Category Archives: Other

Improving Ohio’s Food System One Meal at a Time

By Foodtank,  Foodtank, 7/14/15

For more than 30 years, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) has used education, advocacy and grassroots organizing to promote local and organic food systems. In addition to their annual conference and workshops, OEFFA has an organic certification program, organizes farm tours and promotes sharing knowledge and investment in farmers.

Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Lauren Ketcham, Communications Coordinator at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?

Lauren Ketcham (LK): OEFFA presents the state’s largest sustainable agriculture conference, offers workshops and webinars for farmers, publishes a quarterly newsletter and online directory of sustainable farm and food businesses called the Good Earth Guide, provides organic certification services and technical assistance to growers and advocates for policies that protect and benefit sustainable agriculture.

FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of? Please explain.

LK: In 2014, we organized 15 free farm tours drawing more than 2000 people who were able to see, touch, and smell what sustainable food and farming is all about. Consumers were able to gain a better appreciation for how food travels from the field to their dinner table and farmers were able to learn valuable production and marketing tips from fellow growers with years of practical on-farm experience.

That same year, we organized more than 1,500 members and supporters to take action on the food and farming issues that they care about, including genetically engineered food, fracking, the Farm Bill, and more. These actions included calling legislators, signing petitions, meeting with elected officials, and more.

We also certified 831 operations, including vegetable and grain farms, family dairies, and processors, to the National Organic Program standards. One of the oldest and most respected programs in the nation, OEFFA’s Certification program ensures that organic crop and livestock producers meet the high standards established for organically grown food.

FT: What are your goals for 2015 and beyond?

LK: We will continue to build on past success and maintain our commitment to our existing programs, staying true to our founding mission. In 2015, we’ll be expanding our on-farm workshops and webinar offerings–including offering a robust series of events designed specifically for veterinarians and other livestock professionals working with organic livestock and poultry–working with Ohio State University to expand on-farm research opportunities that serve organic farmers, and more.

FT: In one sentence, what is the most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system?

LK: Support organic and sustainable family farmers by shopping at your local farmers’ market or farm stand or by becoming a member of a community supported agriculture program, and by contacting your legislators to tell them you support policies that protect your right to know and access safe, local food.

FT: How can individuals become more involved in your organization?

LK: Go to www.oeffa.org or visit us on social media. Individuals can become members of OEFFA and find out about all the exciting programs and services we’ll be offering in the year ahead.

Download the 2014 Good Food Org Guide HERE.

Submit your suggestions for the 2015 guide HERE.

Can’t curb her enthusiasm

By Gary Brock, News Democrat, 7/2/15

There is no way to curb the enthusiasm of Winchester farm woman Gayla Fritzhand.

Ask her a question about farming – any question – and you can hear the excitement in her voice, a passion in her words.

Gayla Fritzhand is a woman who loves what she does.

And what she does it own and operate the 126-acre JZN Goat Farm near Winchester. On her farm she raises meat and dairy goats and also does a thriving goat cheese business.

While she is passionate about many things, what she thinks is most important for a farmer today is for the farmer to “get involved. You need to be informed and to always network. And, you need to be more than just members of the farm organizations, you need to read the newsletters and reports they send you.”

She practices what she preaches.

She is a member of the Ohio Cheesemakers Guild, now in its second year and she is one of 16 women in Ohio who are licensed by the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture to make and sell cheese. She is also an active member of the Ohio AgriWomen organization. “When I went to their convention last November, it made me feel really good. It made me feel like … I can do this.”

She is active in the Ohio Ecological Farm and Food Association. “I have been a member of OEFFA from the beginning,” she said, and likes the organizations education programs and views on organic food.

She is active in the Adams County Chamber of Commerce as well as the Adams County Travel and Visitors Bureau. She said the local business people are “our colleagues. You can learn from them business practices.”

On her farm, as a supporter of agri-tourism, she conducts tours by appointment for “about six to eight people.” She has on her farm the third longest zipline in Ohio. She said it was prepared by the same person who set up the zipline in the Hocking Hills.

“If people call to make appointment, I will conduct free tours on the farm.” However, she said they may charge for the tours at some point in the future.

A walk on her farm

Fritzhand loves showing visitors her farm and the goats she loves to raise.

Walking through her rolling fields, Fritzhand talks about her dairy and meat goats and points out the goats by name. She knows all of them. “That’s Johnny Cash over there looking at me, there’s Princess, Bambi…Fancy…Clove… there is Latte…” she shouts out their names, and they begin running from a back field. She is proud of her goats, talking to them and describing the personalities of each.

She said her goats, she has about 18 dairy and 18 meat goats, were all born on her farm and are breed-quality stock. “I know all of them, and know their needs, I monitor them and make sure they have what they need.”

Fritzhand says she does not sell any of her goats’ milk, since the processing and labeling is too costly for the size of her farm.

Walking toward her farmhouse, she points out the nearby cheesehouse. “This was originally an old steel building at Armco in Middletown,” she said. “I asked the dairy inspector even before I started if I could fix it up and be able to meet the regulations to turn it into a cheese processing facility. He said yes, he thought I could if I worked hard enough and spent enough money to fix it up. So I did that.”

She said she met all the regulations after installing all the special lights, drains and metal sinks. She milks in the barn, then brings the goat’s milk down to the cheesehouse for straining and processing.

“My dairy inspector has been absolutely marvelous to work with. He cautioned me, saying, ‘Gayla, are you sure this is what you want to do?’ and I said yes, since moving back here I did the research and this is what I want to do,” she said.

“If it had not been for the good help of the ODA, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, I certainly could not have developed the business or the farm. My dairy inspector is one who only goes to cheese processing facilities,” she said.

“Now, the younger generation, they have decided they want to eat whole foods. They don’t want GMOs, they want everything to be natural and good. They have found us cheesemakers,” Fritzhand said. She said the Cheesemakers Guild is a way for the cheesemakers to network, talk to each other and get help when they need it and share ideas.

In a recent issue of Cleveland’s “Edible Ohio” magazine, she and her fellow women cheesemakers were featured in an article about women cheesemakers throughout the state.

She took courses in cheesemaking that were offered by the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture. “They hired an instructor from Vermont, very well known, to teach farmers to make cheese from their own milk on the farm.” She pointed out that the ODA regulations are strict and necessary. “It takes a lot of diligence and you must be conscientious in following the regulations,” she said.

Active and involved

“I have to say that during the last couple of years, it is obvious the state of Ohio is encouraging small farmers. You can feel it. Even though there are a lot of regulations, you can still feel that they want to help you. They don’t want to put you out of business.” She said that “it helps” that ODA Director Dave Daniels from Greenfield is from a rural community.

She said marketing is important for her small farm operation. “Ohio Proud is another group that has helped. I am a member, and on their website they market and support small farm businesses.”

Last fall, she traveled to Highland County to attend the Highland Farm Bureau’s first “Farm to Fork” dinner on a local farm. She said she really enjoyed that and wanted to learn about how other counties were progressing. “They were a little more sophisticated and progressive in Highland County,” she said.

She is active in the Adams County Farm Bureau, and says, “I like that Farm Bureau has these events on farms. It takes a farmer willing to open up and have visitors on the farm for the event. She said not all farmers feel comfortable doing this.

“I am a member of Adams County Farm Bureau and would be willing to have a farm to dinner event here. I thought I would volunteer to host, so come and visit,” she said.

A love of Adams County

Born and raised near Winchester, her mother Helen Shaw was a teacher and father Harold Shaw was a farmer and operated a local feed mill. She was one of eight siblings. “We were tobacco farmers then. That was our life and bloodline. But the tobacco industry, as you know, changed.”

Her father owned the Pillsbury Feed Mill. “It was pretty big and thriving. Most of my friends at school in Winchester, their families were dairy farmers back then. The dairy industry was very big back then and the farmers did well,” she said.

After high school in 1965, she attended the University of Cincinnati and received her degree in nursing. She spent a year in Colombia at a missionary as a nurse. She said this was where she was first exposed to goat cheese and goat milk. She then returned and received her Master’s Degree at Xavier University. She also taught nursing, and work in health services, including work for United Health Care.

But the draw of the farm continued to tug at her. “I said to my sons, I want to do what I really want to do. I told my sister that I am coming back to do what I love in a place that I love.”

She has owned her farm for the last 10 years. “My sons, Jeremy, Nicholas and Zachery, were very supportive. They said mom, get back to the country.” I had looked around about a year and half. I knew this region and drove around looking for farms. I told my sister, I think I will just start knocking on doors and telling them I am looking for a farm.”

She said she knew she couldn’t have machinery, tractors are expensive. “I knew I needed a place I could grow, and was warning about spending all of my capital on the farm and equipment” She needed a farm where she could grow alfalfa and support a herd of dairy goats. She grows about 40 acres of alfalfa today. “You have to be self-sufficient when you can’t afford to buy alfalfa when the price is so high.”

Making the cheese

One of her greatest pleasures is making cheese.

Inside her cheese production house, she describes step by step how the goat cheese is made. She starts with the goat’s milk, which she then strains. She then waits 24-48 hours with the milk kept at about 40 degrees. She then puts the stock pots of milk on burner until it reaches 78 degrees.

She then takes the pot off the burner and adds French cultures through a Canadian dairy. She then adds an animal rennet. After about 12 hours the curd and whey separates. She pours away the whey and places the curd in molds. After a number of other steps, the molds are left to age for at least 60 days, when they can be legally sold.

However, Fritzhand says most of her cheese is aged at least a year, when the flavor is at its best.

But once the cheese is made, she says the most important step is actually selling it, as well as her goat meat.

Excitedly, Fritzhand talked about the upcoming religious Ramadan holiday. “You need to get your meat goats ready to send to the producers, processors. She described ways of making the most out of knowing about these specialty markets and what consumers want – and when they want it. “You have to watch the market always if you are going to make it.’

By using her website, she can get to know her customers. She ships her cheese to customers or they can pick it up at her farm. “And get signature confirmation,” she advised.

Words of wisdom

As a woman who has operated her own successful farm for the last 10 years, what advice would she gives others just starting or considering starting to operate a farm, and what lessons has she learned over these years?

“You have to love what you are doing. You have to enjoy what you are doing. The joy and satisfaction you get from what you are doing can sometimes far outweigh the amount of income you get from that activity,” she said.

“If you really love the outdoors. If you really love animals, which I do – I love the barn, I love the animals. I like working in the business where science is an important part of it. Your animals have to be in good health – so you have to monitor them. You have to feed them well. Their housing as to be kept clean. If you enjoy all of those things, then it is not work,” she said.

On the other side of that, there is a very large amount of capital that goes into setting up something like this, she pointed out. “It is hard. You have to run it as a farm. It has to be self-sustaining. In other words, you have to grow your own alfalfa or you can’t do what I do here. You have to be able to know math, to do your own books. You must keep good records, the accounts and your investment records. You have to test the soil regularly. You need a good understanding of soil management. You have to know how to extract the samples, send them to a reliable laboratory and then be able to understand the data so if necessary you can fix the soil so you can grow what you want to grow.”

She said, “You may love the work, but remember that you are working to produce a product. You also have to find the market, and find that market before you start, at the beginning. You don’t want leftover product without being able to sell it or get it to market. You need to know who your consumers are.”

She is hard-working, but realizes that she needs to balance work with rest. “I make cheese seasonally rather than all year. That’s for my goats and for my health. The winters here are cold. It’s a good time for me to rest and re-evaluate, take care of myself, take care of the taxes and paperwork, find the market, spend time with the family. If I had more help and more hands, I could have a bigger herd and sell more.”

Is she happy with the decision she made 10 years ago to start her own farm?

“I love it. I love nature, and love what I do. Look at this view I have,” she said, gesturing to the west where the rolling hills of her farm seem to go on forever. “I love the vegetation… I can walk through the woods here and tell you names of most all of the plants. I just love all of this.”

Ones to watch: Young women in agriculture Thursday, April 23, 2015 by Farm and Dairy Staff

By the Farm and Dairy Staff, Farm and Dairy, 4/23/15

When we planned our eight-week series on women in agriculture, “You Go, Girl,” we knew we wanted to give a nod somehow to the millennials, the next generation of women ag leaders. So we asked you to nominate individuals to be recognized as “Ones to Watch” — and we’re in awe of the agricultural passion and work all the nominees exemplified. Thank you for sharing your nominees, and we look forward to watching these young women, and others, as they propel our great industry forward.

Channing Murphy, 23, Miami County, Ohio

Her passion for animals drove her to pursue an ag-related degree and career, and now Channing Murphy, of Miami County, has both of those things and more. Murphy, 23, earned a degree in veterinary technology — but it was at a part-time job working for Honey Hill Farm Mobile Petting Zoo and Pony Rides that she found her dream job. She climbed the ladder to become regional manager for Ohio, and also manages the petting zoo at the Cedar Point amusement park, in Sandusky. She maintains her farm roots by operating her own farm, which includes 10 sheep, 10 beef heifers, “and big plans for the future.” Cattle genetics and artificial insemination are of top interest, as well as animal nutrition and finding ways to improve the production and health of livestock. The best advice she ever received? “The moment when you want to quit is the moment when you need to keep pushing.”

Kelly Lewis, 24, Grandview Heights, Ohio

Growing up near Columbus, Kelly Lewis and her family always had a community garden plot, which she credits as fostering her personal connection with food and the environment. Now she’s working to create more opportunities for people to connect with their food, with a goal of helping to build a local, sustainable, agricultural economy in the Midwest. Armed with a bachelor of science in agriculture from Ohio State University, Kelly works as a program assistant at Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association where she helps farmers and food processors navigate the organic certification process. Her past experience includes an internship at Blue Rock Station Farm and lab assistant at Ohio Seed Improvement Association. She considers her biggest life achievement, and also her greatest adventure, the time she spent in Czech Republic studying rural sociology and agricultural economics. She was able to connect with farmers and students from across the globe.

Sarah Stocks, 31, Medina, Ohio

Although Sarah Stocks officially serves farmers as an independent dairy nutritionist with Barton, Keifer and Associates, she also often serves as adviser, arbitrator, management consultant and friend to those dairy family clients in Ohio and Michigan. The Massachusetts native and current resident of Medina, Ohio, is a graduate of Cornell, the University of Wisconsin, and Michigan State University, where she earned her Ph.D. in animal science/dairy nutrition. “The people in agriculture are passionate about what they do and how they do it,” she says, which is what drives her enthusiasm about serving the farm community. She is quick to engage with friends or relatives about what farmers do, sharing the positives — but also the difficult issues — of farming and dairy production. “We know why we do what we do, but being able to share that with the public has been difficult.” And she’s proud to claim that role, too.

Jess Campbell, Waynesville, Ohio

Jess Campbell, Farm Credit Mid-America agri-consumer loan officer, is not a “farm girl” in a traditional sense. She grew up in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason, but was always involved in 4-H and raised small animals. Campbell’s extended family also had a hog operation, which helped form much of her early knowledge of — and passion for — agriculture. A 2009 Ohio State University animal science graduate, Campbell is also president of the Warren County Farm Bureau and operates the 55-acre Carroll Creek Farms in Waynesville with her husband, Adam. Casey Ellington, Campbell’s Women to Watch nominator, called her one of the local farming community’s “biggest ‘agvocates’.” The agriculture industry needs to help young people who are passionate about farming gain access to the resources needed to get started, Campbell said. “My role will be not only to grow and succeed as a young farmer, but to advocate for others and help them access what they need.”

Katie Esselburn, 27, Shreve, Ohio

Katie Esselburn grew up in Wayne County, Ohio, on a farm that produced corn, soybeans and wheat. The family operation also had a commercial feedlot. That early experience made Esselburn’s career choice easy. “There is such a small percentage of people who have ties back to agriculture, (that) agriculture needs to keep telling its story,” the 27-year-old Shreve, Ohio, resident said. Esselburn, who graduated from Denison University with a bachelor’s degree in biology, earned her master’s in animal science from Ohio State University, and currently works for Purina Animal Nutrition as a dairy nutritionist. “I work with dairy farms across central and northeast Ohio,” Esselburn said, adding that the best advice she has ever received is “take ownership and pride in your work.” “I love working with people in the dairy industry,” she said. “It is great working with people who share common interests.”

Emily McDermott, 25, Riverside, California

Emily McDermott didn’t grow up on a farm, she grew up in a touristy beach town in New England. She said she knew almost nothing about farming until she attended Ohio State University. At Ohio State, agriculture was all around her. It was here she became intrigued by invasive crop pests and vector-borne crop pathogens. She graduated from Ohio State in 2012 with a bachelor of science in entomology and a minor in plant pathology. She is pursing her doctorate in veterinary entomology at the University of California, Riverside, California. Currently, she is researching vector-borne livestock diseases, specifically bluetongue virus and the biting midges that transmit it. Protecting livestock from diseases is something that will become increasingly important in the future, and she plans to be a part of the solution. Emily sees herself as becoming a leader in the agricultural sciences community. She said the enthusiasm the agricultural community has is infectious, and it motivates her to do the best work she can.

Laura Ringler, 30, Shelby, Ohio

Growing up the youngest of 14 children on a 200-acre grain farm, Laura Ringler had her fair share of “learning by doing,” both on the farm, in 4-H and in FFA. Today, the 30-year-old agricultural educator is sharing those life lessons in her classroom and as FFA adviser at Plymouth High School in Shelby, Ohio. She guides her students in managing the school’s 30-acre farm field, a 4,500-square foot vegetable garden and 900-square foot memorial garden. “People tend to fear the unknown,” Ringler said. “I hope to remove the fears about agriculture and excite the passion, as we build a strong and educated generation of agricultural advocates.” This year she was named the Ohio Association of Agricultural Educators’ Outstanding Young Member. “She’s an amazing person who is passionate about agriculture and student success,” writes her nominator. “She isn’t on the farm full time, but her work in educating the agriculture and civic leaders of tomorrow is invaluable.”

Danielle Burch, 27, Winona, Ohio

At just 27, Danielle Burch has earned two bachelor’s degrees, a master’s in education — and she’s employed as a high school teacher and dairy farmer. But her biggest accomplishment — in her own words — is her family: husband, Andy, and their son, Doyle. Together, Danielle and Andy operate a dairy where she puts her love for agriculture to work. Burch grew up on her family’s farm, where she learned responsibility and work ethics — things like “the animals get fed first” and “hard work and dedication is the key to success.” Burch, who teaches government and psychology/sociology at United Local High School, is a Columbiana County Farm Bureau trustee. She loves farming because farmers “are a friendly group.” They work hard and get dirty, but at the end of the day, “they are a group of people willing to give, help and go beyond their own to help someone else.”

Locals teach organic farming

By Wayne Allen, Portsmouth Daily Times, 3/11/15

Kevin and Barb Bradbury, owners of Hurricane Run Farm, are hosting a group this week from Wake Forest University of Winston Salem, North Carolina.

“They found out about us (Bradbury Farm) through a WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) website. They got in touch with us and decided to come,” Barb Bradbury said.

According to www.wwoof.net, the site is designed to link volunteers with organic farms and growers.

Barb Bradbury said the group came to the farm to learn about organic farming. She said through the experience the group is gaining hands on organic farming experiences at the farm.

Carol Goland, PhD, Executive Director, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) said there are certain advantages to gaining experience with WWOOFing.

“I do know some of our farms have turned to the WWOOF Organization to get labor. I’m familiar with some people who have gotten experience through WWOOFing. This is a time honored way of apprenticing yourself to get that knowledge. So many people are interested in farming these days, are not coming to it from having grown up on a farm, so they need to find that way in. It’s one thing to hear about it in a book or hear about it in a lecture in college, but nothing substitutes hand on experience,” Goland said.

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a membership-based, grassroots organization, dedicated to promoting and supporting sustainable, ecological, and healthful food systems.

Kevin Bradbury said some of the things the students will experience this week include the process of making maple syrup, the process of how to prune fruit trees and berries also the process of growing Shiitake Mushrooms. He said with the recent weather the area has experienced, the group has been working on various projects around the farm.

“We have several fruit trees and we’ve taught them how to prune fruit trees. They’ve pruned apples and we raise raspberries and blackberries, those have to be pruned this time of year,” Kevin Bradbury said.

He said the students are on an alternative spring break from Wake Forest University. He said while some students choose to spend their spring break on a beach, these students are on an alternative spring break that will allow them to gain experience working on an organic farm.

“They seem like they’ve been enjoying themselves. They wanted to learn about food production and small farm agriculture, because there is such a movement with people wanting to buy local and locally grown food,” Kevin Bradbury said. “They wanted to see how a small farm works and a lot of them have not been exposed to farming or gardening so they wanted to what we do here.”

Kevin Bradbury said he’s hopeful the group will get to experience how to construct a raised bed. As a part of the experience, he said the students are planning to travel to Hocking Hills and spend some time in Athens.

Kevin Bradbury said the students have set up a Facebook page for the farm, where the students have shared a few photos of their experience.

Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT

Below: students from Wake Forest University are in Scioto County this week learning about organic farming and gaining hands on experiences.

Submitted Photo | Daily TimesA group of six students from Wake Forest University are in Scioto County this week learning about organic farming and gaining hands on experiences.

 

Three ways to extend your gardening season

Farm and Dairy
by Katie Woods
8/19/14

Harvest time will arrive sooner than we know. If you’re not ready to part with your plants at the end of summer, consider extending your garden into the fall and winter.

The biggest hindrances to a healthy, full garden are insects, wind, heat and frost. Autumn’s biggest threat is frost, but wind can also dehydrate plants. Several methods, including raised beds, tunnels and greenhouses, allow you to protect your fruits and vegetables and continue to grow them after summer’s end.

Options

Gardening needs vary by region, gardener and plants, so several options are available for those wishing to continue gardening into the cooler months.

Raised beds

According to The Ohio State University Extension, raised bed gardening involves a portion of soil that is higher than the rest of the soil, and is in a place that will not be stepped on.

Raised beds are normally up to four feet wide and are raised six inches to several feet above the ground. The soil is warmed more quickly by this method.

The benefits of raised bed gardening include higher yields, ease of working and water conservation.

Hotbeds and cold frames

Purdue University Extension explains that hotbeds and cold frames, which are build the same, can be used both in the spring and in the fall.

Hotbeds get heat from the sun as well as another source, while cold frames get their heat solely from the sun. In the fall, hotbeds and cold frames can be used without heat but with proper insulation and ventilation.

A hotbed or cold frame should have full sun exposure, protection from the wind, a water source and good drainage. A hotbed or cold frame can be anywhere from a few inches to a few feet deep in the ground and four to six feet wide. The base can be built out of wood, concrete or concrete block.

High Tunnels

Penn State University Extension explains that high tunnels are a fairly new method for extending the growing season. They can protect plants from excess precipitation and cool temperatures.

A high tunnel is made of a metal frame and a plastic covering, much like a greenhouse. Raised beds can be used inside high tunnels, as well as thermal blankets and cold frames.

Typically, there are fewer pests in high tunnels, so less pesticides need to be used. Also, ventilation and temperature can easily be controlled depending on the types of plants grown. Since the plants are always covered, they must be watered by hand or drip irrigation.

Advice for winter gardening

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association offers advice for winter gardening, including notes about raised beds, high tunnels and other methods for extending the growing season, as well as the types of plants that have been known to grow well in the fall and winter.

Overall, trial and error must be used to determine when certain plants should be planted and how they should be protected from the elements once summer ends.

 

 

Peak season vegetable report from Chef Alfonso

PerryDaily.com
by Alfonso Contrisciani
8/18/14
 

With a break in rain and a few cool nights most folks recouped from the tomato blight. Our yields in the raised bed plot suffered with first course harvest with our indeterminate varieties. Last week’s 3.5 inches of rain helped our dry fields but woke up the dreaded fungus. Very important to be preventative with fungicides, and my favorite is Serenade.

It’s an organic compound and works wonders. I gave our tomato plants a shot of Serenade on Wednesday night. Our chemical-free vegetables coming out of the fields at the Cooperrider farm are of the best quality. I am forbidden to use the word “organic” because of the field’s conventional past. Our greenhouses and raised plots are organic but not certified as of yet.

If I see another cucumber or zucchini this year, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown! What a year for those vegetables; the heavy rainfall and heat in the spring and early summer gave us a bountiful supply.

I have plenty of Dutch flathead cabbage for sale along with eggplants, and many varieties of peppers. A good friend gave me 12 fennel plants in May. I must say, they were one of the finest vegetables I picked this year. I ordered 2 cups of fennel from [the] Athens area for my recent farm-to-table dinner “Bounty on The Bricks.” The fennel I purchased could not come close to what we grew in Thornville in our raised beds.

I am keeping a daily log on this growing season and recording dates, feeding and spraying applications and harvest dates. Also critical are harvest amounts with current market pricing. To be successful, I am convinced that specialty crops, such as patty pan squash, Marzoni peppers, fennel, garlic, jumbo candy onions, parsley, lemon thyme, garlic chives and various other specialty items, are essential.

My recent presentation titled “Bridging the Gap between Chef and Farmer” is based on farmers growing what chefs want and need. Also, from a farmer’s perspective, do I want to grow zucchini for 40 cents per pound in return or fennel for $4 per pound? Do the math.

  • Canning and Preserving

I am designing and building a canning and preserving workshop to be taught at Hocking College in the near future. We just purchased $5,000 worth of commercial pressure cookers, home canning supplies along with a dehydrator, pH meters, thermometers etc. I think it’s essential to take a few steps back and rekindle our family heritage and culture in relationship to food. Did you know you could easily feed a family of five year round from a 25’ x 25’ garden? The use of vertical trellises and planting with the inch by inch format. I spent some time in major food processing plants while in California. I developed 12 pasteurized sauces and 2 FZ proteins for a major manufacturing company. At that time I fell in love with food canning and the value added world.

I am looking forward to sharing my research with the folks of Central Ohio. For all you home canners, please feel free to contact me at my Hocking College office with any questions or comments. I will spend more time on this topic in September prior to first frost.

  • Bounty on the Bricks

Bounty on The bricks was a great success this past Saturday in Athens. We served 372 folks a four course meal along with three passed appetizers including 100 homestyle made-from-scratch country pies all made with locally grown and raised products within 30 miles of Athens. OK, I lied: the zucchini came from Deer Valley Farms along with the plum tomatoes and fresh herbs. But everything else was within 30 miles. I am happy to report we raised $75,000 for the Athens foundation which will use the funds for our local food pantries. Thanks to all who supported these venues and the volunteers who worked endless hours.

Thanks to Hocking College and our wonderful staff and administration, The Athens Foundation, Cheryl Sylvester, Susan Urano and Cindy Hayes. And finally, thanks to the city of Athens, Ohio.

  • Future Event

Sept. 7, I will be cooking at Val Jorgensen’s organic farm in Westerville, Ohio. The proceeds from “The Farmers’ Table” event will support OEFFA, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, of which I’m an active member and greatly support. Hope to see you there. If you need tickets, please contact me.

  • The Blue Barn at Deer Valley Farms

My phone rang at 2:50 in the morning last week. It was Dylan Cooperrider; Olivia, a registered Berk from the Shipley farm in Mt. Vernon, was having piglets. I arrived at the farm at 3:10 and the second was just born. In total, she had two males and seven gilts. Dylan knows his pigs; he has a barn full of sows and gilts behind Olivia. Olivia’s first born was the largest boar. We named him Alfonso. I have 50 # full-blooded Topline Yorkshire boar named Oliver at the farm, also.

I am building a pig barn with a farrowing room at Oliver farms this fall. I will raise show pigs and breeding stock for our soon to come Oliver farms all natural non GMO pork line. Olivette, our second registered Berk, is due on Sept 3.

  • Oliver Farms

I am currently gearing up for sauce and condiment production at the end of this month. I am going to share for the first time my eggplant caponata recipe. This sauce is multipurpose for a salad served cold or warm, a pasta sauce or a condiment on a sandwich. Please enjoy. Until next article, cook with your heart and soul! Alfonso.

  • Eggplant Caponata

1 1/2 Each eggplants, peeled and cut in to med. dice
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 Pound Italian sausage, loose, Perry County Blue Ribbon Brand
1 Each red onion, diced very fine.
1 1/2 Tablespoons garlic, peeled and finely minced
1/2 Cup golden raisins
1 Teaspoon ginger, peeled and freshly minced
3 Teaspoons capers, chopped fine
1 1/2 Cups tomato, concasse
1 Cup orange juice
3 Teaspoons curry powder
1/2 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 Teaspoon honey
1 Cup water
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 1/2 Teaspoons fresh rosemary, de-stemmed and chopped
2 Tablespoons scallions, chopped

  1. Sprinkle eggplant with salt. In large skillet heat up oil and saute eggplant on all sides until golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove eggplant from pan and drain on paper towels.
  2. Reheat pan and add sausage and cook over medium heat until golden brown and cook until done. Drain grease from sausage and discard. Chop sausage roughly when cool.
  3. Reheat pan and add olive oil, saute garlic and onions until translucent add reserve sausage, eggplant, raisins, ginger, capers, tomatoes, orange juice, curry powder, pepper flakes, honey and water and the remaining salt and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
  4. Pull from heat and stir in all fresh herbs.
  5. Cool and store in refrigerator covered until needed. Or serve hot over pasta, or place in mason jars and put in canner and seal for the winter months. Enjoy!

Farmers and Chefs Partner to Help Ohioans Connect with the Land

Public News Service
by Mary Kuhlman
8/18/14
 

WESTERVILLE, Ohio – With an increasing interest in local foods, some Ohio growers and producers are using agritourism to help people connect with the land and learn how the food they eat is grown. Tours, weddings, and farm-to-table dinners are among the events regularly held across the state, showcasing Ohio’s agricultural tradition and the fresh, seasonal offerings of area farms.

Val Jorgensen, the owner of Jorgensen Farms in Westerville, says opening her gates provides an opportunity for people to learn about the role of local foods in building a sustainable food system.

“A lot of the consumers I meet at farmers markets are committed to buying local food, but sometimes they don’t have the opportunity to really visualize or understand where that food is coming from,” says Jorgensen. “This gets them one step closer.”

Agritourism also allows farming operations to diversify their income. Jorgensen is hosting a benefit dinner Sunday, Sept. 7th called The Farmers Table, where diners can tour her organic farm and enjoy an evening of local food and drinks prepared by top area chefs. Farms throughout the state also offer ‘you-pick’ fruit, fall festivals, and educational activities.

While the majority of Jorgensen’s operation is used for growing and production, she says she enjoys holding events to give consumers a glimpse of what happens on the farm.

“The biggest reward for me is being able to stand back, either just before or during an event, and watch the enjoyment of others,” says Jorgensen. “That gives me a sense of making a difference in people’s lives where they can really connect.”

She adds events like The Farmers Table also allow farmers and producers to share the beauty and bounty of Ohio agriculture.

“It’s going to be something where they can experience the ultimate in seasonal food right here at the farm,” says Jorgensen. “The exciting part is we’re able to pull together not only the growers, but the chefs and the community.”

Meet Us at The Farmers Table

Edible Columbus
8/1/14
 

We couldn’t be more excited for the OEFFA’s gathering on September 7th to celebrate Ohio farms and flavors. The dinner is being held at Jorgensen Farms, one of central Ohio’s most beautiful certified organic farms and, as we all know, our friend Val Jorgensen is a passionate steward of her land and a leader in Ohio’s sustainable agriculture community.

Val’s farm-produced ingredients will be featured in the menu, and guests will be able to tour the farm to see how the food was grown. The OEFFA is working with central Ohio’s finest chefs to create hors d’oeuvres and a four-course dinner that sources ingredients from farms across Ohio. The cocktail hour will feature locally distilled spirits and microbrews. Even the decorations will feature locally grown flower arrangements from the beautiful Sunny Meadows Flower Farm.

Carol Goland, Ph.D., Executive Director, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, said, “[OEFFA’s] mission is to ‘help farmers and consumers reconnect and together build a sustainable food system, one meal at time,’ and this dinner is a natural extension of that work, designed to showcase the amazing farmers and chefs that make up Ohio’s flourishing local foods system and the fresh, flavorful, seasonal ingredients of Ohio’s farms. It also give us all a chance to celebrate our farmers, our food, and the successful work that we’ve all done to help cultivate an agricultural future that protects the environment and nourishes our bodies and our communities.”

The event promises to be a special night celebrating the local farms and flavors we know and love, so we hope to see you seated at the table! Get your ticket here.

Sustainable Ag Org. in Ohio Sees Increased Role in Supporting Influx of New Farmers

 
December 11, 2013
By: Marianne Peters
 
Source: Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association

Ohio farmers new to sustainable agriculture can get a leg up on the learning curve with the help of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA).

The non-profit organization, established in 1979, works to promote and support the sustainable agriculture community in Ohio from producers to consumers including those new to farming. OEFFA assists new farmers through a variety of networking events, an apprenticeship program, and an investment fund created to encourage the expansion of sustainable farming practices.

Renee Hunt, Education Program Director at OEFFA, has seen an increase in the number of farmers who choose to manage their farms sustainably in the past several years, and has expanded educational programming to meet this need.

“It’s great when newer farmers don’t have to go through the learning curve,” says Hunt. “I recently overheard a workshop presenter comment, ‘It took me ten years to figure this out.’ He’s sharing his knowledge, so the people learning from him don’t have to wait those ten years.”

Sustainable and organic farmers in the Buckeye state connect annually at OEFFA’s two-day conference, which features keynote speakers, educational tracks and workshops, and a large trade show. The 2014 conference will take place February 15-16 in Granville, Ohio.

Ohio farmers also network through a dozen OEFFA-sponsored farm tours throughout the year.

“We tap different types of farming operations—urban, grain growers, product growers, value-added, livestock, and dairy,” Hunt said. “The farm tours are a great way for farmers of all experience levels to see and learn how others are approaching their particular farm, as well as to talk directly with other farmers.”

Ben and Emily Jackle, owners of Mile Creek Farm in New Lebanon, Ohio, appreciate the networking opportunities OEFFA has provided them. Their farm was established in 2007 and became certified organic through the OEFFA in 2010.

“Our farm has benefited most from our association with OEFFA and the opportunities to see other farmers’ operations,” says Ben Jackle. “We’ve learned more through OEFFA-sponsored farm tours and workshops than we have through any other means.”

Networking among farmers often leads to collaboration. To facilitate on-site learning and hands-on experience in farming techniques, OEFFA founded an apprentice program that Hunt describes as “a bit like a dating service” for farmers. Prospective apprentices and host farmers both fill out applications on the OEFFA website. The applications are approved, and then posted online where both apprentices and host farmers can view them. Either party can make the first contact. Membership in OEFFA is not necessary, but there are added fees for non-members.

Hunt hopes that more established farmers join the program and pass on their know-how to the next generation. “We currently have more apprentices than host farms,” she notes.

Learning to farm is one thing; finding the financing to get started is another. In 2012, a group of local Ohio investors created the OEFFA Investment Fund to support the growth of sustainable agriculture in Ohio and provide needed capital to farmers. The fund provides an additional avenue for those who are having trouble getting financing through traditional sources. Farmers must be certified in sustainable and organic practices and a member of OEFFA to apply for funding. Funds can be used to improve or expand their business, make repairs to equipment or property, pay for short-term operating needs, or cope with an emergency such as a fire or natural disaster.

Hunt observes that farmers with an ecological bent are often resistant to the idea of taking out loans, especially if they are just beginning.

“A lot of sustainable and organic farmers are hesitant to take on debt,” she says. “Many new farmers don’t have the business background to understand how to build in expenses or make capital investments.”

Part of OEFFA’s mission is to help new farmers overcome such barriers, she says.

“We have evolved as an organization to be more supportive of young farmers,” says Hunt. “But we are here to advocate for the needs of all sustainable and organic farmers in our state.”