Outlook for value of Buckeye State farmland is bright

The financial value of Ohio’s farmland appreciated in 2012 and should continue to rise this year, according to a recent report by Barry Ward, a production business management expert at The Ohio State University Extension.

According to the report, which cites data from the Ohio Ag Statistics Service, the value of Ohio’s bare cropland increased 13.6 percent last year, from $4,400 per acre to $5,000 per acre.

“With many dollars and buyers chasing farmland, it isn’t a surprise to see land values increase again substantially in 2012,” according to the report. “Crop profitability along with low interest rates have been the primary drivers in this unprecedented run-up in cropland values. The relative scarcity of farmland has also been a driver in cropland values.”

Ward believes that the outlook for 2013 is for continued growth with the “potential for strong profits.” Farmers are expected to buy up land this year based on their strong balance sheets. Ward also states that investors are closely examining farmland as an alternative investment opportunity.

Other experts believe that regional farmland values – while not in the kind of bubble that eventually burst in the housing market and with Internet stocks – may see a downward correction, according to an AgWeb.com article.

In spite of strong fundamentals such as high commodity prices and low interest rates, factors such as changes in America’s ethanol-based Renewable Fuel Standard and the outcome of farm bill legislation could help shift the multiyear trend of increasing farmland values in the midwest, experts say.

Do you see farmland values continuing to increase? Would you consider buying Ohio farmland this year?

Photo by Peter Bohan, Reuters

Popularity Growing for Winter Farmers Markets

While winter may be upon us, consumer demand for farm fresh goods has not diminished.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced last month that the number of winter farmers markets listed in the National Farmers Market Directory increased 52 percent, from 1,225 in 2011 to 1,864 in 2012.

According to a recent Ohio Farmer article, winter markets now account for roughly 24 percent of the 7,865 farmers markets listed in the USDA national directory.

The growth in the number of markets is attributed to the steps more farmers are taking to meet increased consumer demand for locally produced goods. Farmers markets allow consumers to have access to locally grown, farm-fresh goods such as fresh or preserved fruit, root vegetables, meat, poultry and eggs. The markets also enable farmers the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their customers.

The winter markets are also a significant boost to farmers’ and growers’ bottom lines, according to a USDA study, which found that markets operating more than seven months a year garner three times the amount of sales revenue per month than those that operate only during the prime summer months.

"Each winter farmers markets offer additional opportunities for farmers to generate income year round," Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said. "These investments are a win-win.  Farmers have more stability and consumers have a reliable supply of local food, regardless of the season."

Last year, the USDA ranked Ohio fifth nationally in terms of the number of winter farmers markets active throughout the state. While Ohio has moved down in the list, our state still boasts an impressive number of winter farmers markets, including the: 

For a list of additional winter farmers markets throughout the state, visit http://ohioproud.org/searchmarkets.php 

Do you participate in any winter farmers markets or have you attended any this year? If so, which markets do you recommend?

Photo obtained from: boston.mommypoppins.com

Beyond the Farm: Ag Careers in Science and Technology

When we think about jobs in agriculture, images of farmers harvesting crops or feeding livestock are more likely to come to mind than images of technicians in lab coats. However, there are plenty of off-the-farm career opportunities available for ag-minded students in science and technology.

Graduates with degrees in agriculture and food science can pursue careers as animal, food, soil or plant scientists — all fields that are growing in demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for agriculture and food science majors are expected to grow 16 percent between 2008 and 2018.

“A lot of the agriculture and horticulture industries are finding it difficult to find people to employ for the jobs they need done,” said Nancy Taylor, program director for The Ohio State University’s C. Wayne Ellett Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic in a recent Our Ohio article. “And I think there are a lot of opportunities in the industry, government and in research.”

To raise awareness about career opportunities in agriculture science and technology among Ohio students, State Sen. Chris Widener is trying to establish a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) academy in Springfield — a worthy endeavor considering that one in seven jobs in Ohio are related to agriculture and food.

“Kids and parents struggle with agriculture as a term, and if they are not familiar with it they believe it’s a dead-end job,” said Widener on the Town Hall Ohio radio program.

So what do agricultural and food scientists do? According to the BLS, agricultural and food scientists can work in the private sector for food-production companies, farms, processing plants and even for pharmaceutical or energy companies. Agricultural and food scientists are also employed by universities and colleges and by the government.

Here are job descriptions for typical agriculture and food scientists courtesy of the BLS:

Animal Scientists: With a focus on food production, animal scientists explore farm animal genetics, nutrition, reproduction, diseases, growth and development. They work to develop efficient ways to produce and process meat, poultry, eggs and milk. They also advise farmers about how to upgrade housing for animals, lower animal death rates, handle waste matter and increase production.

Food Scientists and Technologists: Through the use of chemistry and other sciences, food scientists and technologists study the underlying principles of food. They analyze nutritional content, discover new food sources and research ways to make processed foods safe and healthy. Food technologists generally work in product development, applying findings from food-science research to develop new or better ways of selecting, preserving, packaging and distributing food. Other food scientists enforce government regulations, inspecting food-processing areas to ensure that they are sanitary and meet waste-management standards.

Soil Scientists: Soil scientists examine the scientific composition of soil as it relates to plant or crop growth and investigate the effects of alternative soil treatment practices on crop productivity. They develop methods of conserving and managing soil that can benefit farmers and forestry companies.

Plant Scientists: Plant scientists work to improve crop yields and provide advice to food and crop developers about techniques that could enhance production efforts. They develop ways to control pests and weeds safely and effectively.

What are your thoughts about careers in agriculture and food science? Would you encourage young students to pursue these majors in college?

Photo obtained from: organic.about.com

For farmers, there’s an app for that

Some readers may recall the craze throughout the country surrounding FarmVille, the social media game developed by Zynga in 2009. FarmVille quicky became the hottest game played on Facebook, the popular social networking site. But just as kids and adults of all ages can pretend to farm, real farmers throughout Ohio and the nation are using today’s technology for more than just casual fun – it has become an integral part of their business.

Farmers have been utilizing smartphone technology at a quicker pace than the overall population. A Successful Farming study showed that 55 percent of farmers own a cell phone capable of running applications or “apps.” Contrast that with a Pew study in which 35 percent of the population has a smartphone.

In fact, another Successful Farming survey found that more than 70 percent of respondents access agriculture-related information and services from their cell phone.

The benefits of smartphone apps available to farmers vary from conveniently storing important crop data to projecting yields and providing the latest ag news.

For example, Optimizer 2.0 uses a farm’s location, variety of seed, soil type and other variables to project corn yield and indicate the most limiting factor on the farm.

The Growing Degree Days app helps farmers predict when their crops will mature. The app reviews current and historic data based on the location of the farm.

CropNAtion is a farmers’ social network to share information and crop photos as well as explore regional trends.

If you wish to explore the range of apps available, consider CropLife’s list of the 10 best apps for 2012 and 2013.

In addition, the December 2012 edition of Farm Futures includes an article about more than a dozen smartphone apps.

How has smartphone technology impacted your farm?

Photo from dailycaller.com