Annual conference teaches sustainable farming

The Newark Advocate
By Joe Williams
2/16/14

GRANVILLE — Katrina Bush visited Granville’s middle and high schools Saturday to learn about beekeeping, using herbs for medicine and community supported agriculture.

Bush raises chickens, eggs and produce on her 30 acres near Mount Sterling. She works full-time for the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, in Columbus, but hopes to retire soon and expand her agricultural efforts. On Saturday, she attended the 35th Annual Conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association to learn about sustainable food and farming.

“I just went to a bee workshop. That’s my next thing,” she said.

Bush recently slaughtered her hens, which were getting too old to produce eggs, but she will accept delivery of 27 more early next month. She raises them mostly for their egg production for herself, family and friends, but doesn’t make much money off them, for now.

She grows produce in her garden and donates the excess to her local food bank. She sets aside 14 acres as a quail habitat.

On Saturday, between workshops, Bush browsed the exhibits in the Granville Middle School gym and spoke with vendor Charles Prince about raising barley sprouts during the winter to help feed her chickens.

Prince, of Granville, co-owns Do It Yourself Sprouts, which sells sprouting trays, racks, timers and related equipment. Prince’s partner, Amish dairy farmer Robert Mast, of Charm, uses the system to feed his cows barley sprouts during the winter. Customers use the sprouts to feed their goats, sheep, trophy deer and chickens, Prince said.

“To date, the vast majority of our customers are Amish,” Prince said, “because you don’t need electricity.”

Prince and Mast started the company in 2012, Prince said, to feed cows during the winter, when forage is unavailable. An Amish farmer in Holmes County makes the molded trays for them.

While Mast only grows sprouts through April, Prince said, other farmers can grow them year-round, using air conditioning to control the growing temperature and humidity to protect against mold.

“The value of sprouts during the summer is considerably less than during the winter because of the availability of pasture,” Prince said.

Carson Combs and his wife, Dawn, co-owners of Mockingbird Meadows, near Marysville, attended this weekend’s conference, selling their products and hosting workshops. Carson maintains 35 beehives, while Dawn, an herbalist, uses the honey for spreads and herb-infused honeys. They also make and sell wound cleaners, bug repellants and poison ivy kits.

“You can take a spoonful of honey instead of taking a pill or tincture,” Carson Combs said. “A lot of people don’t want to take pills.”

Their business is now full-time. Carson formerly worked as a city planner in Dublin; Dawn worked in information technology for Chase Bank. They sell their products year-round at farmers markets and at their farm, where they also teach classes.

“For us, it goes back to Hippocrates and ‘your food should be your medicine,” Combs said.

The conference continues from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. [Sunday] with a variety of workshops, including Cooking and Eating GMO-Free Meals, Food Safety and Post-Harvest Handling, and Solar Electricity for the Very, Very Beginner. Presenters come from across Ohio and several other states.