Category Archives: Farm Tours

Salem farm part of growing ‘sustainable farm’ movement

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

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.

Hirzel’s organic farm featured in tour

Larry Limpf
The Press
June 16, 2011

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s 2011 tour of some of the state’s sustainable and organic farms includes a stop at a local family farm.

Hirzel Farms, 20790 Bradner Rd., Luckey, will be open to the public June 18 at 10 a.m.  About 700 acres of the 2,000-acre farm have been certified organic.

The farm’s grain cleaning and bagging operations will be featured, said Lupe Hernandez, who manages the farm and has worked for the Hirzels for 32 years. “There aren’t too many machines like we have in Ohio,” he said, adding the farm ventured into organics in the early 1980s.

Soybeans, corn, wheat, and oats are grown organically on the farm, which has been in the Hirzel family for five generations.

Hernandez said the farm’s grain products are sold locally and nationally and, through the Andersons brokerage division, the farm has even sold some products in Japan.

Tour participants will also see the farm’s licensed compost operations which processes waste from grain and livestock operations as well as the Hirzel’s canning business.

Hernandez said about 4,000 tons of compost are generated annually, with about half applied to the farm’s fields and the rest sold through a cooperative to other growers.

Cabbage and tomato fields supply the Silver Fleece sauerkraut and Dei Fratelli tomato product lines but are not part of the farm’s organic business.

Hernandez said the farm was also included in the OEFFA tour in the mid 1990s.

OEFFA was formed in 1979 and has offered the tour series for 29 years.

“The food production system is a mystery for many consumers. This series of free tours shows that some farmers are eager to open their doors to share their experiences with other farmers and with the general public,” said Michelle Gregg-Skinner, Organic Education Program Coordinator at OEFFA. “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 food dollars.”

The tour continues into November. The next stop will be June 30 at a family-owned poultry farm, Ridgway Hatcheries, in Marion County.

Swainway Urban Farm

Hounds in the Kitchen
June 7, 2011

Innovative. Compact. Sustainable. Friendly. Swainway Urban Farm is a new model for growing.

Settled on a large lot in Clintonville Ohio, Joseph Swainway and partner Jess Billings (of Jess Bee Natural lip balm fame) have a half acre empire dedicated to growing edibles in an earth friendly way.

Their farm grew out of a desire to provide themselves with healthy fresh food. As their interest deepened, their garden grew to the point of being able to give and sell the excess to friends and family. Soon, restaurants came calling and Swainway Urban Farm was born.

In 2011 the farm applied for and received Organic status by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

straw bale compost bed
straw bale compost bed
urban composted soil
urban composted soil

Minimizing garden inputs is one goal of the farm. Joseph maintains several large compost heaps designed to produce rich organic matter to return to the soil. Part of the motivation for growing edible mushrooms was to use the spent mushroom beds in the compost. The enzymes found in the mushroom compost ‘closes the loop’, as these nutrients are unavailable from traditional plant compost.

The farm was also founded to be an educational resource for home growers and healthy eaters. Jess and Joseph are eager to share gardening and cooking advice at their Clintonville Farmer’s Market stand. They are participants in the Clintonville Farmer’s Market children’s program where kids visit and help work on the farm. On August 7 from 2-4 pm the farm will be open for an OEFFA Farm Tour.

watering in greenhouse at swainway
watering in greenhouse at swainway

Joseph and Jess gave intern Keara and I a tour in mid-April. The farm was in the midst of seedling production. Heirloom seed starts grew under artificial light and then were transfered to the large greenhouse. They were transplanted into four inch pots for selling at the Clintonville Farmer’s Market and Clintonville Community Market.

Joseph and Jess also grow a wide variety of produce for restaurant chefs and farmer’s market shoppers. From early spring through the fall, the farm provides radish, kale, and pea shoots. Shitake mushrooms have been a popular item for years and this spring Joseph debuted oyster mushrooms. Lettuces, herbs, greens, tomatoes, carrots, and more are available seasonally.

Keara had this to say about visiting Swainway: “Rachel introduced me to two amazing, hard working farmers, Jess and Joseph. They live in an urban area and yet are still driven to have the most sustainable lifestyle possible. I was in awe of their backyard as they used every inch they could for gardening purposes.

Never before had I thought that such comprehensive farming was possible in urban Columbus. Seeing how they went about it I could tell they put an enormous amount of work into their extensive garden. Jesse and Joseph obviously care deeply about a healthy lifestyle for themselves as well as the Earth. Witnessing how they live makes me want to let everyone know that even though you might live on a street by a busy city with long rows of houses adjoining your house doesn’t mean that you can’t have a significant farm in your backyard.”

For more information, visit Hounds in the Kitchen.

Local Roots Market schedules three farm tours

Farm and Dairy
June 14, 2011

WOOSTER, Ohio — Inspired by the annual Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association farm tour, the Local Roots Market and Cafe farm tour provides shoppers with the chance to meet the farmers who grow or raise the food sold at Local Roots as well as to learn more about growing practices, environmental stewardship and farming life.

The tour kicks off June 23 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Weaver’s Truck Patch in Fredericksburg. Martha Gaffney of Martha’s Farm in Ashland opens the gates for visitors June 25 to learn more about the all-natural produce and grass-based beef, pork, chicken and turkeys raised on the farm.

Mary and Joe Gnizak of Adonai Acres in Lakeville will host visitors June 26 from 2-6 p.m. and offer tours of this hilly but productive chemical-free farm, from field to high tunnels. (This farm may not be accessible for those with wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility assistance needs.)

Additional tours will be held in July.

For more information about the Local Roots farm tour, visit Local Roots Wooster and download the June newsletter, or stop by the market to pick up handouts with directions and more information.

In addition, a handful of Local Roots producers will be featured on the OEFFA Farm Tour, and Local Roots Market and Cafe will team up with the South Market Bistro to host the tour Oct. 1. For more information about these tour dates, visit the OEFFA events page.

The market, 140 S. Walnut St. in Wooster, is currently open Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. For information on upcoming events or membership, visit the web site at Local Roots Wooster or sign up for the monthly newsletter.

Farms, food businesses, gardens and more on this year’s free Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association tours

Published: Wednesday, June 01, 2011, 7:43 AM
By Debbi Snook, The Plain Dealer

Barn doors are swinging open across Ohio, well-greased with environmental ideals.

Forty farms and food businesses, three university research centers and three educational workshops will be part of the largest series of Ohio farm tours by Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, one of the state’s primary organic education and certifying agencies.

Several of the free, public events will be held in Northeast Ohio but the full schedule of the 2011 Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series starts Saturday in Pomeroy, southern Ohio, with a look at Snowville Creamery, suppliers of grass-fed cow’s milk to Jeni’s Ice Creams. Tours then move to all parts of the state for environmentally healthy food topics, from produce to meat to dairy to grain. Ohio State University Extension and Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy are co-sponsors of some of the tours.

“The food production system is a mystery for many consumers,” Michelle Gregg-Skinner, education coordinator at OEFFA, said in a media release. “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 food dollars.”

Some of this year’s tours will look at how to extend the growing season into our cold winters, highlight women farmers, show how to farm with horses, grow without chemicals, raise fish and sell everything you grow.

Northeast Ohio stops include:

• A visit to a government-leased farm in the Cuyahoga Valley, 3 p.m. Saturday, July 9 at Basket of Life Farm, Peninsula.

• Rain and butterfly gardens and native seed production is the topic at Ohio Prairie Nursery in Hiram, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, July 23.

• Geauga Family Farms, a cooperative of Amish families growing a wide range of products, will be profiled at Miller’s Organic Produce in Middlefield, 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday, July 26.

• Melon lovers can stop at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2 to look at managing wilt and cucumber beetles.

• Learn about wool processing from 42 states in Wayne County, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11 at Morning Star Fiber, Apple Creek.

• Floyd Davis of Red Basket Farm in Kinsman shows off his sweet corn and season-extending techniques 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 21. Move to nearby Miller Livestock Co. (also in Kinsman) from 2-4 p.m. for grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured pork, chicken and turkeys.

• Marshy Meadows Farm in Windsor, Ashtabula County, reveals its environmentally sound processes for finishing grass-fed calves, 3-5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10.

• Local Roots Market, a Wooster store owned by growers and consumers, and South Market Bistro, a restaurant specializing in serving local food, are on tap 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1.

• Experienced farmers can return to Wooster 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14 for a conference with veteran growers and university educators on tomato production.

Originally appeared at

Ohioans Encouraged to “Go Down on the Farm” this Summer

Ohio News Service
Mary Kuhlman
May 19, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohioans mapping out their summer plans are being encouraged to check out what’s going on “down on the farm.”

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s Farm Tour Series kicks off in June, offering Ohioans the chance to see, taste, feel and learn what sustainable food production is all about.

Michelle Gregg-Skinner, the association’s organic education program coordinator, says 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 food dollars.

“Consumers can get a better grasp of the procedures that are involved in getting food and agricultural product from the ground or from the livestock to their plate or place of business.”

Consumers will see not only the production side but also how the product is processed and prepared for market, Gregg-Skinner says.

The series has been offered for 29 years and this year features 40 tours, including organic dairy farms, grain production, fiber and fabric production and diversified livestock farmers.

The tours are a great opportunity for Ohio families to get out and do something new this summer, Gregg-Skinner says, adding that what’s even better is that they’re free.

“With the dollar being a little tight in most people’s wallet’s this year, the farm tour series is a nice and really economically friendly way to promote agriculture in Ohio, especially at sustainably managed agricultural operations.”

A complete list of tours is available at

For audio and the original story at the Ohio News Service, go to

Diverse Farm Tour Crosses the State

June 16, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Consumers are getting a peek inside the operations of some of Ohio’s most sustainable farms this summer. This is the 29th year the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) has hosted its Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop series, giving people the opportunity to learn about techniques used by organic and ecological farms and gardens.

OEFFA spokesperson Lauren Ketcham says the farmers will share their extensive experience in producing and marketing with anyone interested in learning more.

“The series features a diverse array of farms, including livestock producers, specialty crop and vegetable producers, poultry processors, farms that incorporate renewable energy and green building techniques, and farmers using a wide range of direct-to-consumer marketing strategies.”

Ketcham says the tour is a great opportunity for consumers to see firsthand how their food is being grown.

“Consumers are growing increasingly savvy about their food buying decisions, and the transparency and personal relationships that these tours encourage are something shoppers don’t get at the grocery store.”

Last year, more than 600 people attended the farm tours; on this year’s tour, 11 farms are featured. More information is online at

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service – OH

This article appeared in the Public News Service: