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.