Seneca County’s 200-year history is grounded in agriculture

By Sheri Trusty, Seneca County Media Relations Coordinator

Chad Gillmor, right, walks along with his crew as they plant banana peppers. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

Since its founding in 1824, Seneca County has been grounded – literally – in agriculture. Early settlers cleared the forests and quickly shrouded the newly bared land with crops. While much has changed in the last two centuries, one thing has remained the same. Seneca County, which celebrates its bicentennial this year, is still blanketed with the cultivated land of hardworking farmers who, despite technological advances, must sometimes tend the land with their bare hands.


Seneca County Commissioner Bill Frankart is one of the thousands of farmers who have worked the land in the county’s 200-year history. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

today’s local farmers is the Frankart/Gillmor family, who has a long tradition of farming in Seneca County. Seneca County Commissioner Bill Frankart is a lifelong grain farmer who grows corn and soybeans on the family farm, Ridgeview Farms, that his father, Michael Frankart, started before him. Bill was always a willing helper at his father’s side, and those early years inspired him to partner with his father in 1992.

Craig Gillmor, driving the tractor, and his crew plant banana peppers through a labor-intensive process. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“I’ve had a passion for sitting in the combine since I was a little kid with my dad,” Bill said.

Bill ran the farm since his father’s death in 1995, but when he was elected commissioner in 2023, he chose to partner with his cousins to ensure he had time to take care of the farm and the county’s needs. Gillmor Farms owners, Craig Gillmor and Chad Gillmor, along with Craig’s son, Griffin Gillmor, joined with Bill to ensure the fields would remain productive.

Gillmor Farms was started by Bill’s maternal grandfather, Earnest “Bill” Gillmor, and continued by his son, the late Rod Gillmor, who was Craig and Chad’s father. Griffin now farms alongside his father and uncle. Like Bill, Griffin was inspired to farm by the generations before him.

Craig Gillmor stretches across a planter to make repairs. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“I’ve just seen what my great-grandfather started, what my grandfather continued, and what my dad continued,” Griffin said. “It’s a generational thing. You see the hard work that goes into it, and you feel an obligation to continue what your family built, and you hope to give it to the next generation.”

Griffin’s desire to work the land grew along with the crops on his grandfather’s farm. As a child, Griffin was inseparable from his grandfather, Rod.

Crew chief Gacindo Galindo, left, and his crew planted 50,000 banana peppers. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“My mom called me and my grandfather the dynamic duo. Wherever he went, I went,” Griffin said.

Griffin continued to farm in his grandfather’s shadow until Rod’s death in 2021.

“Everything I know, I learned from him,” Griffin said. “I still want to go ask him questions. It’s definitely something I think about out in the fields.”

Technology, Griffin said, has greatly changed the face of farming.

A farmer’s work is never done. Here, Chad Gillmor repairs a planter in the field. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“Farmers used to set big arms that swing around at the end of rows to let them know where to plant. Now we have GPS and don’t have to steer,” Griffin said. “Now we use technology to track data and make recommendations for the farm.”

Earnest “Bill” Frankart, center, is shown in an old newspaper clipping. Ernest is the grandfather of Seneca County Commissioner Bill Frankart and his cousins, Craig and Chad Gillmor. (Submitted photo) 

Nevertheless, planting still requires the farmers to get their hands dirty. On a recent spring day, Craig, Chad and their work crew planted banana peppers under a looming gray sky. The farm workers sat on a planter pulled by a tractor and loaded pepper plants that were dropped into the ground. A few workers walked along behind, tucking dirt around the plants and replanting stragglers. It was a time and labor-intensive process. In the end, they planted 50,000 plants with their own hands.

The Frankart and Gillmor men are carrying on a family tradition and have willingly stepped into the ever-flowing timeline of county farmers. The crops they plant aren’t just rooted in the soil. They are also rooted in the 200-year history of agriculture in Seneca County.

The Seneca County Commissioners honor the long, colorful history of Seneca County, which celebrates its 200th birthday in 2024.