In the 1940’s Jim’s folks farmed part-time along with a construction trade in Licking County. Jim farmed with his father Don until 1980 when Don retired. Keeping Don’s legacy intact and honoring the time they farmed together is one of the reasons the front barn at Johnstown’s home farm still has “Don Heimerl and Son” on it. In 1975 Jim and Kathy were married after Jim attended Wilmington College and Kathy graduated from The Ohio State University. By 1980 Jim and Kathy farmed 300 acres of cropland and 200 head of cattle.
In the early nineties hogs were introduced into the operation through a leased facility in Fairfield County – which was a 225 head farrow-to-finish operation. A finishing barn at the home farm location was built for 1200 head of finishing hogs and 1200 head of nursery pigs. This barn was used for just over 20 years to care for pigs. (A fun fact about this original hog barn is that in 2019 it was converted to house LENA Cattle Co., a cow calf operation started by Matt Heimerl and his family.) Grain farming continued and expanded over the years.
In 1996, Heimerl Farms Ltd. purchased its first sow facility in Pleasantville, Ohio. This facility was only a 350 head sow farm. Jim and Kathy made the decision to expand the farm in 1999 to make it a 600 head sow barn and the ability to house 3600 head of nursery pigs. In the later part of the nineties the farming operation started to add contract finishing barns in central Ohio. Some of those founding family farms are still partners with Heimerl Farms and still raise hogs.
At the turn of the century Heimerl Farms Ltd. entered a joint venture by building the Eagle Creek sow farm which was built in Brown County, Ohio. This 2400 head sow farm was a vital part of Heimerl Farms Ltd., taking roots in the hog industry. Heimerl Farms Ltd. later sold its interest in the Eagle Creek sow farm. During the 2000’s the nursery at Pleasantville was converted to farrowing, the facility was remodeled, and a gestation barn added. In 2004 the Mad River Swine sow farm was built in Highland County, Ohio. The Heimerl Family was in the hog business to stay!
Since then, more sow contracts and wean pig contracts have been added over the years. Nico Straathof, owner of Holland Pyke Swine and Straathof Swine is an integral part of the operation with over 10,000 sows supplying pigs into the system. The partnership with the Mad River sow farm was sold, and in 2015 the need to raise more of their own livestock led to the building of another farm, Trinity Swine LLC, which was built in Williamsport, Ohio.
Contract finishing quickly became an essential part of the family farm with over 150 contract barns represented by family farms partnering to raise quality livestock. The contract system gives other families the opportunity to progress their family farm business.
Heimerl Farms was a founding investor in the Clemens Packing Plant in Coldwater, Michigan. Today, hogs are sent to Pennsylvania, Indiana and Kentucky. The Clemens plant in Michigan has allowed for sending 60% or more of the hogs to a facility that is much closer.
Heimerl Farms was founded on agriculture and will continue with future generations. In 2022, a portion of the home farm location on Mink Road was sold to make way for the largest Intel Corporation Plant in the World. Though quite unexpected, the family realized that their community was being drastically changed for the national shift in independence from foreign reliance in semi-conductor production. The Heimerl family will continue in agriculture, while producing high quality livestock as the number one priority.
Heimerl Farms Ltd is a whole lot more than hog production. Grain farming involves time spent in the springs and autumns, and two on-site feed mills work to send trucks across the state. Heimerl Farms INC consists of approximately 20 trucks and trailers that haul hog’s interstate and support the feed mills through feed delivery. The Heimerls also take pride in the 90 team members that are employed at Heimerl Farms.
Jim and Kathy have four children: Casey, Matt, Brad, and Jeff. All of their children were involved in 4-H and FFA growing up. Brad and Jeff graduated from Wilmington College. Brad is the Senior Manager of Pork Procurement at Bob Evans Farms, New Albany. Jeff works for Syngenta working closely with farmers implementing crop protection programs. Casey graduated from Baldwin-Wallace College and works as the Chief Risk Officer for Portfolio, working in the aftermarket insurance sector.
Jim spends time as a Hartford Fair Board Director and serves on Congressman Troy Balderson’s House of Representatives Ag Advisory Council. Jim is past President of the Ohio Pork Producers Council, and the National Pork Producers Council. He is an inductee of the Licking County Agricultural Hall of Fame. Currently, Jim is an executive committee member for the US Meat Export Federation. Jim is the CEO of the family business. Both Jim and Kathy enjoy time spent with their grandchildren and envision the next generation molding the future of the farm.
Matt graduated from The Ohio State University as did his wife Rachel. Matt and Rachel have 4 children of their own: Lauren, Emily, Nathan, and Avery. Matt and Rachel are raising their children with a firm foundation in agriculture and responsibility on the family farm. The children are already involved in 4-H and work daily in the barn with their parents.
Matt is the COO of the farm and is a member of the 21st Century Pork Operations Club and meets bi-annually addressing the issues that face our industry today. Matt spends most of his time on the farm business, and is heavily involved in its future, not only for his family but also for the farming partners of Heimerl’s. Matt and Rachel along with their children founded LENA Cattle Co., a small cow-calf operation where they have begun to raise their own 4-H and FFA projects. They currently have 40 females and have immersed themselves in processes such as artificial insemination, invitro fertilization, embryo transfers and conventional flushing within the herd.