OCJ: First, could you share some background on your family’s fruit farm in Ross County?
Steve: Hirsch Fruit Farm is a diversified, multi generational fruit and vegetable farm. I am the fourth generation to raise fruit on this farm and work with my father, cousin and brother. We raise tree fruit (apples, peaches, nectarines) and small fruit (strawberries, raspberries, grapes) as well as asparagus, pumpkins, tomatoes and peppers. We also have about 50 acres of hay (grass hay and alfalfa/grass mix) and we produce our own apple cider here at the farm. We market most of our products directly to the consumer from an on-farm market and an off-farm market as well as participating in 4 farmers markets throughout the summer and fall.
OCJ: What OFBF experience do you have?
Steve: I started in Farm Bureau by participating in the youth programs while growing up on the farm. After returning to the farm, I became active in the Ross Co. Farm Bureau and served on the County Board in various capacities including President. I have been on the Ohio Farm Bureau Board of Trustees for 10 years and have served as Treasurer and Vice President of the Board.
OCJ: OFBF has overcome some great challenges in recent years, but there are many yet to come. What do you see as the greatest challenges in the coming years for OFBF and Ohio agriculture?
Steve: Agriculture working together has always been one of our strengths in Ohio and sometimes that can be a challenge but we need to continue to build relationships between all of the various commodity organizations, producer types and within the food chain to move our industry forward in our state and nationally. Regulatory issues will become a bigger challenge to producers and we will have to engage those agencies and departments that write the rules so that the rules are realistic and workable for farmers.
OCJ: Politically, OFBF has had quite a bit of success recently. Could you highlight some of that success?
Steve: Some of the recent successes include: the elimination of the state estate tax, preserving state budget funding for OARDC, Extension and SWCD, eliminated the late registration fee on seasonal and farm vehicles, maintained farmer’s property rights by ensuring water used for food and fiber production is considered a reasonable use, protected livestock farmers from criminal charges if animals escape through no fault of the owner, enhanced assistance for mitigation and restoration for Grand Lake St. Marys and expanded the agricultural sales tax exemption to cover other livestock.
OCJ: What has been the key to this legislative success?
Steve: Farm Bureau members’ long time commitment to policy development and implementation is the key. Our members have spent years building relationships at all levels of government. Their grassroots involvement and contacts help to put our policies into action and achieve these successes for all of agriculture.
OCJ: What has been the best part of serving as the OFBF president so far?
Steve: It hasn’t been too long yet, but meeting a lot of great new people who want to share their connection to agriculture with me when they find out my new position has been fun.
OCJ: What is the toughest part of the OFBF president’s job?
Steve: As the summer season gets busier here on the farm, time management and balancing family, farm and Farm Bureau are challenging.
OCJ: What are your goals for OFBF as president?
Steve: To continue to manage our resources at all levels to have the greatest impact that we can. To continue to work on leadership development throughout Farm Bureau to develop the next generation of leaders for agriculture and rural Ohio. To challenge our members and leaders to continue to be engaged on the issues, proactively address the challenges and take advantage of the new opportunities in agriculture in Ohio.
OCJ: How has your involvement in OFBF been a benefit to your farm operation?
Steve: I have had the opportunity to meet so many great farmers and gotten to tour a number of top-notch facilities and have tried to learn a little from each that can be applied to our operation. The opportunity to work with and learn from other great board members has also been a benefit personally and professionally.
OCJ: How do you balance the duties of president and fruit grower?
Steve: Thankfully, I have an understanding wife and great farm partners that allow me to be away from the home and farm when needed.