O' Christmas Tree, O' Christmas Tree

With Christmas Eve just 18 days away, it’s time to deck the halls and pick the perfect holiday tree.

According to a recent Columbus Dispatch article, about 1 million Ohio families will decorate a cut Christmas tree this holiday season. Whether you cut it down yourself at one of the state’s more than 200 Christmas tree farms or buy it pre-cut in a city lot, selecting just the right tree for your home can be a daunting task.

To help you make the right choice, here are the characteristics of the six most common evergreen varieties available in Ohio courtesy of The Ohio State University Extension:

Scotch Pine: Historically, the Scotch pine is the most common Christmas tree sold in the U.S., probably because it’s good at retaining its one-to-three inch long, green to blue-green needles.

Eastern White Pine: The second most popular pine Christmas tree among Ohio consumers has soft, two-to-five-inch long needles, but its flexible branches can’t hold heavy ornaments.

Blue Spruce: The Blue Spruce features a naturally symmetrical form that requires minimal clipping, but its sharp, stiff needles make it less than ideal for homes with small children.

Fraser Fir: Growing in popularity as a Christmas tree choice, the Fraser is a fragrant, dark green tree with one-half to one-inch-long flat needles with good retention.

Douglas Fir: This popular tree has a pleasant evergreen scent, soft, short needles and a strong natural symmetrical form that makes it an attractive Christmas tree choice.

Canaan Fir: Pronounced “kah-nane,” this tree variety is a relatively new Christmas tree variety that is becoming popular with growers because it will grow in areas that Fraser and Douglas firs will not. It features softer, slightly longer needles than the Fraser and a nice balsam scent.

Once you’ve selected a tree, here are tips for keeping it fresh and festive throughout the season:

  • Before bringing the tree into your home, shake it outside to remove dead and loose needles 
  • Place the tree in a stand that is strong enough to hold it upright and that can hold at least one gallon of water 
  • Don’t place your tree near a heat source, such as a fireplace or even a sunny window
  • Lowering the temperature in your home will help your tree last longer
  • Replenish water on a daily basis to avoid dry, dropping needles and droopy branches

When the holiday is over, the Ohio Christmas Tree Association recommends recycling your tree. Many communities offer curbside pick up for trees or designated tree drop-off locations. Old Christmas trees can be used for mulch, compost or even placed in the wild for birds to use for shelter.

Photo obtained from: greatkids.outdoors.org

Dandelions: A New Cash Crop for Ohio?

As demand for natural rubber continues to increase and shortages continue to occur, research at The Ohio State University’s (OSU) Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center is addressing the issue by developing a new crop that can be grown in Ohio and other northern states to supply rubber.

Additional analysis of rubber samples from a plant called “Russian dandelion” by the University of Akron Polymer Research Center has shown that it has properties nearly identical to those of conventional rubber trees.

An Ohio’s Country Journal article reports that Russian dandelion was previously grown as a crop during World War II in both the United States and the Soviet Union to supply rubber for the war. Today, researchers at OSU’s Department of Horticulture and Crop Science have developed high yielding Russian dandelion varieties that produce up to 15 percent rubber in their roots.

According to an article at gizmag.com, there are two main reasons the Russian dandelion has attracted interest again. First, industries that utilize rubber, like those that make car parts, tires and hoses, need to find new materials to meet increasing demand. Secondly, these industries want to make the quest for new materials as sustainable as possible.

Currently, the United States is dependent on natural rubber derived from rubber trees grown in Southeast Asia. It’s hoped that once the research has been conducted, Ohio farmers will be given the opportunity to grow Russian dandelion and help the U.S. reduce its dependence on foreign natural rubber.

What are your thoughts about this new potential cash crop? Would you or do you know any farmers that would be willing to grow Russian dandelion?

Photo obtained from: bbc.co.uk

Growing Ohio Hops

According to The Ohio State University’s (OSU) Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), the state’s beer manufacturers spend an estimated $4 million a year purchasing hops — an essential component of beer — from out-of-state growers. In response, OARDC is launching a first-of-its-kind research program in an effort to increase home-grown hops production.

Beginning this fall, OARDC’s research will evaluate new hop cultivars, production techniques, harvesting, processing and even marketing tools. Early research has shown that hops could be grown in the sandy soil near Lake Erie as well as the heavy clay soil of southern Ohio.

“This will allow Ohio’s beer manufacturers to spend their money in Ohio by purchasing Ohio-grown hops and ultimately help create Ohio jobs,” said Brad Bergefurd, an OSU extension agriculture educator in a recent OARDC news release. “This crop may allow Ohio growers to diversify into a high-value specialty crop.”

Currently, most of U.S. hops production takes place in the northwestern corner of the nation. With the growth of microbreweries throughout Ohio, the demand for hops is certainly increasing. While some hops are already grown in the state, it’s mostly on a small scale or by home brewers with garden space.

OSU researchers estimate that within the first year growers can expect a hops yield of 200 to 1,800 pounds per acre with an estimated value of $2,000 to $25,200. By the second year, researchers estimate 500 to 2,200 pounds per acre valued at $7,000 to $30,800.

Now, that’s something for Ohio growers to be “hoppy” about!

What do you think about homegrown-hops production? Is this a good idea for Ohio growers?

Photo obtained from: myessentia.com 

Preparing Bins for Grain Storage

Before you harvest your corn and soybean crops this year, make sure you have taken all of the necessary steps to prepare your bins for storage. 

Agriculture.com provides a helpful checklist to help farmers prepare their grain bins for this year’s fall harvest.
  • Clean empty grain bins: Remove old grain, clean and sanitize aeration ducts, augers and other places insects could feed on dust and fine material
  • Service and operate grain bin fans: Inspect burners, fan housings, fan blades, belts, guards, bearings, and electrical controls and switches
  • Inspect dryers and operate prior to use: Calibrate your grain-moisture meter to avoid over-drying or under-drying grain and then finish the job with a thorough cleaning, particularly of stand-alone dryers
  • Install a monitoring system in every grain bin: Such systems employ moisture and temperature sensors suspended from bin roofs that help analyze data and use preset moisture and temperature target goals for each bin
  • Check fan capacity on large grain bins: It is crucial that larger bins (42 to 48 feet in diameter) be equipped with fans capable of pushing .3 cubic feet of air per minute per bushel through the bin
  • Pull auger flighting from grain bin un-loaders and check for wear: 10 to 15 percent of wear can decrease an auger's capacity by 25 percent and increase grain damage
  • Core grain bins immediately after the harvest: Remove the accumulation of fine material that often builds up in the center (core) of the bin during filling so that the grain stored there receives adequate airflow

What have you done to prepare your grain bins for the fall harvest? Do you have any tips that weren’t mentioned?

Photo obtained from: wayne.osu.edu

Extreme weather takes a bite out of Ohio’s apple crop

October is National Apple Month, but for growers impacted by this year’s unusual weather it will be a bittersweet celebration.

According to a recent article in The Columbus Dispatch, extreme weather during the spring and summer has cut Ohio’s apple harvest almost in half. Last month, the U.S.D.A reported that nearly 40 percent of fruit crops in Ohio were in poor condition. Only four percent of the state’s apple crop was considered in excellent condition.

“This is one of the worst seasons I’ve experienced,” said Ken Golding, a Perry Township-based grower, in The News Herald. “Out of all the years I’ve been growing apples, there are only two other years we’ve had this kind of problem.”

The problem for apple growers was a laundry list of climate conditions, including an unusually warm spring and a brutal summer drought. Apple trees bloomed early this year, in March instead of April, leaving them susceptible to frosts.

As a result, Andy Lynd, an apple grower in Pataskala, told The Columbus Dispatch that the drought has reduced the size of his orchard’s apples and overall crop. The drought might also have long-term ramifications for his trees.

“We lost some newly planted trees to drought,” said Lynd.  “Most of them survived, but they just didn’t grow.”

For consumers, a smaller apple crop will mean higher prices. However, the upside is that this year’s crop of apples should be sweeter and more flavorful than in other years.

To make the most of this season’s limited, but tasty apple crop, here are some tips from www.ohioapples.com on how to select, store and prepare apples:

  • Select apples that are bruise-free and handle apples gently to prevent bruising
  • Select apples that are firm to the touch for the best flavor and crunchiness
  • Store apples in the refrigerator to slow ripening and maintain flavor
  • Wash individually sold apples in cool water before serving
  • Store apples away from strong-smelling foods to prevent them from absorbing unpleasant odors
  • Coat apple slices in a mixture of one part lemon juice to three parts water or 100-percent apple juice to reduce browning

Photo obtained from: michfb.com

Preview: 2012 Farm Science Review

A yearly agriculture event, the Farm Science Review (FSR), marks its 50th anniversary this year in Ohio.

Taking place September 18, 19 and 20, the FSR attracts nearly 140,000 visitors from the U.S. and Canada who come to learn about the latest in agricultural research, products and services, and experience educational exhibits, presentations and demonstrations relating to natural-resource management and the crop and livestock industries. 

According to its website, this year’s three-day event will feature:
  • Millions worth of machinery
  • The Ohio Farmer Conservation awards — Thursday, September 20 at 11:30 a.m.
  • Farm, home and health-safety information 
  • Hands-on Global Positioning Systems (GPS) demonstrations 
  • Conservation-practice programs 
  • Harvesting, strip-tilling, global positioning, manure and tillage field demonstrations 
  • Equipment demonstrations focused on improved nutrient placement
For a full schedule of events, click here.

Three individuals will also be inducted to the FSR Hall of Fame, including Professor Jim Beurlein with The Ohio State University, Mike Gahn, DuPont Pioneer representative and Dr. Bobby Moser, past vice president and dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

FSR is located at The Ohio State University’s Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio, and is sponsored by the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

Are you planning to attend this year’s Farm Science Review? If so, what are you most interested in learning about and/or seeing?

Photo obtained from: http://fsr.osu.edu/

Farm Bill Scenarios

Congressional legislation is usually hotly contested and last minute, but the looming expiration of the Farm Bill September 30 is especially thorny. 

“I’m not sure which day, I’m not sure which month, but there will be a new farm bill,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, as reported in an Agri-Pulse story.

Why so complicated? A Chicago Tribune story notes election-year politics, a deeply divided Congress and limited days for congressional action — Congress is in session for only eight days when it resumes September 10. Agri-Pulse notes the several “very important priorities” also requiring congressional attention such as “military sequestration, tax code issues and a continuing resolution to address spending for the next six months.” An Argus Leader story notes “uncertainty from lawmakers about proposed nutrition program reforms within the bill and lack of interest from those in urban areas.” 

But, it’s not only farmers and producers whom are affected by the delay.

“It's not just important to the people who work the land, it's important to everybody who buys food in the grocery store," said Pam Johnson, an Iowa farmer quoted in a Chicago Tribune story. 

“All of us need food, and all of us recognize that when we have a drought like we had this year, it’s going to impact our food prices, it’s going to impact our families,” said Sioux Falls, Rep. Kristi Noem, as reported by Argus Leader.

Industry affiliates such as seed, feed, nutrient and equipment suppliers, ag lenders and others, are also greatly impacted. The Farm Bill determines policies that are crucial to farmers’ and producers’ future business decisions, such as outlays for crop insurance and disaster protection. Not having this forecast doesn’t allow them to have structured financial plans and doesn’t give industry affiliates the ability to estimate projected business traffic.

What can happen?

Farm Bill scenarios after September 30:
•    Pass a bill with regular order
•    Pass a short-term extension of current law
•    Do nothing and therefore revert to the 1949 version of the bill

“The drought has made the need for a renewal of that program extremely urgent,” states the Argus Leader story.   

"Farm Bill Now," a group of 40 farm and agriculture-related organizations, will rally on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol September 12 to lobby lawmakers.

“I’m basically telling both sides that, as the drought has demonstrated in the Midwest this year and in the Southwest the last two years, economic certainty is important to farmers and their bankers and ultimately consumers. Let’s do a farm bill. Let’s do the responsible thing,” said Lucas.

Ohio Farmers Help Foodbanks Fight Hunger

Foodbanks throughout Ohio have experienced increased demand during the recent recession as many cash-strapped families have sought assistance to help put food on their tables.

According to a recent report by Feeding America — the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization — more than 2 million Ohioans are food insecure, which means they don’t always know when or where they’ll find their next meal.

To help Ohio’s foodbanks meet the needs of hungry Ohioans, farmers and producers throughout the state have donated food, including fresh dairy and produce, to keep foodbank shelves stocked.

In June, eight Ohio egg farmers committed 1.5 million eggs to the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks (OASHF) — a contribution with the retail value of more than $168,000. Newark-based Tamarack Dairy has made a weekly donation of milk for 13 years to Ohio foodbanks.

Ohio foodbanks also receive fresh food and produce from the state, which totaled more than 7 million pounds in 2011. Nearly 99 percent of the food received from the state is produced in Ohio.

“We value the produce we receive from Ohio farmers,” said Patricia Eilmann, director of Product Resource Development with the Cleveland Foodbank in an ourohio.org article. “We talk to the state three or four times a day to see what is available. We also work with local farmers to procure excess produce.”

Want to learn more about or donate to an Ohio foodbank? Visit www.ohiofoodbanks.org for more information.

Photo obtained from: www.hungerisunacceptable.com

Irrigation Investment

Nearly 80 percent of Ohio was classified as experiencing a “moderate drought” this season. Many consumers believe that the answer to this year’s drought is an easy and simple one — Use irrigation systems — An answer that farmers wish was as easily applied as it is recommended.

Farmers have been categorized, among other categories, as “dry-land farmers” or “irrigated farmers.”

“A dry-land farmer plants and prays,” said a farmer in a recent NPR news story.

So why don’t Midwest farmers utilize irrigation systems like their western and southern counterparts? There are multiple reasons according to Larry Brown, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer and professor of food, agricultural and biological engineering:

  • Often it’s cost prohibitive: cost of investment/maintenance, mechanical issues, repairs, fuel    
  • There are water restrictions: demands 200 or more gallons of flow per minute; water sources such as ponds, streams, wells etc. are often depleted during droughts   
  • It requires a permit   
  • Summer rain is usually common in the Midwest   The sub-soil type is effective at containing moisture  
Dan Kamburoff, owner of Columbus Irrigation of Ashland, Ohio, said that the odds of needing irrigation for field crops are only about one or two years of 10, per a recent Farm and Dairy story.
“The irrigated farmer is in a completely different business,” said the NPR story author. 
Even with the many deterrents to investing in irrigation systems, many news stories have noted that irrigation dealers experienced increased interest this year because of the drought.  
Columbus Irrigation had a 40 percent business increase this year.

It will be interesting to note a potential increase of Ohio farmers who invest in irrigation systems during the coming years as a result of this year’s anomaly.
"Do your homework. For short periods in a typical Ohio growing season the return on the investment may not be there," said Brown.

Photo obtained from: farmanddairy.com

2012 Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame Inductees

Much like rock stars and football legends, Ohio’s agriculture leaders are inducted into the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame annually. Sponsored by the Ohio Agricultural Council, the Hall of Fame recognizes Ohioans who have committed their lives to working in, promoting and advocating for Ohio’s farm community.

The 2012 inductees were recently recognized at a special breakfast and ceremony held August 3. Congratulations to them all!

Dr. Charles Lifer
Dr. Lifer joined The Ohio State University Extension as a county extension agent nearly 50 years ago and has since earned a national reputation for his efforts to improve and expand Ohio’s 4-H program. With his leadership, the 4-H doubled its membership, quadrupled its endowment fund and initiated the first 4-H center at a land-grant university campus.

Dr. Bobby Moser
For more than 20 years, Dr. Moser has served as the vice president for agricultural administration and as dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Science at The Ohio State University. During his tenure, Dr. Moser has overseen a more than 200-percent increase in grant awards, the issuance of more than 80 patents, the establishment of the Food Innovation Center and the Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.

Dr. Donald Myers
Dr. Myers has served in a variety of roles at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Science for more than 30 years. Known as the “father of no-till forages in Ohio,” he was instrumental in the development of the innovative no-tillage forage seeding system, which has received international recognition. Dr. Myers has also authored numerous publications to help farmers improve forage productivity.

Micki Zartman
Ms. Zartman is the founder of Scarlet and Gray Ag Day at The Ohio State University, which is an outreach program designed to bring elementary students to OSU to learn about the industry and opportunities within agriculture. Zartman is also active in expanding the involvement of Ohio high-school students in the World Food Prize Youth Institute, a three-day event during which students can interact with Nobel and World Food Prize Laureates and discuss food security and agricultural issues.

For more information about the 2012 inductees, visit www.ohioagcouncil.org/home.html

Photo obtained from: www.pubs.usgs.gov

Core Farming Values

How to create the vision and strategic plan that can guide the future of your farm — In three simple steps

How are Fortune 500 companies and small-farming operations the same? The success of each is based on strategic business planning.

This week, I’m sharing an article about the purpose and significance of defining core values and using them as a guiding strategy for the farm, written by Farm Futures Executive Editor Mike Wilson and originally published for Farm Futures’ May/June 2012 issue.

I hope that you consider its advice or share it with a fellow farmer to ensure the longevity of your farm.

Visit the link below to view Wilson’s story.


Photo obtained from: wedgewoodbaptist.com

Lights. Camera. Food?

Last month, the Farmers & Ranchers Alliance hosted a two-day Food Dialogues event titled, "Lights, Camera, Food: Perceptions and Realities of Farming and Ranching in America" to address consumers’ concerns about food production.

Reality television, documentaries and news investigations are often times critical of today’s food system, its players and practices. The goal of the two-day event was to discuss perceptions and realities of food and farming.

According to the website, the event comprised of four separate discussions that brought together entertainment movers and shakers, chefs, academics, large restaurant operators, journalists, local leaders and farmers and ranchers for in-depth conversations about food. Discussions included:

  • Hollywood and “Vine”: The Intersection of Pop Culture and Food Production
  • Meeting of the Minds: Touring Hollywood’s Urban Farm
  • The Great Debate: Science, Technology and Food 
  • The Real Chef Challenge: Understanding How Food is Grown and Raised

Because it was such a unique event, I thought I’d share excerpts from some of the keynote discussions. Below are excerpts from the keynote conversation about the intersection of pop culture and food.
“If we stop being so judgmental and come together in the same room, we  find we have a  lot of shared values,” said Dr. J. Scott Vernon, agricultural communication professor at California Polytechnic State University.

“We are the same people with the same feelings and life experiences,” said Juliet D’Annibale, television producer. It’s not a matter of finding the right message; it’s a matter of exposing oneself and being truly honest about things that are uncomfortable for you. That’s what resonates with people.” 

Central Ohio farmer, Kristin Reese, was invited to participate as a member of “The Real Chef Challenge” panel.

“When I arrived, I saw very few familiar faces and asked myself how I fit into this equation,” said Reese. “But as our conversation began, I came to realize the importance of a small farmer and mother role at our conversation table.”

You can watch video highlights and review all of the panel discussions at www.fooddialogues.com.

What do you think of the Food Dialogues event? Do you think events and discussions that bring farmers and consumers together to discuss farming practices are beneficial?

Photo obtained from: fooddialogues.com

Blackberries in the Buckeye State

Blackberries are commonly grown throughout the Pacific Northwest and the Southern U.S., but researchers at The Ohio State University Extension are currently testing several different varieties of the berry to help boost production throughout the Buckeye State. Their goal is to provide local growers an opportunity to profit from the fruit’s increasing popularity, which has grown because of its health benefits and the growing interest in locally grown foods.

“It’s a missed opportunity for growers to make money,” said Gary Gao, an OSU Extension specialist and associate professor of small fruit crops in a recent Extension article. “Demand is much stronger than the supply. Growers just can’t get enough of them.”

The biggest obstacle facing the researchers is the blackberry’s lack of winter hardiness. While many blackberry plants weather mild winters just fine, a harshly cold or snowy season can seriously damage the crop.

The OSU researchers are testing four blackberry varieties, as well as production methods, to discover the best berry for Ohio. Currently, Ohio’s blackberry acreage is about only 400 acres.

“We want to help growers reduce their risk in order to plant more blackberry varieties that will produce a more reliable yield,” said Gao.

If the researchers are successful, it could mean a berry boon for farmers. According to Gao, a grower who produces 2,000 pounds of blackberries per acre can earn $4,600 per acre of gross revenue.

What do you think about expanding the blackberry crop in Ohio? Does it sound like a sweet idea to you?

Photo obtained from: kriegersnursery.com


Ohio County Fairs

Deservedly, as Ohio’s No. 1 industry, agriculture is celebrated each summer with county fairs and the Ohio State Fair. 

The state is littered with these festivals from June until October and each has its own unique attractions and events.

Visit Ohio.gov’s tourism and recreation page to view a chronological listing of Ohio county fairs. 

I hope that you can still attend your county fair or a neighboring county’s to partake in some local tourism that the entire family can enjoy.  


Photo obtained from: http://www.countyfairgrounds.net/ohio/ohio.php


Agriculture + Kids = Cool

Launched at the Ohio State Fair in 2011, the “Agriculture is Cool” education program is set to return to this year’s expo July 25 to August 5.

The purpose of the program is to generate excitement and interest among students about agriculture, which is Ohio’s largest industry and a key component of the state’s history and identity.

“The great thing about this program is that it helps young people understand you don’t have to live on a farm to have agriculture touch your life every day,” said David Daniels, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture in a recent OurOhio.org article. “By exploring Ohio agriculture at the Ohio State Fair, families get the opportunity to see how farmers today are using state-of-the-art technology to grow food. It’s pretty incredible.”

The program, which was recently recognized by the International Association of Fairs and Expositions as the best special or specific agricultural education exhibit, event or program, offers students and visitors of all ages the opportunity to learn more about different facets of the state’s agriculture industry and how it impacts the daily lives of all Ohioans.

In addition to interactive exhibits, the program also offers exiting fourth-grade students the opportunity to win one of four $500 scholarships, provided by the Ohio State Fair Youth Reserve Program, by submitting a one-page essay or creative story about what they learned from the Ag is Cool program.

This year, the program is also offering fourth-grade teachers the chance to attend the fair for free and possibly win one of two $2,500 classroom grants from a random drawing.

Are you interested in learning more about the Agriculture is Cool program? Visit the program’s website for more information.

Photo obtained from: agri.ohio.gov

The Summer Food Staple

Shortcake, sundaes, jam.  What do they have in common? Each is tastefully complemented with strawberries.

Strawberry production and purchasing is in its prime this time of year, as are strawberry festivals. Some examples:

  •      Troy Strawberry Festival — Troy, Ohio
  •      Depot Town Strawberry Showcase — Ypsilanti, Michigan
  •      Newark Strawberry Festival — Newark, Ohio
  •      Strawberry Days — Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
  •      The Belleville National Strawberry Festival — Belleville, Michigan
“Farmers from Lake Erie to the banks of the Ohio River are harvesting strawberries now,” said Brad Bergefurd, an OSU Extension horticulture specialist in a recent OSU Extension story.

According to the USDA ERS, Ohio harvested 730 thousand acres of strawberries last year.

Like other crops, strawberries have trade association representation. The North American Strawberry Growers Association (NASGA) supports USDA and state/provincial research programs and develops educational seminars and publications, promotes development of equipment, varieties and cultural methods to improve efficiency for the strawberry industry to strengthen and improve strawberry production and marketing.

An example of such industry development is a new strawberry production method being tested at The Ohio State University Extension called plasticulture. A recent story details the practice — allowing farmers to grow strawberries with better commercial attributes — larger fruit size, more sugar content and better disease resistance — and that can also be harvested as early as the first week of May and as late as October.

Plasticulture strawberries have the potential to yield 20,000 to 25,000 pounds of strawberries per acre, compared to 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of strawberries per acre using the traditional matted-row method.

Retail strawberries are priced about $2.50 to $3.50 per pound, so the opportunity for increased profits is appealing for farmers who take the time to invest in this new growing method.

“Just about every Ohio farmer that grows them for retail always sells out, so there is a strong market for the locally grown fruit,” said Bergefurd.

This superfood is healthy, tasty and adaptable for many recipes (and eases the pain of sunburns!). How do you most enjoy strawberries?  

Photo obtained from: Ashlee Culverhouse

Ohio’s Wine — The Best-Kept Secret of Ohio Agriculture

  When people think about Ohio agriculture, images of soybean, corn or wheat fields, or maybe even a livestock farm, probably come to mind. However, most people wouldn’t think of Ohio’s grape and wine industry as being a significant agriculture contributor but surprisingly, it is.

The Ohio General Assembly recently designated June as Ohio Wine Month, so now is the time to celebrate Ohio’s wines — known as some of the best in the country — and their significant impact to Ohio’s economy.

According to Dave Daniels, the Ohio Department of Agriculture director, Ohio has 162 wineries, which incorporate 1,600 acres of grapes that produce more than 1 million gallons of wine each year.

Listen to the director’s interview with Brownfield Ag News about Ohio’s wine industry.

During the past 10 years, Ohio’s wine industry has grown significantly. According to a 2008 Economic Impact report, Ohio’s grape and wine industry generates more than $580 million in economic activity that supports local communities while producing a superior agricultural product. The Ohio grape and wine industry also employs more than 4,100 people and provides a payroll of $124.2 million.

Ohio Wine Facts (Taste Ohio’s Wines) 

•    Prior to the Civil War, Ohio was considered America's most
     important wine-producing state
•    Today, Ohio is one of the top 10 wine-producing states in the
•    Most of the wine produced in Ohio is from the northeast corner of
     the state — in Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties — but Ohio’s
     wineries are located throughout the state
•    An average of 800 grapes make a bottle of wine
•    Grapes are the most valuable fruit crop in the United States
•    There are more than 10,000 varieties of wine grapes 

As you enjoy cookouts with family and friends this summer, try an Ohio wine with your meal. Better yet, plan a trip to an Ohio winery — many offer wine tastings and tours to educate visitors about the art of wine making and the great quality of Ohio wines. Visit www.tasteohiowines.com to locate an Ohio winery. 

Did you know that wine is a significant contributor to Ohio’s agriculture? Do you produce your own wine or do you know an Ohio wine producer? How do you plan to celebrate Ohio’s wine month? 


Photo obtained from: toledowinesandvines.blogspot.com

Robots on the Farm

Science fiction is quickly becoming fact in the agricultural world. Today, many farmers and agribusinesses are looking toward the future and at autonomous farming machinery or “robots” to help enhance efficiency, decrease workload and increase productivity.

While using technology at the farm is nothing new, some companies are beginning to push the envelope. For example, Jaybridge Robotics and Kinze Manufacturing recently partnered to create a robot drone tractor, which uses guidance-communication systems to allow a tractor to function without an operator.

Farmers are already using global positioning systems to guide tractors and combines, but that technology still requires an operator. By removing the operator from the equation, Jaybridge and Kinze hope their “robot” tractor will solve a persistent problem for many farmers — finding skilled, reliable labor.

“You put in such long hours at harvest and if you have one less person that’s needed, or you still have the same number of people helping but they can relieve somebody else a little bit during the day, it would make it much nicer,” said Jason Ochs, a Kansas farmer during a KVNO radio report.

With autonomous farm machinery, a farmer could theoretically plant and harvest 24-hours a day — a feature that would enable farmers to be particularly productive during periods of good weather.

Employing robots and other autonomous machinery could also free farmers to focus on managing their business or even having rare downtime with their families.

“Just this past Christmas we had a customer that had just started two of our robotic milkers with their herds,” said Mark Futcher, a product manager with milking machine manufacturer DeLaval in a Kansas City Star article. “That Christmas morning was the first time that gentleman had ever been witness to his children finding their Christmas stockings.”

What do you think about robots helping out around the farm? Would you use robot technology to reduce your workload?

Photo obtained from: gamersanon.com

Celebrate Ohio Ag This Summer

 Though agriculture is the backbone of Ohio, many consumers take it for granted. Now that summer is fast approaching, why not take a family outing to one of the Buckeye State’s historic farms to learn more about this important industry while having fun, too?

Ohio has a rich agriculture legacy that families can learn more about during farm visits.

Native Americans first introduced traditional vegetable crops to the state and when Europeans arrived during the late 1700s, growing practices were perfected and seeds from Europe were introduced to bring fruits and new grains to the state. Later, Ohio became a lucrative tobacco-producing state and farmers grew hemp for rope and cloth. 

Per an Ohio History Central story, farming birthed many industries:

“It is important to note that most early factories and industries grew out of Ohio's agricultural past. For example, by the 1810s, Dayton had a tobacco processing plant. Cincinnati became known as "Porkopolis" during the 1800s, once the city became the pork processing capital of the United States. Bezaleel Wells established a woolen mill in Steubenville in 1815, employing more than one hundred workers. Many manufacturers produced farming machinery, including Cyrus McCormick and Obed Hussey. McCormick invented the reaper, while Hussey developed an early version of the mower. Both of these men lived in Cincinnati during the 1830s.”

Ohio is home to many historic farms worth visiting.
Ohio Farm Sites:
   •    Carriage Hill MetroPark Farm — Dayton
   •    Lake Farmpark — Kirtland
   •    Slate Run Living Historical Farm — Westerville
   •    Ramseyer Farms — Wooster
   •    Malabar Farm — Lucas

What to expect:
    •    Planting demonstrations using period farming techniques and methods
    •    Educational tours/exhibits
    •    Crop picking
    •    Produce tasting

Related to farm sites that are open to the public is the Ohio’s Century Farms Program, which recognizes families who have maintained a farm in their family for at least 100 consecutive years. These farms may or may not be on-site accessible to tourists, but can be viewed from the roadside if traveling nearby.

To find a farm to visit or view, visit http://www.agri.ohio.gov/divs/cent_farms/.
Do you know of a historic Ohio farm that can be registered? Have you visited a historic farm?

Photo obtained from: http://www.agri.ohio.gov/divs/cent_farms/

Barriers Facing Young and Beginning Farmers

Young and beginning farmers have a few more challenges to overcome than more established farmers.

The National Young Farmer’s Coalition released a study in late 2011 showing that the nation’s young and beginning farmers face tremendous barriers to start a farming career, including:

    •    78 percent of farmers ranked “lack of capital” as a top challenge for beginning farmers and another 40 percent ranked “access to credit” as the biggest challenge
    •    68 percent of farmers ranked land access as the biggest challenge faced by beginning farmers
    •    70 percent of farmers younger than 30 rented land, as compared to 37 percent of farmers older than 30

“There are certain things that are real hurdles for young people entering production agriculture right now, including the initial investment and the yearly operating expenses,” said Barry Ward, production business management leader, The Ohio State University Extension.

“An individual today can turn a profit at almost any level of size, but that is not always the case,” Ward said. “We are in an unprecedented period where commodity prices are allowing part-time and small farmers to find profitability. When we get into margins that are a bit thinner, it’s going to be a mixed bag of those individuals that want to farm full-time and the equation to make money will change considerably.”

According to an Ohio’s Country Journal article, land is a necessity for those farmers who want to pursue crop production as a career. The trend during the past decade has been established farmers securing any available acreage in their area to grow their operations. Finding good, affordable land is the biggest hurdle for a beginning farmer.

To help the nation’s younger farmers, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is targeting more funding programs toward this demographic. In February, the USDA unveiled Start2Farm.gov, an online database of training and assistance programs from a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

In addition, the USDA appropriated $75 million from 2009 to 2012 to develop and offer education, training, outreach and mentoring programs to enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers.

Barry Ward suggests that young farmers have some off-farm employment to have some stability and recommends taking small steps at first, such as finding a rental parcel that is big enough to sustain a small equipment line, so that there isn’t too much initial overhead.

Are you or do you know a young farmer facing barriers in his/her farming practice? What do you think about the USDA’s Start2Farm online resource for young farmers? Do you have any advice to offer a young farmer?

Photo obtained from: agriculture.com

Custom Farming

There’s never a lack of things to do on a farm — mowing, plowing, seeding, fertilizing — the list goes on and on. In fact, there are so many chores to be accomplished that many farmers hire outside contractors to do some of the work for them, a practice commonly referred to as “custom farm work.”

According to a recent Ohio County Journal article, a large number of Ohio farmers are hiring “custom farmers” to provide machinery operations or other farm work that they don’t have the proper equipment, time or expertise to accomplish themselves.

Custom-farming contractors often tailor services to different groups: farmers, hobby farmers and landowners, who are often the largest consumer group for custom work.

“A lot of people move out here on 10 acres and think, it’s going to take care of itself, it’s nature,” said Josh Riddle, a custom-farm operator in a recent Capital Press article. “It’s not nature, it was farm ground. It’s just how to help them be stewards of the land.”

Riddle is a fourth-generation farmer in Washington who began his own custom-farming operation nearly a decade ago. He provides a variety of services — everything from seeding fields to applying custom fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

According to the University Extension at the Iowa State University, enlisting the help of a custom operator like Riddle can be particularly beneficial to farmers with small acreages who can still be productive without investing in a full line of machinery and helpful to farmers who are employed beyond the farm or who are retired.

Rates for custom farm work are wide ranging because of a multitude of variables — the size and shape of fields, condition of the crop, the mix of labor and machinery used, etc.

To help Ohio farmers better calculate and plan for costs associated with custom farm work, The Ohio State University Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics recently published the Ohio Farm Custom Rates for 2012 report.

Based on a survey of more than 120 farmers, custom operators, farm managers and landowners throughout the state, the report provides rates for a variety of farm functions, including:
Soil preparation
Fertilizer application
Chemical and mechanical control of weeds or insects
Planting operations — till and no-till
Grain harvesting, storing, drying and hauling
Hay baling
Machinery rental and labor

Do you or someone you know utilize custom-farming contractors? If yes, what work do you or they farm out?

Photo obtained from: standerfarms.com