Unlike the majority of Coshocton County farmers who specialize in growing grains or raising livestock, Dennis Fender has a very unique agricultural business: a fish hatchery. Fender’s Fish Hatchery has been raising fish for pond and stream stocking for over half a century. Started by Dennis and his wife in 1956, the business now employs three generations, raising fish on over 200 acres of water. The family also started one of the earliest llama herds in the state, and they continue raising sheep as they have for generations.
When we asked Dennis to show us his favorite spots on his farm, he took us to several sites where the family has built ponds over the years. They pride themselves on taking farmland that was relatively unproductive or even perceived to be lacking in water resources, and building a series of successful ponds. When we first set out, we passed the log cabin where Dennis was born. As we traveled to the different sites, Dennis told story after story of his ancestors, who were some of the very first white settlers in the valley, and it became clear that the history of the landscape there is deeply intertwined with the history of his family.
He told us the stories of his father digging a gas pipeline by hand at age 16, and of building his ponds with the help of a man who was one of the first to do reclamation work from strip mining operations nearby. With water needs increasing for gas drilling in the coming years, the water resources of farms like his are in demand, and in some cases water can be piped to drilling sites from farm ponds, decreasing the need for truck traffic on the country roads.
Hear Dennis talk about some of the pond sites and his family history here: