm to fork” enterprises a good half-century before they became popular. He operated an apiary for pollination and honey products to local consumers as well as raising turkeys, and processing and distributing them throughout Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio. 
As a founder of the Highland County Fair, he was one of the primary workers in reclaiming the grounds from wilderness and helping to construct the livestock buildings.  
He was united in marriage to the late America Isabelle Donohoo on Sept. 17, 1943. Maynard and Isabelle were married for more than 57 years and were the parents of two sons, James (Carla) and John (Connie). Mr. Surber passed away at the home of his birth on July 26, 2012 at the age of 92.  
In addition to Maynard Roberts Surber, the 2023 Highland County Historical Society Hall of Fame inductees are Admiral John Jennings Ballentine, Albert “Uncle Al” Lewis and Wanda Lou “Captain Windy” Lewis and Ted and Eileen Salter.

The recipients will be honored at an induction ceremony Sunday, Aug. 20 at 2 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church in Hillsboro, followed by a reception at Highland House directly across the street from the church. The public is cordially invited.

For more information on the Highland County Historical Society, please call (937) 393-3392 or email the society at

Steve Roush is chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a board member of the Highland District Hospital Foundation, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

Pictured is Mr. Maynard Surber 


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