Archive for the ‘Farm Tours’ Category

Creamery is first stop in series of farm tours

Monday, June 10th, 2013
By Mary Vanac
The Columbus Dispatch

Consumers’ quest for more locally produced food is sending them back to the farm.

This year’s Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series, which starts today at Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy, offers learning opportunities for both consumers and farmers.

“As consumer demand for fresh, locally produced food and farm products has grown, there has been a desire to reconnect with the farm and understand how that food gets from the field to the table,” said Lauren Ketcham, communications coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, which has run the tours for more than three decades.

In addition to the Meigs County dairy, this year’s organic- and ecological-farms stops include a sustainable cut-flower farm in Franklin County, a Licking County organic-vegetable farm, a Fairfield County beef farm that markets its jerky and snack sticks directly to consumers, and an organic farm that is doing a canning workshop.

Most of the tours are free and open to the public; a few charge fees and require registration.

This year, Ohio State University Extension and the Coalition of Ohio Land Trusts will offer seven of the 24 stops on the tour, while OEFFA will handle the remaining 17 stops, Ketcham said.

“We feel that consumer education is an important part of our mission,” she said. “The more consumers know about how their food is grown, the better prepared they are to make informed choices about who to support with their local food dollars.”

The tours also are designed to help farmers and gardeners “learn from each other so they can improve their production and marketing techniques, and grow their operations,” she said.

Ketcham is looking forward to the July 28 tour of Sunny Meadows Flower Farm in Columbus, and to the July 21 tour of Northridge Organic Farm in Johnstown. Mike and Laura Laughlin are turning their farm over to young farmer Joseph Swain.

The tour series is all about offering farmers alternatives, said Mike Hogan, an OSU Extension educator in Fairfield County.

“Our goal is to give people ideas to make their farm operations more sustainable,” Hogan said. “ We give them ideas about alternative enterprises, alternative production systems, like grazing or no-till, and alternative marketing systems.”

The July tour of Berry Family Farm in Pleasantville shows how one producer has added facets to its operation, Hogan said.

“They’re adding value to beef products, selling jerky, summer sausage and snack sticks directly to consumers, as well as marketing freezer beef.”

At Snowville Creamery, owner Warren Taylor put his workers through their public speaking paces yesterday in preparation for today’s open house from 1 to 4 p.m.

Snowville supplies milk, cream, yogurt and creme fraiche to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus and select grocers from Ohio to Virginia.

“This year, we have organized ourselves into a dozen functional areas, each of which will have a Snowville Creamery team member explaining that area,” Taylor said.

Taylor spent a career designing and engineering milk-production facilities around the world for the nation’s largest dairy companies. He said he started Snowville as a reaction against the few large dairies, which he thinks are too powerful.

“I have long since decided that Snowville Creamery’s purpose goes far beyond milk,” Taylor said. “It goes to advocating for representative democracy in America.”

For a full tour listing, visit

Go Behind the Scenes of Ohio’s Sustainable Growing

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
May 28, 2013
Ohio News Service
Mary Kuhlman

COLUMBUS, Ohio – All those who have ever wanted to see how their food is produced can get a sneak peek in Ohio this summer. Over two dozen sustainable and organic farms are being featured as part of a farm tour series.

According to Lauren Ketcham, communications coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, the more consumers know, the better prepared they are to make informed choices about who to support with their food dollars. And, she added, the participating farmers are more than happy to let Ohioans see the inner workings of their operations.

“It’s really a lot to ask of a farmer to take the time during the growing season to hold these farm tours, but we’re always encouraged by the willingness of farmers to really want to open up their doors and let consumers know how they’re raising their food,” Ketcham said.

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association has been offering the tours for more than three decades. This year’s series includes tours and workshops on a variety of topics including: dairy farming and processing, composting, specialty crops, cut flowers, urban farming, food preservation, and farm business skills.

Lauren Ketcham said that as the popularity of local and organic food has grown, so has interest among young farmers in getting into the business. She remarked that the tour is a great networking opportunity for aspiring and beginning farmers and even backyard growers.

“Farmers and gardeners see first-hand how their colleagues are incorporating sustainable agriculture methods on their lands, ask questions of each other, and take home information that they can put to use on their own farms or in their backyard gardens,” she said.

Ketcham said the tours can also be a fun experience for families, couples or anyone interested in Ohio’s agriculture system. Last year, more than 600 people attended.

More information is online at

In addition to the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, the tours are also sponsored by Ohio State University and the Coalition of Ohio Land Trusts.

Kenyon College uses local foods

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012
Mansfield News Journal
September 15, 2012
By Kaitlin Durbin

Jane Simonson, of Cincinnati, selects her lunch at Kenyon College from the salad bar, of which some items have been procured from area farms.

Jane Simonson, of Cincinnati, selects her lunch at Kenyon College from the salad bar, of which some items have been procured from area farms. / Dave Polcyn/News Journal

GAMBIER — Most college campuses are known for dining options that fall far short of “home cooking, just like mom makes it.”

But for many students at Kenyon College, the dining hall is shopping at the same supermarket as mom: local farms.

Close to 40 percent of total food purchases for the Kenyon cafeteria are from local producers, according to John Marsh, AVI’s sustainability director.

“This matters to them (the students),” Marsh said. “They can tell what’s local and what’s not.”

Chad Wilkoff, a sous chef for the college, said the fresh produce has made all the difference in the way the kitchen prepares meals.

“We have more flexibility in what we’re able to make,” Wilkoff said. “We’re always changing our vegetable of the day.”

“The quality doesn’t get any better than this. We’re the real deal,” Wilkoff said.

Kenyon has been sourcing part of their meat, dairy and vegetable demand from central Ohio growers for seven years through its local food program with AVI.

Friday, the college opened its kitchen to several growers from the area for an Institutional Sourcing of Local Food Tour. Attendees toured the kitchen, ate fresh produce in the cafeteria and heard from Marsh how the partnership works.

“(This partnership) is good for people working on a relatively large scale or just getting started,” Marsh said. “We’re willing to help local growers get started.”

The college is always looking for new growers and produce items, Marsh told the crowd.

The majority of red meats are bought locally, as is a variety of vegetables, apples, butter, honey and some dairy products.

“Just about everything on the salad bar is locally grown,” Marsh said. “Including the yogurt, eggs, black beans and shredded cheeses.”

Most lettuce and spinach is sourced elsewhere, though, Marsh said, because local farmers are not able to produce enough to meet needs.

The cafeteria goes through 144 pints of cherry tomatoes in one day, Marsh said. The cafeteria serves about 1,500 people daily.

Last year, Kenyon students ate 22,000 pounds of potatoes, 20,000 pounds of apples, 6,000 pounds of onions, 4,000 pounds of broccoli, 4,000 pints of cherry tomatoes, 5,000 pounds of slicing tomatoes, 29,000 pounds of beef and 10,000 pounds of pork from local growers, according to Marsh’s records.

“Labor is the biggest problem,” Marsh said. “We can’t find enough local growers to provide what we need. It’s hard to entice people to grow something specifically for you.”

That’s why Marsh says building a relationship with local farmers is the most important part of his job.

“If you make a deal with a local farmer, you have to honor it,” Marsh said. “This is somebody’s livelihood.”

“I know I better take care of my grower because if I don’t, I won’t have any,” Marsh said.

Creekside Produce farmer Jonathon Byler is one of the many local farmers supplying the college with tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, summer squash, cherry tomatoes, winter squash and beets.

Byler said his partnership with AVI has “been a big help to income. About 50 percent (of our produce) goes to retail and the other 50 percent goes to AVI.”

The company funded construction of two greenhouses on Byler’s property so he could continue growing for the college all year.

AVI picks up fresh produce from the farm four days a week, Byler said.

The success stories from area farmers had California residents Dan McLeod and Caitilin Bergman “encouraged” that farming can be a business. The couple is looking to move back to McLeod’s hometown of Mount Vernon within the next year to buy some land and start a farm.

“We want to make the transition over to farming education,” McLeod said. “We hope to make the facility a demonstration site and a site to produce a sustainable product.”

“Kenyon should be a model for other schools,” McLeod said.

Helen Sites, of Delaware County, said she just bought a 28-acre farm last year in Coshocton County. She attended the meeting to find an outlet to sell her crops.

“Last year I grew a lot of kale, but there was no market for it,” Sites said. “Most of it ended up going to chicken feed, so I’m looking for an outlet for whatever.”

Marsh said he is “most desperate” to find five items locally; basil, oats, lettuce, chicken meat and early potatoes that can be picked by the start of school in August.

As for winter crops, Marsh said, the need is “wide open.”

Ohio Organic Farmers Open Their Gates for Free Tours

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012
Ohio Public News Service
May 8, 2012
Mary Kuhlman

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohioans have a chance see the ins and outs of some of the state’s finest sustainable and organic farms.
More than a dozen farmers are opening their gates to show people firsthand how food gets from the field to their dinner plate. The free public tours are offered as part of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s 2012 Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series.

OEFFA Spokeswoman Lauren Ketcham says the series offers a unique learning opportunity to see, taste, feel and learn what sustainable food and fiber production is all about from the farmers themselves.

“Consumers who are interested in local foods, farmers and market gardeners who want to learn more and network with other farmers, aspiring and beginning farmers, really anyone interested in learning more about the production and marketing techniques of sustainable farmers, are encouraged to attend.”

OEFFA has offered such tours for 30 years, and Ketcham says they are growing more and more popular as consumer demand for fresh, locally-produced food and farm products continues to grow.

“People are increasingly wanting to have that connection with the farm, and the more consumers know about how their food is grown, the better prepared they are to make choices that are right for themselves and their families about who to support with their food dollars.”

Children and families are welcome to the tours and workshops. Ketcham says it’s a great opportunity for kids to see what their food looks like before it gets to their dinner plates.

29 tours and workshops will be held from June through September as part of the series, 13 of them sponsored by OEFFA. They will feature a variety of topics and operations, including organic berry production, commercial composting, natural goat health, raw-milk cheese-making, and Ohio farm history. The schedule is available online at

Jackie O’s expands locally grown menu selections

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
April 30, 2012
By Kaylyn Hlavaty

Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery started a farm on owner Art Oestrike’s land 14 months ago to further expand sustainability by growing its own crops to incorporate into the bar’s dishes and drinks. Jackie O’s hired an additional chef to create dishes surrounding the locally grown produce. (Sam Owens | Staff Photographer)

Known for handcrafted signature ales and pub-inspired dishes, Jackie O’s is taking the meaning of locally produced goods a step further.

The brewery, which is located at 24 W. Union St., started a farm 14 months ago to further expand sustainability.

Quality and the use of locally produced food has been a commitment for Jackie O’s owner Art Oestrike, who said the farm was always something he eventually wanted to start in partnership with the business.

“I thought it was the right time to grow our produce and incorporate our crops into our beer and dishes we serve here,” Oestrike said. “I wanted to know where my ingredients were coming from, and by using produce from our farm, the fresh ingredients will reflect in our dishes.”

Jackie O’s hired an additional chef to create dishes surrounding the locally grown produce.

Because it’s only the second growing season, the restaurant is still testing which crops grow best and which to use in the restaurant and brewery.
Melissa Christen, an agricultural expert and grower at the farm, said plants such as fruit and nut trees have to mature before there is a crop worthy of selling or incorporating into the menu.

“As of right now we are harvesting the cold crops that include broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, as well as hearty greens like spinach and kale,” she said. “I have planted them in six sessions so there will be a constant availability of produce we can use at Jackie O’s and sell at the market instead of relying on other farmers.”

Jackie O’s currently grows raspberries, lemon verbena and mint that are added during the brew process to give ales subtle hints of flavor.
“We just got approved to design a high tunnel, which is an unheated plastic structure that will help us extend our growing season without the cost of a greenhouse,” Oestrike said. “I’m excited to announce that we will have bees coming on May 14th that will allow us to decrease the amount of herbicides used.”

In partnership with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Jackie O’s Farm will provide a tour and potluck on Sunday to increase awareness about sustainability among farmers, educators and conscientious eaters.

“I want to convey the work that goes into planting produce in such a fluctuating climate while still growing a large amount of crops,” Christen said. “This farm is unique in the reason that unlike most farmers who have to find a business to sell to, we already have Jackie O’s.”

OEFFA’s Carriage House Farm Tour

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Carriage House Farm
North Bend, Ohio
Sunday, October 9, 2011

Organic Farm in Salem Recognized by State

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

By WKBN Channel 27

Watch video here.

A farm in Salem is being recognized as one of the most sustainable and organic farms in the state of Ohio. And on Tuesday, the public got a chance to see exactly why during a free tour.

The Heritage Lane Farm in Salem made it on the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s 2011 series of free public tours for being one of the finest sustainable and organic farms. Each year, OEFFA promotes sustainable agriculture with about 20 different farm tours all around the state.

“Today we are hosting one here at our farm, showcasing our herd of American bison or buffalo, as well as our garden in which we grow produce and cut flowers. And behind me, the two high tunnels we use for season extension,” said Sarah Swope, owner/operator of Heritage Lane Farm.

The farm is family operated and Swope said their farm is unique to Ohio because there are very few farms that raise American buffalo, and most of their produce is done in what they call a sustainable manner.

“Which means that we don’t use any herbicides or chemical fertilizers. We produce all of our own compost here on the farm with either the vegetable matter or with some of the manures and bedding from the animals,” Swope said.

Those who came out for the tour were impressed with what they saw.

“My cousin told me about this tour. And my parents were raised on farms, but it was nothing like this. And it’s just such an ambitious endeavour that they’re doing. Isn’t it amazing,” said Francine Burlingame of Salem.

The Swope family also markets all of their produce and meat locally, and said their meat and produce sales are doing extremely well.

“Folks are beginning to discover the unique benefits of meat and produce grown locally, as far as the economic benefits, and even the taste and health benefits,” Swope said.

The Swopes plan to increase their herd size to meet the demand for meat, and are also looking into expanding their produce crop.

Butternut Farms spreads seeds of learning

Thursday, July 28th, 2011
Written by Anna Sudar, Zanesville Times Recorder
Patricia West-Volland owns and operates a sustainable and organic farm called Butternut Farms in Bowling Green Township.  Her farm is being included in the Women's Farm Tour organized by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.
Patricia West-Volland owns and operates a sustainable and organic farm called Butternut Farms in Bowling Green Township. Her farm is being included in the Women’s Farm Tour organized by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.
Michael Lehmkuhle The Advocate

Thirty-four years ago, Patricia West-Volland’s husband, Robert Volland, came home and announced they were going to live on a farm.”He had seen a for sale sign; I thought he was crazy,” said West-Volland, a Zanesville native. “But the next thing I knew, we had bought 5 acres and moved to the country.”

The couple named their new home Butternut Farms, for the butternut trees that grew on the property. From the very beginning, they knew their farm would be sustainable and organic.

“It was always my husband’s dream to be a farmer; that was his goal in life,” West-Volland said. “And he wanted to be a good, organic farmer.”

Throughout the years, Volland and West-Volland transformed their land from a small family plot to Butternut Farms Retreat and Education Center, a 20-acre farm dedicated to teaching people about organic farming and sustainable agriculture.

Although Volland died about a year ago, West-Volland still is running the farm, organizing programs and teaching classes.

Her work will be on display Saturday during a farm tour sponsored by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. Visitors to the farm will be able to see her animals and tour her garden and orchard.

“I hope they get an appreciation for the work people put into the food they get at local farmers markets,” West-Volland said.

West-Volland grew up on a farm. A graduate of Ohio University with several degrees, including anthropology, history, journalism and photojournalism, she worked at a roller skating rink, ran her own travel agency and worked as a freelance writer and photographer.

Now, West-Volland spends most of her time on the farm, caring for both plants and animals.

Her pasture is home to a horse, three llamas and about 14 Nubian goats that provide her with milk, which she makes into cheese. She also collects eggs from her coop full of chickens.

Throughout the years, the animals have become part of the family, she said,

“When you are a farmer, you are also sort of a vet and zookeeper,” she said. “It’s a lot of jobs combined into one. But I can’t imagine them not being here.”

West-Volland grows hay for her animals as well as fruits and vegetables, from apples and pears to potatoes and eggplant. Everything is grown with natural fertilizers and no chemicals.

“I grow enough that I buy very little from the grocery store,” she said.

In 2004, West-Volland and her husband joined the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms program. The program gives people interested in organic farming the opportunity to volunteer on farms all over the world.

In the past seven years, Butternut Farms has hosted people from Germany, Australia, South Korea and England.

“My husband really, truly felt it was important we teach young people how to grow their own food,” West-Volland said. “They come to learn to work the soil, do composting and garden smarter.”

When she isn’t working on the farm, West-Volland runs a bed and breakfast on her property and teaches classes.

She also hosts tea parties, a writers’ retreat, a photography group and a children’s day camp that focuses on crafts, recycling and creative writing.

Although things can get busy, especially in the spring and fall, West-Volland said she enjoys teaching about farming and sustainability.

“You try to find work you love that people will pay you to do. That’s what this is,” she said. “You get to the point where you don’t want to be anywhere else.”

West-Volland is proud to be continuing her husband’s dream, teaching the next generation of organic farmers and raising quality animals and food.

“It’s sharing the knowledge with other people so they can continue to share it with their children,” she said. “We should be able to feed ourselves.”

Salem farm part of growing ‘sustainable farm’ movement

Thursday, July 28th, 2011
By Charita Goshay
Salem — Among the calves, Jessie is one of the youngest of the bunch, but she also is the boldest. As the rest shy away from the approaching adults, Jessie wanders over, curious about the goings-on.

The only thing standing between her and a flurry of head pats? An electric fence.

Jessie is one of 70 bison being raised by Kevin and Sarah Swope, co-owners of Heritage Lane Farm at 29668 Mountz Road, which is part of the Ohio 2011 Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshops presented by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. OEFFA is a grassroots affiliation of farmers, gardeners, university researchers, food retailers and educators.

The tour and workshops showcase 40 farms and food businesses, university research centers and family-run businesses that have found success in using sustainable methods for food production.

The Swopes’ farm is an example of how some are using alternative, organic methods of cultivating food.

Kevin Swope said Heritage Lane employs a pasture-based system to feed the bison, whose meat is lower in fat grams, cholesterol and calories than beef, pork or poultry. Forty acres of the farm is pastureland, which has been divided into paddocks containing different grasses for bison to eat.

The herd is shifted among the paddocks every two to four days, allowing the pastures to recover naturally.

“It’s a whole different way of thinking,” Swope said. “We’re harvesting sunlight by way of the grass, which finds its way into the animals, which becomes a meat product. … I’m not working for these buffalo; they’re working for me.”

In addition to bison, Heritage Lane also features organically grown vegetables, including heirloom tomatoes and flowers, as well as poultry and sheep. The meat is processed off-site by a USDA-approved facility.

“We’re attempting to manage our pastures, using an organic method,” Swope said. “We’re really focusing on the health of the soil and allowing the biology to develop.”

The property has been a working farm since 1830. It was purchased by Sarah Swope’s parents in 1978 and later deeded to the couple in 1991.

Kevin Swope said the chief goal is to reverse the impact on the soil of nearly 200 years of tilling and chemically-dependent farming. Lime, manure and chicken litter are the additives of choice. Forty of Heritage Lane’s 52 acres is under “grassland easement,” meaning that at least 40 acres must remain as undeveloped grassland for 99 years.

“There was a lot of erosion,” he said. “I see improvements every year.”

Swope, who grew up in Louisville, had no prior farm experience. He did his own research on organic farming techniques. In addition to farming, he is a manager and soil conservationist for Natural Resource Conservation.

“Our agency is looking more and more at soil health,” he said.

Sarah Swope grows organic vegetables, including several types of hybrid tomatoes and flowers through a “high tunnel” method.

Essentially, high tunnels are Quonset huts made of clear plastic that cover the gardening area. The plastic keeps the ground warmer, which expands the planting season — from March through December.

High tunnels also reduce the spread of disease and protect plants from such extreme weather elements as high winds or hail.

“Almost all of our produce sold is grown in high tunnels,” she said. “You’re using purely solar energy.”

Sarah Swope said the growing method probably is not for everyone because the enclosure limits use of equipment.

“It’s extremely labor intensive,” she said. “The flip side is we produce all of our family’s food supplies for the year.”

On weekends, the Swopes sell their products at a farmers’ market in Beechwood.

Kevin Swope said the Cleveland area has been designated by nutrition experts as a “food desert,” meaning that availability to fresh, locally produced food is limited.

He believes opportunities abound for people interested in farming as a profession, particularly small-acerage food production. The couple’s three children are engaged in agriculture or environmental studies.

“I grew up with that mentality that you can buy it cheaper than you can grow it,” Swope said. “Sixty percent of our fruit and vegetables in the U.S. are imported. But people are willing to pay for a premium item picked on a Friday.”

The Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour runs through Oct. 9. For a schedule or more information call the OEFFA at 614-421-2022, or visit

Heritage Lane Farms also conducts tours. Call 330-222-1377.

Organic food group to observe Wood County farm: Hirzel’s Luckey site part of statewide tour

Saturday, June 25th, 2011
Jon Chavez
The Toledo Blade
June 17, 2011

A group devoted to organic food production will visit the operations of  Hirzel Farms in Wood County Saturday as part of a 40-stop tour of Ohio sites engaged in organic farming and sustainable agriculture.

Beginning at 10 a.m., members of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association will be at the Hirzel site near Luckey where they will view its grain cleaning and compost operations.

“When the grains come in from the field, they have one step in between harvest and the flour mill. It’s the cleaning out of all the nonfood debris, weed seeds and the like, that can go to a food processor,” Lou Kozma, a Hirzel family member and manager of Hirzel Farms.

Most farmers or farming operators just send grains as is on to a processor or milling operation, but Hirzel uses an air-blowing screening process to clean its grains and those of any farmer who contracts to use its cleaning process. The process removes “everything you wouldn’t want to see in a package sitting on the store shelf,” Mr. Kozma said.

The value-added service makes Hirzel products more desirable because a mill can go right to the flour-making process, he added.

Hirzel also has a process, called dehulling, which removes the outer covering of oats and a species of wheat called “spelt,” to make them ready immediately for processing.

The waste it gathers from the grain cleaning, dehulling, and processing of tomatoes at its Hirzel Canning operation in Northwood is used to make compost that is reapplied to its 1,850-acre farming operations, 700 acres of which grow organic crops.

Hirzel Farms grows tomatoes, cabbage, nongenetically modified soybeans, organic edible soybeans, feed corn, spelt, winter wheat, spring wheat, oats, alfalfa, and clover.

Mr. Kozma said the Hirzel family starting grain cleaning in 1979 as a way to give it a competitive edge over its rivals.

“What started out as a way to market our products turned into a custom cleaning operation for us and for others. We now have 20 area growers that feed into the cleaning facility,” he said.

Hirzel began a composting operation to dispose of its cannery and cleaning waste.

The ecological food and farm group began its tour June 11 at a dairy farm in southern Ohio. After the visit to Hirzel Farms, the group will head to a poultry farm in central Ohio.

Read the original text of this article at The Toledo Blade.