By Matt Reese
Harvest is here. Even in our modern world of Internet, unprecedented technology and cell phones in everyone’s pockets, the autumn leaves and crisp air have a way of making people yearn to reconnect with the farm. As crowds flock to corn mazes and dream of hayrides beneath the harvest moon, Ohio agriculture is hard at work to help make that connection in some fun, innovative ways.
Franklin County Farm Bureau members are uniquely positioned to find ways to bridge the agricultural gap with their urban neighbors and communities. On Sept. 10, the Franklin County Farm Bureau hosted the Taste of Franklin County event at Waterman Farm on the Ohio State University campus. Attendees toured the various gardens, the Controlled Environment Agriculture Research Complex, the dairy, and the pawpaw patch. Along with the tour, guests got to make their own pizzas with local ingredients provided by the Master Gardeners of Waterman farms and Miceli Dairy Products. The event also included dinner prepared by the OSU Hospitality students/interns under the direction of Chef David Wolfe.
The proteins were donated by Lyda Garcia, associate professor of meat science and extension meat specialist, on behalf of the 2023 Meat Judging team. Garcia and her student team smoked and prepared beef brisket and jalapeno bratwursts on-site to serve and educate the guests. Ohio wines and brews were available from Plum Run Winery and Grove City Brewery.
Connie Cahill, a long-time associate (and fan) of Ohio’s Country Journal, helped coordinate the event that she said was “a smashing success” with 175 guests and 15 students.
“There were people from all over Franklin County and we even had a couple from Minnesota. We had the collegiate chapter of Farm Bureau on the grounds to help with serving food, cleanup, and acting as guides. It was great to have the future faces of Ohio agriculture assisting us,” Cahill said. “The food was amazing! The Master Gardeners helped so much, under Mike Hogan’s direction. We had six small business vendors for our Farmers Market and they sold lots of their products. And the weather? Well, my prayers were answered.”
Cahill said as they were leaving, urban dwelling guests were already asking about dates for a repeat in 2024.
In late August, the Ohio Pork Council held the second annual Bourbon & Bacon event featuring delicious pork and bourbon tasting at a beautiful location at a barn in Tiffin with around 75 people. Bourbon & Bacon provided a savory pork-eating experience to the public while connecting them with Ohio hog farmers. The meal featured four courses of pork and bacon items including the Clemens Farms Sweet Tea Brined Pork Chop with Maple Bourbon Glaze prepared by Chef Aaron Weible. The event generated a number of positive posts on social media.
There was a huge social media impact for the Ohio Poultry Association’s Devilishly Good food stand at the Ohio State Fair this summer featuring over a dozen different flavors of deviled eggs. The 2023 addition to the offerings — a cotton candy deviled egg — drew national media attention and reached an astonishing 261 million consumers.
Not to be outdone, this summer Ohio’s soybean farmers and their checkoff worked with Delaware County farmer Bret Davis to host a group of teachers on the farm through the GrowNextGen program.
“We need to be doing what we can to answer the questions that our consumers have. When you sit and talk to a teacher and show them what a farm is and what we do on the farm, their eyes explode because they have no idea what it takes to develop the food that we enjoy every day. It’s just so interesting to them to see what all we go through. These are the people who talk to our consumers directly — they are teaching our next generation about farming,” Davis said. “There were a couple of the of the teachers here that had a farm background, but still this technology has changed so much in the last 10 years that it surprised them to see what goes on here on the farm. I can take my phone and show a teacher what was planted in that field behind the barn 10 years ago, which way we were going, how fast we were going, and what the yield was exactly on it for every 10 feet. That’s the technology we use today to produce safe, economical food. We can show them exactly how it’s raised and grown and the technology we use and the how precise we are with what we do to grow that food.”
Farmers are hard at work during this busy harvest season. But it is also a beautiful — and meaningful — time of year for farmers and their industry partners to reach out to people yearning to learn more about their food and connect with the vital role agriculture plays in the daily lives of everyone who eats.