Category Archives: OEFFA in the News

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.”

Flower-farm open house touts ‘local,’ sustainable

By Joshua Lim, The Columbus Dispatch, 6/29/15

In a straw hat and with the sleeves of his checkered shirt rolled up enough that you could see his tattoo of a dahlia, Steve Adams revealed his obsession in the sprawling field of some of the most beautiful blooms in Columbus.

About 100 people attended the open house at Adams’ Sunny Meadows Flower Farm on the East Side on Sunday to hear about how the sharpest-red and deepest-blue blooms rise from the farm.

The open house is part of an annual series of farmers events held by members of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

Renee Hunt, the association’s program director, said tours, workshops and open houses are held each year to give farmers and consumers a firsthand opportunity to learn different practices from a variety of farmers.

“People are sharing what they know so that that information can be taken and be used elsewhere and promote any successful farming practices,” she said.

Adams and his wife, Gretel, started their farm in 2007 because they were passionate about buying and selling locally made products, especially fresh flowers. They grow flowers for mixed-cut bouquets to sell at local farmers markets, to florists and for weddings and other occasions.

Growing flowers for people to give to loved ones to express joy, love, sadness and remorse is something the Adamses don’t take lightly. And they want people to share those emotions with local products.

“People are going to come and see what the other option is for flowers, to see why local flowers are just as important as local food,” Mr. Adams said. “We want people to be buying local flowers, whether they’re from us, or they’re from other growers.”

The U.S. cut-flower industry accounts for $7 billion to $8 billion in sales in a year, according to the Society of American Florists, but only a fraction of flowers come from local farms.

Imports make up 79 percent of the U.S. supply of cut flowers and greens, according to the California Cut Flower Commission.

Adams said flowers from foreign countries might have been sprayed with chemicals that are harmful to consumers.

“For us, sustainability is a farm that can continue to provide fresh quality flowers without synthetic fertilizers and chemical inputs,” he said.

Sunny Meadows does not use herbicides, and it uses compost as fertilizer, Mrs. Adams said. The farm also uses beneficial insects to control pests.

Eric Pawlowski, the association’s sustainable-agriculture educator, said he has benefited from the tours because farmers often provide tips that can make or break a crop of any size.

“It’s not so much the ‘how’ or the ‘do,’ but it’s the ‘what not to do,’  ” he said.

In addition to the annual farm open houses, the association has a number of farm tours and workshops, which started in June and will end in late October. More information is at www.oeffa.org.

Lindsey Baker, 32, a florist in Morrow, Ohio, said she was interested in learning from Adams because she started growing flowers this year.

“When you find out you can grow all this right here in Ohio, we should do a lot more of that,” Baker said. “You’re supporting the family, you’re supporting your local economy, and you’re cutting down on the energy to transport those flowers.”

Alwin Chan-Frederick, 36, said he was impressed by the farm’s sustainable practices.

“Supporting kinds of small businesses like theirs is important for the local community,” he said.

Tours Shine Light on Ohio Sustainable Food Production

By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service, 5/26/2015

PHOTO: The 2015 Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series kicks off in June offering  people across Ohio the chance to experience life on the farm and learn new skills. Photo courtesy of Sunseed Farm.

PHOTO: The 2015 Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series kicks off in June offering people across Ohio the chance to experience life on the farm and learn new skills. Photo courtesy of Sunseed Farm.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A lot of work goes into the production of fruit, vegetables and other fresh food sold at markets and grocery stores, and this summer Ohioans can get an up close and personal look at the process.

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is sponsoring 15 tours and nine workshops during its 2015 Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series.

Communications coordinator Lauren Ketcham says it’s a unique experience for both adults and children.

“To see a tomato ripening on the vine in the field, or to be able to pull a carrot out of the ground and really tangibly see how that food gets from the field to their dinner table,” she says.

Tours this year offer a variety of activities including the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of a shepherd, view organic dairy production and sample local meats, cheeses and preserves. As part of the series there will be a one-day Women Grow Ohio event at 17 locations, and a benefit dinner in the fall.

Ketcham says OEFFA has offered the tours for more than 35 years to give growers and non-growers the opportunity to learn about sustainable foods produced in Ohio communities.

“The more consumers know about how their food is grown the better prepared there are to make informed choices about who to support with their food dollars,” says Ketcham. “The tours are a good way to gain this knowledge.”

Ketcham says Ohio’s sustainable farmers and producers use innovative practices and techniques, and during the tours they will share their experiences. She says the workshops allow folks to delve even deeper.

“Some of those topics this summer are going to include learning how to design and install your own solar photo voltaic system, small plot market farming, urban agriculture, dairy herd health, farm machinery,” she says.

The Ohio State University Sustainable Agriculture Team and the Clintonville Farmers’ Market are sponsoring additional tours.

 

OEFFA reveals organic Ohio farm tour schedule for 2015, from goat cheese to chickens

By Debbi Snook, The Plain Dealer, 5/12/15

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Time to get your proverbial boots dusty. Fifteen organic farm tours – from chickens to vegetables and grains – are part of this year’s series organized by the Columbus-based Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA).

Northeast Ohioans won’t have to travel far for several of them, including The Farmers’ Table, a farm-to-table dinner Aug. 30 at Maplestar Farm in Geauga County.

Muddy Fork Farm in Wayne County kicks off the schedule on June 3 with a demonstration of its pastured poultry research. On July 19, MorningSide Farm in Medina County opens its vegetable growing operation to everyone, especially those who buy from them at Cleveland-area farmers markets.

Nine events will turn into learning workshops, including poultry processing October 11 at Tea Hills Farms in Ashland County, a five-day solar energy class starting October 12 in Wayne County, and an urban agriculture exchange Oct. 24 at Ohio City Farm, Cleveland.

“This is a great chance for everyone interested in local foods to turn over a new leaf,” said OEFFA representative Lauren Ketcham. “They can learn how sustainably produced food is grown and connect with others who share a passion for sustainable agriculture.”

They also can learn, she said, about the life of a shepherd, how to control weeds without chemicals, see draft horses make sorghum into sweet syrup, sample local meats, cheeses and jams, and butcher their own poultry.

A list of all the programs, plus details and a statewide map, can be found online.

Interviews from OEFFA’s Annual Conference

By Seth Teter, Town Hall Ohio, 5/11/15

“Sustainable Agriculture: Renewing Ohio’s Heart and Soil” was the theme for this year’s OEFFA Conference. Listen to perspective from farmers and eaters alike on how to keep Ohio growing. Featured interviews include Alan Guebert of the Farm and Food File, Joseph Swain of the Columbus Agrarian Society, Tom Redfern of Rural Action, and Jill Clark of the John Glenn School of Public Policy.

Listen here.

Length: 39:20

Tyson meats to end antibiotic use by 2017: What it means

By Debbi Snook, The Plain Dealer, 4/29/15

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Antibiotic use in farm animals got a big push out of the poultry barn this week. Tyson Foods announced it intends to stop feeding human-grade antibiotics to its broiler chickens by 2017.

While antibiotic use once made chickens cheaper to raise by increasing their growth rate, it has also been suspected of creating antibiotic resistance in humans.

The Washington Post reports that antibiotic-resistant infections cause at least 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths a year, more deaths than cause by drug overdoses, cars or firearm assaults.” Antibiotic resistant infections are a global health concern,” said a statement from Donnie Smith, president and chief executive officer of Tyson Foods.

“We’re confident our meat and poultry products are safe, but want to do our part to responsibly reduce human antibiotics on the farm so these medicines can continue working when they’re needed to treat illness.”

Smith said the company’s antibiotic use is down 80 percent from a few years ago, following an industry wide trend. Perdue eliminated antibiotic use a year ago and, last month, McDonald’s has pledged to do the same within two years.

But Tyson is the country’s largest producer of chicken.

“This is huge,” critic Gail Hansen, told National Public Radio. Hansen is a member of Pew Charitable Trust’s Antibiotic Resistance Project, which is developing a certification project with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for antibiotic-free chicken.Tyson also announced plans to study and possibly reduce antibiotic use in its cattle, hog and turkey farms.

Lauren Ketcham, communications chief for the Columbus-based Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, called the Tyson decision encouraging, but not a huge guarantee.

“Given that Tyson is only voluntarily targeting antibiotics used in human medicine — and even then some with exceptions — consumers wanting to avoid eating chicken treated with antibiotics should continue to look for the organic label as the gold standard,” she said in an email.

Medina County meat-animal farmer Jason Bindel said he also worries about the farm use of antibiotics that are not used in human medicine.

“Some animal drugs were not human tested so you have no idea of bad side effects,” he wrote by email. “Animal grade drugs are usually the same formula but sometimes may have additives that are not FDA approved for human use so could be harmful due to allergic reactions.

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.

 

Ohio Business Owner: Fracking Stifling Local Food Movement

By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service, 4/6/15
.
PHOTO: Sustainable farmers rely on the integrity of the land, soil and water, and many say hydraulic fracturing is compromising the growing local food movement in Ohio. Photo credit: David Foster/Flickr.

PHOTO: Sustainable farmers rely on the integrity of the land, soil and water, and many say hydraulic fracturing is compromising the growing local food movement in Ohio. Photo credit: David Foster/Flickr.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Sustainably produced foods are becoming more popular among consumers, but some Ohioans say the state’s fracking boom is stifling the growth of the local food movement.

According to the EPA, dozens of chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing, which some growers say puts air, water and soil at risk for contamination.

The Village Bakery and Café in Athens specializes in locally grown and organic foods, and owner Christine Hughes says some area farmers were unaware of the risks when they agreed to allow oil and gas companies onto their land.

“Landowners were told, ‘Oh no, we don’t use chemicals, it’s all safe,’ so I don’t blame those people for signing up,” says Hughes. “But it has put all these sustainable farms at risk, and the conventional farms as well. The sustainable farmers are more aware of the damage it will do to their reputation.”

According to Hughes, soil and watershed resilience are likely to worsen as drilling continues to expand. A recent study found nearly 11 percent of the more than 19,000 organic farms in the U.S. share a watershed with oil and gas activity, and 30 percent of organic farms will be in the vicinity of a fracking site or injection well in the next decade.

Hughes says many of her restaurant’s suppliers are based in Ohio’s fracking hotbed. The farm that sourced her flour was directly impacted by fracking after an old injection well was re-activated near the land.

“They started bringing in truckloads of radioactive frack waste from West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio,” she says. “So they had to shut down their farm and ended up having to sell off their farm and move away and take jobs from their farm.”

Hughes says many other business owners in her community are concerned about the impacts of fracking, and it’s not the answer to the country’s economic, energy and climactic challenges.

“The horse was out of the gate long before the regulations or the science could be shown how dangerous it is,” says Hughes. “At this point a moratorium is really the only responsible thing that we could do.”

Hughes is a member of the Ohio chapter of the American Sustainable Business Council, which is among organizations calling for mandatory, enforceable national standards that will apply to both new and existing gas and oil development.