For more than 150 years, the Ohio State Fair has celebrated Ohio agriculture along with the people and places of the Buckeye State. That got us thinking about some of our favorite things about food and farming in Ohio. Here’s a few that topped our list:
Families, Friends and Communities
About 60,000 Ohio Farm Bureau members are actively engaged in agriculture, and there are many more who want to connect with their community or simply learn what goes into a good meal. Ohio Farm Bureau’s mission is to forge a partnership between farmers and consumers. We believe that people who work together to solve problems or pursue passions can discover their mutual interests. Whether it’s our nutrition, landscape, economy, heritage or culture, Ohioans are in many ways connected by food.
Soil is the foundation for food and farming. In Ohio, scientists have identified more than 400 soil types. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Ohio ranks 39th in the nation in total state land area, but Ohio is fifth in the nation in percent of state land area that is classified as prime farmland. Soil helps regulate where water goes, sustains plant and animal life and cycles nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. According to the Soil Science Society of America, one tablespoon of soil has more organisms in it than people on Earth. Combined with Ohio’s climate and abundant water resources, our land has the potential to make Ohio a leader in food, fiber and biobased products far into the future.
To learn about innovative Ohioans who have contributed to food and agriculture, the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame is a good place to start.
Some of the names you may recognize, like sausage king and farmer Bob Evans. Then there’s A.B. Graham who founded 4-H. You’ll also find Ohio Farm Bureau leader Murray Lincoln, who led a national effort to develop rural and urban cooperatives from the 1920s-1940s. Lincoln is joined on the list by a number of other Ohio Farm Bureau leaders recognized for advocacy, education and community development. But they are only part of a long list of innovative farmers, cooperative businessmen, researchers, conservationists, advocates and inventors who have made a lasting impact on our state.
From big names like Dannon Yogurt and Campbell’s to small kitchen bakeries, Ohio is a national leader in businesses that help get food from the farm to plate. According to the Ohio Department of Development, Ohio ranks second in the nation in fruit and vegetable processing and the production of specialty foods. It ranks third in bakery output, fourth in production of animal foods as well as dairy products and fifth in manufacturing other food products such as teas, coffees, spices, seasonings, sauces, dressings, syrups, snacks, roasted nuts and peanut butter.
Among the institutions and organizations researching food and agriculture in Ohio, two that stand out are Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in Columbus and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster. According to the college’s strategic plan, it is “ideally positioned to lead Ohio and The Ohio State University in realizing progress in all significant aspects of the bioeconomy.”
Likewise, Battelle analysis found that OARDC is providing large-scale and widespread functional economic impacts across Ohio—both in terms of the generation of positive impacts (through the development, for example, of high-value crops, bio-based materials and technologies) and significantly reducing negative impacts (such as crop losses or disease impacts).
The Ohio Department of Agriculture has identified more than 200 types of crops and livestock grown by Ohio farmers. (You can read our list and descriptions here). Ohio ranks in the top 10 states for many farm products including field corn, soybeans, sweet corn, tomatoes, vegetables for processing, apples, strawberries, eggs, pigs, Swiss cheese, turkeys and maple syrup. Ohio farmers are just as diverse, which helps make Ohio’s food system resilient and creates a perfect climate for new ideas and opportunities.
What’s your favorite?
There was too much worth celebrating about food and agriculture in Ohio for us to list here. Share what drives your passion by joining the conversations at the Our Ohio page on Facebook.