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Farming Without Chemicals in Ohio
A Case Study Report

Author: Keith Dix
Innovative Farmers of Ohio
in cooperation with the Citizens Policy Center

Farm & Family Profiles

Geoff Mavis
Geoff and his wife, Sharon, manage 913 acres in Fayette County in south central Ohio. The farm has been in Geoff's family since 1840. Sharon works part-time off the farm and helps with farming chores when needed. The Mavises have two children, both in college. The farm has 136 acres that were certified organic in 1995 and another 100 acres in transition to organic. Forty acres have been set aside in the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) as a wildlife habitat. They have constructed a wetland of five acres and have planted 6,000 trees on the farm for conservation purposes. During the 2000 growing season, Geoff will farm the organic and transitional acres himself and lease the remaining acres to another farmer who will farm it conventionally. Geoff hopes to transition more of their farm to organic in the future, but is unable at this time to find the labor needed to do so.

Jeff Dean
Jeff is a 35 year old, full-time farmer with 1,000 acres in production in Sandusky County, north central Ohio. His wife, Theresa, works part-time off the farm and the couple share in the care of their two small children. Jeff grew up on the farm that his father and older brother operated before he took over in the mid 1980's. At that time, Jeff farmed with conventional chemical inputs in a corn and soybean rotation, but he did so, admittedly, with limited success. It was during the 1988 drought that he decided to look for a different farming system. He experimented with eliminating herbicides as he moved to an organic system. His first acreage was certified organic in 1995. During 2000, he will have a total of 520 acres in certified production with additional acreage in transition. He works with a four-year rotation that includes corn, soybeans, oats, spelt and clover. Sixty acres of his farm are in permanent pasture on which he grazes 83 beef cows with their calves.

Byron Kaufman
Byron has retired from a university faculty position and now operates an 83-acre farm in Logan County in central Ohio. The farm has 63 tillable acres that his father had farmed since purchasing it in 1943. From the mid-60's to the mid-80's the farm was leased to a neighbor who was a chemical-intensive farmer. Bryon and his wife, Barbara, and their three sons returned to the farm in the late 1980s, at which time he began an organic program with a three-year stand of alfalfa to make the transition possible. His fields were first certified in 1991 and today he grows soybeans, spelt and popcorn.

Nelson and Lynn Wenger  
This Wayne County father-and-son team farm a total of 300 acres in three different tracts. They have a four-year rotation that includes corn, soybeans, spelt and hay. Until 1997, the Wengers had milked 60 Holsteins, but in that year they sold the herd, rented the dairy facilities and concentrated on crop production. The farmer who now runs the dairy buys their hay and provides them with manure. Lynn has a shop on the farm in which he supplements his family income by repairing cars and tractors on a half-time basis during the summer and full-time in the winter. He farms 50 acres on his own and farms another 100 acres with his father, Nelson. The 100-acre tract is located about seven miles from the home place. The Wengers have been certified organic growers for five years.

Steve Berlekamp
Steve, a fourth generation farmer, has been farming with his father since 1972. They farm 1,050 acres in Seneca County. The Berlekamps own 500 acres and lease the remaining acres on a 50-50, share-cropping basis. Steve's wife works full time off the farm. The couple have three grown children. In the years before they began to concentrate their efforts on grains and beans, the father-and-son team grew processing tomatoes, sugar beets, and other vegetable crops. They now grow soybeans and spelt and/or wheat with rye as a winter cover crop. The farm was first certified organic in 1997.

Ron Gruskiewicz
Ron grew up in the Ashtabula County where he now lives with his wife, Debra, and their two children. The farm that he grew up on is still being operated by his father, a conventional farmer. With the exception of four years at college, Ron has farmed&emdash;at least part-time&emdash; all his life. At present he has a 220-acre farm on a lease/land contract basis. He grows soybeans and spelt with red clover as a nitrogen source and soil builder. Rye is used as a winter cover crop. In the past he had manure from a 100-head beef herd, but he sold the herd and no longer has any livestock. When Ron first leased the farm that he now operates, the owner insisted that he grow his crops without the use of chemicals so he began an organic rotation. (This farm had been farmed chemical-free by Neil Pashley since 1968.) Ron's leased fields were first certified in 1990. In addition to his farm work, Ron owns and operates a part-time trucking business.

Dean McIlvaine
Dean owns and operates a 1,200 acre farm in Wayne County, 700 acres of which are in tillable cropland. The remainder of the farm is in woods or Conservation Reserve Program set-aside. Dean began farming this property in the early 1980s after several years of experience with conventional farming at a different location in the county. He uses a soybean and spelt rotation with red clover as a cover crop and green manure crop. Acreage on the farm was first certified in 1988. Dean also has on-farm storage, and cleaning and handling facilities that are used in his brokering and trucking business. Over the years he has provided an important service by linking organic growers with buyers of organic grains and soybeans.