Country Life

Small farm conferences in March

Farmers who want new ways to grow, sell and stay in business can find them at two events coming next month. The “Opening Doors to Success” Small Farm Conference and Trade Show runs March 11-12 at Wilmington College in southern Ohio. The “Living Your Small Farm Dream” Northeast Ohio Small Farm Conference and Trade Show takes place March 26 at the R.G. Drage Career Center in Massillon.

“‘Small’ is relative, almost a mindset,” said Mike Hogan, one of the organizers and an Ohio State University Extension educator in eastern Ohio. “It’s hard to draw a line to say what’s small and what isn’t.

“The main focus either way is to help farm families identify ways to become more profitable and sustainable — economically, environmentally and socially.”

Alternative enterprises, such as blueberries and freshwater shrimp, will be among the topics. So will alternative production systems — reduced tillage, grass-based livestock and others — and alternative marketing systems, including CSAs (community supported agriculture), farmers’ markets and direct online selling.… Continue reading

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Brown asks for assistance to rebuild OARDC

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to help rebuild the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) on the Ohio State University’s Wooster campus, which was partially destroyed by a tornado in mid-September.

“The OARDC has been a crucial link between agricultural producers and world-class researchers and scientists, [and] is a cornerstone of economic development for the region,” Brown wrote in the letter. “A recent study showed that OARDC annually contributes more than $142 million to the Ohio economy and generates more than 1,576 jobs in the state.

“Following the tornado, nearly every building on the campus sustained damage.  While most buildings have considerable roof damage, three buildings and seven greenhouses were completely destroyed,” Brown continued. “This past October, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited OARDC and surveyed the extensive damage. After inspecting the grounds, Deputy Secretary Merrigan reiterated the need to restore the facilities so that research activities could resume…Bringing these critical resources back to full capacity is critical for Ohio and for the advancement of agricultural research.”… Continue reading

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Natural gas drilling could be boon for landowners, but be cautious

Eastern Ohio landowners interested in leasing their land for natural-gas drilling into the rich resources of the Marcellus Shale need to be aware that such leases can carry some financial risk if they’re not cautious. And, potential risks to the environment could be serious.

The Marcellus Shale formation encompasses about 95,000 square miles from New York to West Virginia, swinging through the southeastern corner of Ohio. The ancient formation, lying 8,000 to 15,000 feet below the surface, is estimated to be capable of producing more than 363 trillion cubic feet of clean-burning natural gas — more than 15 times the natural gas used in the United States each year. The Utica formation, which lies beneath the Marcellus and reaches into parts of central Ohio, appears to have similar reserves.

These rich resources are fueling a “gas rush” in areas where drilling is taking place, but the rise of the new industry has also raised concerns about the possibility of contamination or depletion of groundwater reserves.… Continue reading

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USDA to release new long-term agricultural projections

The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will release new 10-year agricultural projections Feb. 14 at 12:00 noon EST. The “USDA Agricultural Projections to 2020” report will be released on the Office of the Chief Economist Web site at USDA publishes the projections each year in February.

The long-term projections are developed by interagency committees in USDA, with the Economic Research Service (ERS) having the lead role in the preparation of the report.  The new projections cover crop and livestock commodities, agricultural trade and aggregate indicators such as farm income, and food prices through 2020.  The projections do not represent a USDA forecast, but a conditional, long-run scenario based on specific assumptions about farm policy, weather, the economy and international developments.  Provisions of the 2008 Farm Act are incorporated into the projections and are assumed to remain in effect through 2020.  Normal weather also is assumed throughout the projection period.… Continue reading

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Update from the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force

A conversation with Todd Hesterman, Henry County no-till farmer on the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force

OCJ: Can you provide a little background about the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force?

Todd: In January 2007, in consultation with Heidelberg University, Ohio EPA convened the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force. The goals of the Task Force were: to identify and evaluate potential point and nonpoint sources of phosphorus to Ohio tributaries; determine what practices may have changed since 1995 that could increase DRP loads; examine various aspects of agriculture that might influence the increase in DRP loads; review the possible/probable relationships of the increased DRP loads to the eutrophication problems that have returned to Lake Erie (particularly the western basin); consider the impacts of zebra and quagga mussels in altering the internal cycling of phosphorus in the lake itself; determine if these issues were unique to Lake Erie or occurring on a broader basis; identify research and monitoring needs; and recommend management actions that could be implemented to alleviate current conditions.… Continue reading

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Record number of OSU talks at Ohio organic food, farm conference

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) will hold Ohio’s biggest conference on organic and sustainable agriculture next month, and Ohio State University will be well represented there. Ohio State scientists, specialists and students will give 19 presentations –the most ever from the university — as part of the program.

OEFFA’s 32nd annual conference takes place Feb. 19-20 in Granville in central Ohio. “Inspiring Farms, Sustaining Communities” is the theme.

“Our conference title says a lot about what we believe and what we’re trying to accomplish,” OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland said. “People who attend the conference are so moved by the inspiring examples of innovation and stewardship they learn from presenters and fellow participants.”

The Ohio State presenters are from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its research and outreach arms, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension.

The college is home to such programs as the Sustainable Agriculture Team, the Agroecosystems Management Program, and the Organic Food and Farm Education and Research (OFFER) Program.… Continue reading

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Spring Beekeeping Workshop to be Held March 4-5 in Wooster

Ohio State University Extension and the Tri-County Beekeepers Association of Northeastern Ohio will hold their 33rd Annual Spring Beekeeping Workshop the evening of Friday, March 4, and all day Saturday, March 5, at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s (OARDC) Wooster campus. 

The largest one-day beekeeping workshop in the United States (over 900 people attended in 2010), this year’s event will have as its theme “Honey Bees-Back from the Brink.” All events will take place at Fisher Auditorium, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster.

Pre-registration fee is $35 per adult over 17; walk-in registration is $45; Tri-County Beekeepers Association members pay $30 for pre-registration; and youth, ages 17 and under, pay $5. Vendor registration is $75 per table and includes one person’s registration. A hot turkey lunch with mashed potatoes, vegetable and homemade pie or a boxed lunch will be offered for an additional charge with pre-registration only. 

Friday evening’s program begins at 7 p.m.… Continue reading

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New Dietary Guidelines help Americans make healthier food choices, including meats and dairy

It is no secret that Americans are overweight and out of shape, which makes guidelines for good nutrition more important than ever. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) team up every so often to revise the dietary guidelines for Americans that rely on science, and not health gimmicks or fads, to form the basis for a healthy lifestyle.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the HHS Kathleen Sebelius recently announced the release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government’s evidence-based nutritional guidance to promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity. Because more than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, the 7th edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans places stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity.… Continue reading

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Mid-winter weather expectations

By Jim Noel, with the National Weather Service

The trend of below normal temperatures and near or slightly below normal precipitation and near to above normal snowfall will likely persist at least into early February.

The longer-range outlook calls for a change toward normal or slightly wetter than normal conditions later February into March and April with temperatures remaining at or below normal. This is supported by the ongoing La Nina (cooling of the eastern Pacific Oceans waters near the equator) and the negative North Atlantic Oscillation.

However, this trend may support a switch to a warmer and drier summer that we need to monitor.… Continue reading

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Small farm conferences coming up

Ohio State University Extension will host two conferences in March dedicated to small farm landowners.

The first conference is the third annual “Opening Doors to Success” Small Farm Conference and Trade Show to be held March 11-12 at Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio. The conference will feature 38 breakout sessions and a trade show for small farmers.

The conference kicks off on Friday, March 11 at 5:30 p.m. with a session, “Get Ready – Get Set – Get Market Ready” – an evening dedicated to investigating opportunities for marketing beyond the farm gate.

Saturday, March 12 will feature over 35 breakout sessions offered throughout  the day and will cover a variety of topics that will include such examples as: Growing Grapes/Making Wine; Agritourism; Bee Keeping; Poultry Production; Biosecurity for Livestock; Berry Production; Equipment Needs; Food Preservation; Food Safety; Cherry Production; Agricultural Law Considerations; Insurance Issues; Pumpkin, Sweet Corn and Tomato Production; Alternative Energy Sources; Meat Marketing, Pasture and Hay Production; Local Foods; Social Media Marketing; Financial Management; Organic Dairy: Livestock Production; Grants and Loans and so much more.… Continue reading

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A conversation with Rocky Black, deputy director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture

OCJ: First, could you share a little about your background in agriculture and legislation that has helped prepare you for this position?

Rocky: I’ve had the privilege of working with the Ohio General Assembly for 25 years, since 1985, including working 6.5 years as Statehouse lobbyist for Governor Voinovich.

And I’ve worked in agricultural policy for nearly 9 years including as senior director of policy and political affairs for the Ohio Farm Bureau, and as senior policy advisor for the Ohio Soybean Association.

OCJ: Your duties include overseeing the ODA’s legislative efforts. What are the key opportunities and challenges in this area?

Rocky: We haven’t really identified an agenda per se, however some issues are sure to surface. First we have the enormous challenge of the state budget. Shoring up essential programs in food safety, livestock oversight, laboratory testing, and weights and measures is essential. Cutting some programs in areas with less overt impact on food and animal safety is probably unavoidable.… Continue reading

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Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announces investments to study renewable energy feasibility in rural communities

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA Rural Development has selected for funding 68 study grants nationwide to determine the feasibility of renewable energy projects. The grants cover five regions: the Northeast, Central/East, Southeast (including Hawaii), West and Pacific Northwest (including Alaska). In all, studies will be funded in 27 states and the Western Pacific. Funding is made available through the Rural Energy for America Program under the 2008 Farm Bill.

“The Obama Administration is committed to helping our nation become more energy independent by helping rural businesses build renewable energy systems,” Vilsack said. “The projects announced today will provide rural small businesses and agricultural producers the opportunity to conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy system installations. These investments will not only help our farmers and small businesses reduce energy costs, but also help find renewable alternatives to generate energy.”

For example, in Lorain County, Ohio, Vermilion Wind, LLC, has been selected to receive a $6,250 feasibility study grant.… Continue reading

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ODNR designates Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed distressed

Due to the unprecedented harmful algal blooms of 2009 and 2010, the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed has been designated a watershed in distress as of January 18, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

A recent analysis, conducted by ODNR’s Division of Soil and Water Resources, concluded that the Grand Lake St. Marys (GLSM) watershed met the criteria for designation as a watershed in distress, as defined in Ohio Administrative Code 1501:15-5-20.

The study looked at a number of issues, such as:

Is the watershed listed as impaired by nutrients from agricultural sources, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency?

Does the watershed exhibit conditions that can affect public health?

Is there a threat or presence of contaminants in a public drinking water source or recreational body of water?

Do unacceptable nuisance conditions exist including the depletion of dissolved oxygen resulting in impacts to aquatic life?

The analysis report was submitted to the seven-member Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission for review on January 18.… Continue reading

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Farm Credit Services to reduce interest rates on Feb. 1

This new year, customers of Farm Credit Services of Mid-America will be receiving a pleasant surprise — their interest rates will be going down. Effective Feb. 1, 2011, Farm Credit’s Board of Directors and management have approved rolling back interest rates on all existing loans by .35% creating an annual savings to customers of $43 million. Also beginning Feb. 1, interest rates on all new loans will be adjusted down by .35%.

“This is a special and unique action that we are able to take because of the fundamental strength of our cooperative,” said Paul Bruce, Senior Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer. “We are able to pass along this savings because of some extraordinary earnings events and because our cooperative has performed well financially over the last several years. These rate adjustments will provide additional flexibility for our customers to withstand market volatility. This is something we’re pleased to do, and this is the right time to do it.”… Continue reading

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Farmland values on the rise

Much of the U.S. economy has been slow to recover from the recession. That hasn’t been true of farmland markets, which have continued to climb, a group of Purdue University agricultural economists said.

Strong crop returns, very low interest rates and a growing expectation that both might continue have had a positive influence on farmland values, said Mike Boehlje, Chris Hurt and Brent Gloy.

“Even while some residential and commercial real estate values have been falling, that has not been the case for farm real estate,” Boehlje said. “Instead, we’ve seen some high prices for farmland in recent months, even exceeding $10,000 an acre in some extreme cases.”

Boehlje, Hurt, Gloy and fellow Purdue agricultural economist Craig Dobbins examine farmland value dynamics in their paper “Farmland Values: Current and Future Prospects.” The paper can be viewed online by going to and then clicking on the link.

Farmland values have risen steadily since 1987 but have shot up in recent years.… Continue reading

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New food safety regulation signed into law

In early January, President Barack Obama signed into law new food safety regulations that are the most dramatic changes to American food safety practices in over 70 years.

“The Food Safety bill will provide the Federal Government with improved tools to prevent foodborne illness and address challenges in the food safety system by promoting a prevention-oriented approach,” said Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary. “Protecting consumers from harm is a fundamental function of government and with passage of this landmark food safety legislation, USDA remains committed to keeping food safety a top priority.”

The changes have generated some concerns within the agricultural industry, however. “Food safety knows no size, and exempting some small producers and processors from the legislation, as the Tester/Hagan amendment will do, sets a dangerous precedent for the future our nation’s food safety system. Instead of including the Tester/Hagan language, Congress should have passed legislation to set appropriate standards for all products in the marketplace, no matter the size of the producing entity,” said Kristina Butts, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) executive director of legislative affairs.… Continue reading

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Tips for planning for the future of your family farm

A conversation with Robert Moore, with Wright Law Firm

OCJ: First, could you share with us about your background and how you got involved with the legalities of family estate planning?

Robert: I grew up on a dairy farm in Coshocton County. After graduating from Ohio State I worked for OSU Extension for 9 years. During my time with OSU Extension, I attended Capital Law School at night. I felt a legal career working with farmers would be both challenging and rewarding. After law school I joined Wright Law Co., which focuses on agricultural law, particularly estate and succession planning for farm families.

OCJ: How do you feel about the recent changes to federal estate tax?

Robert: It is definitely beneficial to farmers. The new $5,000,000 federal estate tax exemption will allow most farm families to be exempt from federal estate tax. If the exemption had gone back to $1,000,000, many farm families would have struggled to continue the farm due to federal estate taxes upon the death of a family member.… Continue reading

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Ohio residents honored for support of fairs

The individuals from across the state were recognized for their outstanding support of local fairs during ceremonies at the 86th Ohio Fair Managers Association Annual Convention at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Robert Boggs presented each recipient with a certificate.

The award recipients were:

District 1 – L.C. “Butch” Krauss, Fulton County

District 2 – Dave Jury, Wyandot County

District 3 – James A. Bell (posthumous), Greene County

District 4 – Jim Kirk, Fayette County

District 5 – Herbert J. Berry, Wayne County

District 6 – Joel D. Spires, Fairfield County

District 7 – James C. Rex, Morgan County

District 8 – Albert Young, Coshocton County

District 9 – James Bailey, Portage County

Ohio’s 94 county and independent fairs and the Ohio State Fair support the local economy and help educate the public about the importance of agriculture and the many necessities it provides, including food, clothing, shelter, fuel and energy.… Continue reading

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A new “coffee shop” is born

By Matt Reese

A jingle announces when someone walks in the door and every head turns to see who it is. Golden oldies country music is playing in the background. Coffee is consumed by the pot and the food is good enough to accompany the bountiful conversation that flows freely, depending on who is sitting around the table.
Farmers have flocked to the local coffee shop for generations to learn the local gossip, talk about the weather and share their (often slightly exaggerated) crop yields. This is just the kind of place Bill Yeoman had in mind when he conjured up the idea of a new business for his Fayette County family farm.
The Yeoman family has been in the area since 1815 when their founder got a 1410-acre land grant for service in the Revolutionary War. In more recent years, the Yeoman family operation had evolved into corn and soybeans and freezer beef from an Angus herd.… Continue reading

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Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program 2011 application period opens

The 2011 Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program application is now available on the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s website. All applications must be submitted electronically no later than 5 p.m. on April 6, 2011. A hard copy of the completed application must also be sent by registered or certified mail to the department, postmarked on or before April 6, 2011.

The applications are used by the department to evaluate and purchase agricultural easements to preserve Ohio’s farmland. Agricultural easements are voluntary legal agreements restricting non-agricultural development on farmland, with the land itself remaining on the tax rolls and under private ownership and management. Landowners may undertake any agricultural activity permitted under Ohio law. They can sell their farm or pass it along as a gift to others, but the easement remains with the land, prohibiting any future non-agricultural development to make certain that it remains used for agricultural purposes.

The Clean Ohio Fund bond initiative won support from Ohio’s voters in November 2008 to preserve farmland and green spaces, improve outdoor recreation, encourage redevelopment and revitalize communities by cleaning up brownfields.… Continue reading

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