Would you be surprised to know that Westfield used to own and operate a dairy farm? It makes sense that dairy farms would be a target class of business for an insurance company’s farm and agribusiness department, but most of those associated with Westfield Insurance don’t know that we used to own one!
Westfield Insurance (formerly Ohio Farmers Insurance Company or OFIC) was founded in 1848 by farmers, for farmers after a local resident was victim to a total fire loss. The resident’s insurance policy did not respond as it was written through a fraudulent company. This devastating loss spurred an entrepreneurial spirit amongst the townsfolk and OFIC was founded a few months later.
In 1920, with 72 years of insurance experience under their belt, OFIC purchased 51 acres that adjoined their home office in Westfield Center, OH. The property was owned by the Benham Family and boasted a very well managed and modern dairy farm. Upon the acquisition, the name of the farm became “Ohio Farm” and OFIC ran the operation until 1936.
All milk produced on the farm was either used for fluid milk or was processed into butter for guests of the Westfield Inn. Not only was the farm looked upon favorably for its milk production, but also for the deep pedigrees of its registered Jersey herd. As a matter of fact, during the early ‘20s, one of their Jersey bulls by the name of “Sybil’s Gamboge” sold for $65,000 to a “foreign interest”! In 1923, The Ohio Farm hit the dairy show circuit by attending five Northern Ohio county fairs. While exhibiting during these shows, the herd brought home some hardware, including eight Grand Champion awards, six Sweep Stakes, thirty-four First prizes, thirteen Seconds, and three Thirds, totaling sixty-four prizes. Our developed expertise in this segment allowed us to provide management advice to dairy farmers who were insured through the parent company.
In 1936, the Company’s Board of Directors, recognized the need for an on-site recreational facility and decided to seed the cattle pasture in a manner suitable for a golf course, and thus the Westfield Country Club was born. The first clubhouse evolved after extensive renovations to the existing dairy barn. This building still stands today and is best known as the Blair Center. When observing the roofline from a distance, it is still possible to recognize the general shape of the barn.
Today our association with agriculture is somewhat different. In 2000, Westfield Group acquired Old Guard Insurance Company, located in Lancaster, PA. Founded in 1896, Old Guard appointed 20 Lancaster-area agents and began writing assessable policies, choosing to write only in Lancaster County to ensure prompt claims payment. By 1915, Old Guard’s number one type of property based on total limit of insurance was farm buildings and contents, followed by dwellings and then tobacco sheds and tobacco. In 1981, a dedicated farm department was formed and Old Guard began to focus heavily on this type of business. In fact, they ranked first in PA and DE amongst farmowner writers at the time of the purchase. The acquisition allowed Westfield to greatly increase our market share, expand our appetite and most importantly, bring on board a new staff of underwriters and agents that had expertise in serving the agricultural sector.
Today, Instead of running our own dairy, we’re supporting them and many other types of farms and agribusinesses that are one step removed from the farm (i.e. meat processors, wineries and feed mills). We have had success in this market and are continually finding ways to better serve our independent agents and their clients. In 2007, our AgriBusiness Division surpassed $100M in written premium and in the past, we’ve ranked as high as tenth countrywide amongst farmowner carriers and more specifically, we’ve been first in DE and PA, second in OH and in the top ten for IL, IN, KY, MI, TN, and WV.