OEFFA recognizes award winners at annual conference

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) named the 2024 recipients of its Stewardship, Service, and Beginning Farmer awards.  

Brandt Family Farm of Fairfield County received the Stewardship Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the cultivation of sustainable agriculture; Tom Redfern of Athens County received the Service Award, which recognizes extraordinary service in support of sustainable agriculture; and Kim Bayer of Ann Arbor, Michigan received the Beginning Farmer Award, which recognizes innovation and commitment to overcome systemic barriers faced by new farmers. These awards were announced Feb. 15-17 as part of OEFFA’s 45th annual conference in Newark.

2024 Stewardship Award

Crossing three generations and more than 50 years, the Brandt Family Farm has led the way in diverse grain production and soil conservation. David Brandt operated the farm for many of those years, serving as a conservation mentor and global leader in no-till, cover crops, soil health, and regenerative farming.

After earning two purple hearts for his service in the Vietnam War, David returned home to continue his family’s legacy in farming. His father died in a tractor accident soon after and David and his wife, Kendra, were forced to sell the farm and start over. In an effort to reduce costs, he started experimenting with no-till farming in 1971 and with cover crops in 1978. He was one of the first farmers in Ohio to try no-till planting.

David served as an example of the viability of sustainable agriculture, speaking at events—including the 2017 Paris Climate Conference—and hosting a number of tours on the Brandt Farm. Just a few weeks before his passing in May 2023, David and OEFFA policy staff provided testimony on soil health at the Ohio Senate Agriculture Committee budget hearing.

In 2014, David’s son and daughter-in-law, Jay and Ann, and their children, Christopher, Isaac, and Therese, joined to help on the farm and to run the cover crop seed business, Walnut Creek Seeds.

2024 Service Award

Tom Redfern ventured into his agricultural career beginning in the third grade, growing and selling produce from his parents’ garden outside of Port Clinton, Ohio. From there, his path included stops at Hocking College for Natural Resources Management, Ohio University for a degree in botany, and Kenya as an agroforestry extension educator with the Peace Corps.

In 2004, Tom joined Rural Action, a community development organization promoting sustainable development and revitalization in Appalachian Ohio. Now, as their senior director of sustainable agriculture and forestry, he has helped grow and build the Rural Action sustainable agriculture program to a staff of 12, supported by 15 national service members, who reach all 38 of Ohio’s Appalachian counties.

Redfern and his Rural Action sustainable agriculture and forestry team identified farmer-informed educational and infrastructure needs that led to the purchase of the Chesterhill Produce Auction, a place for growers to sell wholesale to other businesses in the region. This work had such a beneficial impact on the local community that the Mayor of Chesterhill declared Oct. 26 as Tom Redfern Day.

Tom was also instrumental in the creation of Country Fresh Stops, a branding and distribution program for food apartheid remediation, and farm to school programming. And he has led the development of several toolkits with producer knowledge and needs, intended to increase the production and sales of local foods.

Redfern is a founding member of the Appalachian Accessible Food Network, a former board president of Community Food Initiatives, and a former 12-year board member of OEFFA. He currently participates in Farm to School and Farm to Early Childhood Statewide coalitions and serves on the Central Appalachian Network Leadership Team.

“My long service as an OEFFA board member empowered me with an understanding of the potential impact that regenerative agriculture could — and undoubtedly needs — to have on the local food system in Ohio,” Redfern said.

2024 Beginning Farmer Award

Kim Bayer’s professional background and training in library science and learning technology wasn’t a usual first step into farming. But after a career change toward community organizing, food writing, and leading efforts in food system change, she bought a farm.

Kim started Slow Farm in her hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2016. The land was originally in conventional corn and soybeans before Kim restored wetlands and converted more than 100 of the 187 acres to native prairie in her first year of ownership. The farm now aims to maximize diversity, with beehives, prairie, ponds, woods, and large fallow areas that provide habitat for native creatures and plants.

Slow Farm became certified organic by OEFFA in 2018, focusing on organic vegetable, fruit, and flower production. They have approximately 15 cultivated, diversified acres using regenerative, no-till, and low-till practices.

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