Organizers say an upcoming series of farm tours will be all about innovation.
Starting in August, the Sustainable Agriculture Team at The Ohio State University will present 10 visits at Ohio farms to spotlight new crops and methods.
“It’s an opportunity for participants to kick the tires on other farm operations and see how other folks are addressing sustainability issues,” said Mike Hogan, who’s a co-organizer of the series and a member of the team.
The free tours will feature topics including hops, grapes, high tunnels, organic farming, direct selling to consumers and farm to school programs. Urban farming will be a special focus. The lineup is part of the wider Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series, which the team is co-presenting with five other organizations.
The missions of both the team and its tours are to help farm families become more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable, said Hogan, who’s an agriculture and natural resources educator with Ohio State University Extension.
“We teach workshops and utilize other teaching tools throughout the year, but these tours really provide an opportunity for farm families to see and feel how some farms are utilizing the concepts we teach,” he said. “The tours are also used frequently as a way to learn how to start a new farm by individuals wishing to start a farm.”
The 10 tours slated by the team are:
• Aug. 4, 7-8 p.m., Innovative Farm to School Project Tour at Granville High School, 248 New Burg St., Granville, featuring the Granville school system’s efforts to grow, serve and teach about sustainable local foods. Aquaponics, raised beds, permaculture, a high tunnel and bee hives will be shown.
• Aug. 6, 2-4 p.m., Large-Scale Urban Farm Tour at Clarfield Farm, 3220 Groveport Road, Columbus, featuring Urban Farms of Central Ohio, which is part of the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. The farm uses three high tunnels among its methods. It sells directly to restaurants and at a farmers market and works to increase people’s food security.
• Aug. 7, 1-2 p.m., Multi-Location, Mission-Driven Urban Farm Tour at the Italian Village Urban Farm, 701 N. 4th St., Columbus, featuring the work of the Columbus Growing Collective. The tour will show how to grow food in high tunnels, rooftop gardens, shipping containers and more.
• Aug. 13, 10 a.m. to noon, Demonstration Food Garden Tour at the Scotts Miracle-Gro Community Garden Campus at the Franklin Park Conservatory, 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus, featuring the campus’s “living classroom and idea center,” herb and kitchen gardens, cooking area, apiary, and 40 community garden plots.
• Aug. 14, 2-4 p.m., Suburban Homestead Tour at Weurfulville Suburban Farmstead, 7051 Weurful Road, Canal Winchester, featuring low tunnels, raised beds and vertical growing systems that together produce enough food to feed the host family year-round, with a surplus to sell to neighbors.
• Aug. 18, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Northwest Ohio Hops Field Day at the Agricultural Incubator Foundation, 13737 Middleton Pike, Bowling Green. Brad Bergefurd, a horticulture specialist with the college, will showcase the farm’s one-year-old planting of hops. He’ll discuss hop cultivars, methods, pest management and more.
• Aug. 20, 10 a.m. to noon, Community Urban Agriculture Tour at University Church, 4747 Hill Ave., Toledo, featuring urban, small-scale production of fruit, fish, chickens, honey and more. Greenhouses, high tunnels and community gardens will be shown.
• Sept. 8, 2 p.m., Organic Crop Research Tour, at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s West Badger Farm on Apple Creek Road in Wooster, featuring updates by OARDC-funded scientists on their multi-year organic soil management project; oat, corn and red clover variety trials; cover crop studies; and more.
• Sept. 8, 7-9 p.m., Soil Health Research Tour at the SHARP Farm Site, 11508 Township Road H-11, Ottawa, featuring replicated on-farm soil health research plots in a corn-soybean-wheat rotation with three different tillage systems: conventional tillage, long-term no-till and long-term no-till with cover crops.
• Sept. 20, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Grape Production and Winery Tour at Slate Run Vineyard, 1900 Canal Winchester Road, Canal Winchester, featuring a tour of the winery and vineyard, which grows 60 grape varieties on 4 acres, and details on how the operation sources local apples to produce 17 proprietary wines.
All the tours aim to give useful new ideas, Hogan said.
“People come on these tours, and they see and hear how others are addressing management challenges, and they bring these ideas home and tweak that for their own farm operations,” he said. “We hear that a lot — that folks find very applied ideas on these tours that they can put to use at their own places.”
Further details on the tours and all the events in the Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series, including contacts for more information, are in a PDF file at go.osu.edu/2016FarmTourBooklet. The tours sponsored by the Sustainable Agriculture Team start on page 21 at that link.