Copied from the Mansfield Centennial Times (Aug. 27, 1970)
by Mansfield Express
W. H. Firke, farmer-banker, has done much In putting Mansfield on the map since establishing his goose farm on the outskirts of the village, as it bas been advertised throughout the United Stat~. and deserves all the advertising il bas received, as it is a unique sight lo see 10 000 squawking birds collected in the’ small area in which this large bunch of fowls is enclosed.
The idea or feeding geese for the market is not original with Mr. Firke. but originated in the brain of Lysander Clouser of this place, who surmised there was large profits in feeding geese and suggested to Mr. Firke to try a carload. The suggestion looked good and Clouser went to Kentucky and Tennessee and bought a car which was shipped to he Firke farm and red. The returns were very encouraging so they tried it again the ne~t season with favorable returns. After the second year each has transacted business separately. Clouser feeding one car each season while Firke went into the business on a larger scale.
Much of the success of this widely known goose farm is due to his son. Ralph, who does all the buying,shipping and selling. He bought his first load in the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee when but 17 years of age. When the fowls were (at be sold them in the New York Commission market, being the youngest shipper ever tn ~he big eastern mar-ket with a car of geese.
The geese are bought from the farmers and small dealers and many times driven as far as fifty miles. In order that they make the long journey over rough and stony roads, they are shod by a method that is original with people in the south, living many miles from railroads. The geese are put in an enclosure and let out one at a time walking through thin tar which sticks to their feet and then pass through fine sand, making a complete covering for their feet, and enabling them to travel for many miles without causing soreness to their feet. These geese are usually thin in flesh when they arrive at the big farm and are fattened and ready for market in seventeen to thirty days weighing about 12 pounds each and sold in the New York market for about 17 cents a pound.
This farm is well equipped for handling this large flock of geese, as Mr. Firke has an abundance of shed room for them. He has what he calls his “goose barn” 64 x 90 feet with large sheds on either side equipped with self-feeders of his own idea filled with shelled corn, which takes about 120 bushels per day for the number on the farm at this time. The water fountains are kept filled with fresh water from a complete water system of water works for his buildings which is furnished from an elevated tank which is filled with an electric motor so the geese are not much disturbed by feeding and watering. Several other sheds are used to house the geese when first received before they are placed in the real goose barn. But very few are lost from the time they are bought until sold, as geese are very hardy and more free from disease than other fowls and required but very little attention.
Near the goose barn is a large sign which reads “Inquire at the house, a guide will show you around,” and any member of the family takes great pleasure in showing many visitors through the different buildings.
It is necessary on this farm to maintain a “goose hospital” for many of them are cramped and crippled on arrival at the farm and are taken at once to the hospital where they are taken care of. That it is necessary to have a “goose jail,” for some of these geese are very abusive and these are placed by themselves and the jail is usually well filled with offenders.
When the goose season is over the sheds are converted into stock barns, as the “Goose King” is a heavy feeder of cattle and sheep at wll as a buyer and shipper of horses, and is one of the best known stockmen that visit the Chicago stock yards. His barns have concrete foundations and floors and are lighted by electric lights and supplied with a complete water system, and the feed lots are concreted there being more than 25,000 square feet of concrete on teh farm. From the top of the flagstaff on the horse barn floats the Stars and Stripes, also two large lights on this flag staff illuminate the farm by night has been a community enterprise in which there have been no cliques and no personal axes to grind, and in which an hove had in mind the one unselfish purpose of the township.