At a time when consumers are inquiring about the origins of their food, and farmers are navigating new markets, new techniques and new challenges, one southern Ohio grower has been tapped to lead the way forward.
Steve Hirsch, of Ross County, farms with his father, brother and cousin, producing apples, peaches, grapes, strawberries, raspberries and other crops. They also operate a retail farm market and a cider pressing facility.
Hirsch was recently elected by the farmers on Ohio Farm Bureau’s board of trustees to serve as the organization’s president. Hirsch won’t be going it alone, however. Ohio Farm Bureau’s nearly 60,000 farming members work through the organization’s grassroots processes to set the course on food, agriculture and public policy issues. Ohio Farm Bureau also invites consumers to engage in how their food is produced by becoming a member and connecting with the people who grow it.
Here, Hirsch shares some thoughts about Ohio food and agriculture.
Q: Being at the helm of Ohio’s largest farm organization is a big job. Why did you feel it was important enough to take time away from the farm and your family to volunteer for this position?
A: Being involved in the community and in industry organizations is important in our family. I have a passion for agriculture and Farm Bureau is the organization that represents all aspects of farming. Because of Farm Bureau’s grassroots perspectives, this organization makes a difference for farmers, rural landowners and others and creates a positive environment for agriculture to enhance folks’ lives and Ohio’s economy.
Q: What do you plan to focus on during your presidency? What are your key initiatives?
A: We need to continue to focus on managing our resources to have the greatest impact that we can. We also will be continuing to work on leadership development throughout Farm Bureau to develop the next generation of leaders for agriculture and rural Ohio. I will also be challenging members to be engaged in the issues, challenges and opportunities facing agriculture in Ohio.
Q: As society’s expectations for food production continue to evolve, what do you believe is the significance of Ohio Farm Bureau’s mission to “forge a partnership between farmers and consumers?”
A: We need to continue to listen to our customers and learn from them but also continue to help our customers learn about agriculture and the diversity of the farmers who grow the products that they use every day.
Q: What is your hope for the future of food and farming in Ohio?
A: That consumers continue to recognize the important role that agriculture plays in Ohio and that farming continues to grow here and that my kids and grandkids have the opportunity to farm here if they so choose.
Q: Farm Bureau members are very diverse. They include farmers of all types, sizes and production methods as well as consumers. How do we all work together to achieve the best for Ohio’s food system?
A: Instead of focusing on our differences, we need to embrace all of the ways in which we are similar—our values, our love of the land, our passion for farming or food, etc. We need to continue to engage with each other and build relationships and understanding of each other so that we can continue to offer a broad range of choices to the consumer.
Q: As a farmer, what motivates you?
A: I’m not much different than the average person, but I’m continually trying to do better whether it is at raising fruit, being a husband and father or participating in the community.
Q: During your day-to-day work on the farm, what are some of your favorite moments?
A: A few that come to mind are eating that first ripe peach right off the tree, the beauty of thousands of fruit trees full of blossoms in the spring and the smell of freshly mown hay.
Who is Ohio Farm Bureau?
- Nearly 60,000 Ohio farmers and more than 150,000 Ohio consumers
- 87 county Farm Bureaus that are governed by a board of local volunteers
- A total of 341 farmers elected from every county to establish the organization’s policies
- 26 farmers who are elected to serve on the state board of trustees
- An office and field staff that works on behalf of the members