By Matt Reese
Wow! This September marks 30 years of Ohio’s Country Journal, a publication that, from the beginning, has been focused on Ohio agriculture. Right from the start, many recognized that, to be part of the conversation amongst Ohio’s farmers, OCJ needed to be included in the discussion. For recently retired John Sites, there was no question about it.
“I started with Great Plains in 1990. At that time, if you listened to the radio, you definitely wanted to be involved with Ed Johnson and Bart Johnson. All the farmers and dealers and everybody I was working with at that time, they knew Ed Johnson, and everyone understood you had to be part of his program. Great Plains was excited to get on board really early with the OCJ and the advertising in print because that was what the farmer was reading and we wanted our name in that paper when it got to his mailbox for sure. I can still remember Ed Johnson putting in some nice plugs about the effectiveness of the Great Plains drill he was using. It was what being in rural Ohio was all about,” Sites said. “Any time you were affiliated with OCJ and Ed Johnson it was a good thing and farmers paid attention. They read them and looked forward to it in their mailbox. The association with OCJ has been a real blessing through my years with Great Plains and I will continue to read it on my desk for sure.”
For almost 90-year-old Wayne Wickerham, OCJ has been a staple since those first few issues 30 years ago. Wayne, from Huntsville near Indian Lake, sent me a letter earlier this year about what OCJ has meant to him through the years.
“The articles pertaining to production ag are always timely and always of interest as are the interviews of farm families. This makes the Journal a good read for country and urban dwellers,” Wayne wrote. “I especially delight in every issue your editorials. They can be timely, reminiscing, or just whatever comes to your mind, all a good read.”
After writing such a kind letter, I thought it would be worth giving Wayne a call. We had a great conversation. I asked him about why he started reading OCJ in the first place 30 years ago.
“Well, I first was a fan of Ed Johnson. He was a character. I liked him immensely. He was a good Sunday school teacher, a good promoter for the farming community and did a good job of it,” Wayne said. “OCJ filled the niche that was really important. The Country Journal just reached out and included the farming community, no matter what’s really going on with livestock or produce or whatever your source of income was for farming, it covered it. And that’s what we needed.”
Wayne and his family started Wickerham Produce in 1968 and the operation has evolved into Hurley Farms where younger generations of Wayne’s family continue to serve the Indian Lake community.
“They’re doing a marvelous job. They work in new buildings, and they are just doing a fantastic job. We have a problem sometimes with parking,” Wayne said. “They installed a delicatessen in the market, which has been very, very successful. And as you know, that is a tourist area with the lake and the population grows nicely in the summertime, when of course all the produce is ready. And we rely on that for our business. My wife and I are just so happy about it. Not every farmer has the opportunity or is fortunate to have a next generation take over, and we have the next two generations taking over. And that’s really, really great for a farmer to be able to do that.”
OCJ has had the great privilege of covering the evolution of generations of many family farms for three incredible decades. It has been humbling to be a part of helping OCJ share your stories weaving through the fabric of Ohio’s most important profession. Thanks, Ohio agriculture, for 30 years of incredible support.