The roots of the Switzerland of Ohio Polled Hereford Association began with a small group of breeders exhibiting their animals at the 1959 Monroe County Fair. This group included Emory Carle, Lawrence Spangler, Harry Ullman, and Ralph Ullman, among others. Their desire was to establish a local association similar to the Tuscarawas Valley Polled Hereford Association, which at the time held an annual sale in Dover, Ohio.
The Monroe County breeders met with Don Pollock, the county extension agent, and it was determined that there were not enough polled hereford breeders in the county to successfully establish and maintain such an organization at that time. By 1960 an all breeds organization, the Blocky Beef Boosters Club, had been established. The organization functioned for about 10 years, contributing greatly to the beef industry in Monroe County.
Through the decade of the 1960s, the dream of that small group of polled hereford breeders remained alive and well. In 1972, with the help of Monroe County extension agent Don Pollock that small group of breeders, along with other breeders from surrounding counties, established the Switzerland of Ohio Polled Hereford Association. The association’s roots are in Monroe County, which is known as the “Little Switzerland of Ohio,” hence the name. It was the sixth of seven such local associations established in Ohio.
During the first year, membership record showed 46 paid members including breeders from Monroe, Belmont, Guernsey, Noble, Washington counties in Ohio, plus Ohio, and Marshall, Wetzel, Tyler counties in West Virginia.
The first SOPHA sale held at the Monroe County Fairgrounds on November 4, 1972 had 39 lots, averaging $457.12. The first three sales were each held in the month of November. It was difficult in the early years to get enough consignments. In 1975, a sale was not feasible due to this issue. In 1976, the association joined forces with the Eastern Ohio Polled Hereford Association to host a joint sale at Dover, Ohio, as neither association could get enough consignments on its own. (The Eastern Ohio PHA had been established to replace the former Tuscarawas Valley Polled Hereford Association.) In 1977 and 1978, the sales were held in Woodsfield. Over the next three years no sales were held due to lack of consignments. In 1982, the SOPHA moved the sale to the Guernsey County Fairgrounds at Old Washington, Ohio, after the Eastern Ohio PHA discontinued its sale. The SOPHA has continued to hold its sale at this location annually.
With the end of the Dover area sale in 1988, the SOPHA changed the sale date to the second Friday evening in May. In the ensuing years, the sale has grown, setting records for prices, consignments and attendance.
Over the years, the SOPHA has been very active in promoting the polled hereford breed. In addition to the annual sale, other activities have included field days, tours, educational meetings, junior shows, district shows, the scholarship program, and annual meeting and banquet.
Changes over the years have included opening membership to anyone interested in polled Herefords. The counties from which board members are now chosen include Muskingum, Morgan, counties in Ohio, Ohio and Pleasants, Wood counties in West Virginia.
The success of the association is a tribute to the hard work, dedication and sacrifice of all those who gave their time and talents to make the dreams of a few breeders a reality.