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 www.oeffa.org.