My husband and I own 96 acres of ridge top farm. We rent most of the land to a neighbor who keeps 15 beef cows and calves on the land. We raise vegetables using organic methods and sell our excess at farmers markets when possible. Last year, we bought our first dairy goats and have increased our herd to seven. We have both been organic gardeners for a number of years and have been involved with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) for more than 10 years. I am currently the president of the local OEFFA chapter, the Ohio-Kentucky River Valley Chapter. We have about 18 active members and are engaged in promoting a local food economy through several activities such as an annual Local Foods Seminar, and sponsoring a booth at the week-long Brown County Fair.
I have been an organic gardener for 40 years. I use compost, cover crops, rotation planting, minimal tillage, vegetative mulch and companion planting. I am learning all the time and have been trying to grasp the concepts of biodynamics.
Goals: Our original goal was to educate people about the importance of local food production by providing low tech food processing equipment such as hand crank ice cream freezers, a food dehydrator, a 14 quart pressure canner, a hand crank grain mill, and a cider press. Our plan was to demonstrate these tools at public events such as the county fair and the Ripley Farmers Market.
Our thinking was that people would join our organization to be able to use the equipment. We found that people either had their own equipment, or didn’t have the knowledge to use ours. The idea of sharing equipment also seemed foreign to most people. The Ripley Farmers Market closed at the end of 2010, which also limited our access to people who might want to use the equipment.
We decided to rethink how to educate people about local food by starting on a more basic level. We have been involved as a group in starting a community garden in Georgetown, Ohio, the county seat and one of the largest towns in the area. We are working with a church which is providing the land. We are also involved in restarting another farmers market. We have two locations lined up, in Georgetown and Mt. Orab. There will be vendors at those locations three day a week. Both the community garden and the market project started as a result of workshops held at the last Local Food Seminar on January 29, 2012. About 75 people attended.
Our OEFFA chapter has also decided to start a “roving band of gardeners” project. We have a supply of gardening tools which we will take to any site that needs a garden. We will do these work projects to help people get started with their own garden, especially those who are physically disabled. We have also purchased child-sized tools to involve the little ones.
Our hope is that when people start growing their own food, they will be more interested in preserving it, and our connection made by helping with the work will create more willingness to use equipment shared by others.
Vickie Bixler is a hard working farmer and market grower who has been instrumental in our Farmers Market efforts.
Kristine Cahall is a college student who grew up on a farm and is organizing the Community Garden at St. George Church.
Mike Horne is a home gardener and all around handy person who has researched tools and equipment for us.
Patrick Hornschemeier is an attorney who is the co-chair of the Local Foods Seminar, chair of the Southern Ohio Farm Preservation Association, and chair of the Catholic Rural Life Conference. He has facilitated connections between urban and rural consumers and growers as well as the process for starting the community garden.
Matt Sauer is a professor at the University of Cincinnati and a land owner in our county. He plans to retire and farm the land with his wife, Judy. He has provided invaluable assistance in researching tools suitable for children and for adults with disabilities.
Charles Ernestes, Kim and Robert Klouman, Polly Gilven, Steve Daugherty, and Bill and Betty Hale are experienced market gardeners who have put a lot of time and thought into restarting a Farmers Market.
Attendance is one way to measure results. During the time that the Ripley Farmers Market was open, we were able to talk to dozens of patrons who came for ice cream socials and to support local growers. The Brown County Fair booth in the two years of the grant had hundreds of people stop by to see our exhibits. The annual Local Foods Seminars typically draw about 75 people each year. Cider making brings about one to two dozen people.
As stated previously, results were not as expected in that we did not have people flocking to use the equipment we purchased to share in the community. Unexpected but nevertheless positive results are that we have moved in another direction; namely the community garden, new farmers market, and “roving band of gardeners” project.
We have learned that you can’t always use grant money as outlined in a proposal. Circumstances change: the economy, personal lives, the availability of facilities and resources. We had to be flexible enough to go where the project led us. This is an ongoing project. Consumption of locally produced food makes more and more sense as transportation costs rise and food safety issues become more apparent. Changing ways of looking at the food we eat is a process influenced by multiple factors. Cost, health, convenience, finding joy in growing your own or supporting your neighbor who grows for you – all are factors that we are slowly encouraging people in our community to think about.
We have used the local news media to advertise events. I have enclosed samples of flyers and clippings. Also enclosed is a description of the food processing equipment we have available as well as photos of cider making and our fair booth.