Before Logan and Marissa Kruthaup were old enough to drive a tractor, the siblings had already experienced a taste of the farming life. “We weren’t even 10 when our dad told us we could sell some extra watermelons and cantaloupes he had grown,” recalls Logan. That first year they made a child’s fortune — $50. The next year, they tripled their profits and before they knew it they were business partners, from planning to planting, harvesting and hiring, and each on their way to earning agriculture-related degrees from the University of Kentucky.
Now in their early 20s, the siblings have more than a decade of farming experience behind them, a solid yet growing customer base and a constantly evolving vision of how they want to farm in the future.
The 70-acre Kruthaup Family Farm is owned and was farmed part-time by their parents, Ken and Rae Lynn, Warren County Farm Bureau members. “We rent the land from them,” Logan explains, “and we do the rest.” Divided into tillable land, soybean fields, woodland and eight acres of vegetables, the young farmers have turned what began as a garden patch to feed the family into a business that helps feed a community. They carry on the tradition of farming introduced by their parents, who often help yet have off-farm careers, and take it further by consistently implementing new and sustainable farming methods as they go.
“Last year, we received a grant to put up high tunnels,” said Logan. “We might be the only ones in Warren County using them.” The moveable tunnels function like greenhouses but rely on the sun for heat and the plantings go right into the ground.
The structures create conditions that push the growing seasons in both directions, for an earlier harvest in the spring and an extended one late into the fall.
“We plant tomatoes in mid-April and have ripe ones three weeks earlier than anyone else,” said Marissa. Relocating the tunnels every two years helps avoid potential pest and disease issues, builds organic matter and addresses soil salinity issues. The young Kruthaups have also introduced a raised bed maker that channels the soil up to improve drainage and have added drip tape irrigation, and plastic row covers to hold in the moisture and heat and reduce the need to weed.
While their youth and youthful enthusiasm helps them stand out in the Ohio farming community, Logan and Marissa also are good at getting people to “eat their veggies” by hosting a CSA (community supported agriculture), a network of customers that, for a fee, “subscribe” to the farm and in return receive weekly shares of the delicious and nutritious harvest.
“We have about 150 members that sign up in the spring,” said Marissa. Once the harvest begins, they set up weekly at the farm or at pickup sites in Maineville and Blue Ash to distribute customers’ shares of whatever the fields are yielding that week. Throughout the season, customers anticipate not only a steady stream of greens, squash and root crops, but flavorful heirloom tomato varieties such as Brandywine Pink tomatoes, an old-fashioned beefsteak fruit with consistently good flavor, and Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom, a sweet, citrusy, low acid variety that makes an appearance in August. There’s always the element of surprise in their weekly share too, such as Barq, a summer squash Middle Eastern variety with a nutty flavor.
When the fields hand the farmers an abundance, they seize the opportunity to produce value-added products like the family’s signature sweet pickles made from their great-grandmother’s recipe that calls for a long bath in pickling lime to maintain the crunch. Last season more than 100 quarts of their field grown blackberries were made into jams along with others from locally grown strawberries and peaches.
The brother and sister team has a long-term vision for their family farm that includes establishing an orchard of fruit trees and brambles over the next decade, which would provide fruit for the CSA. “We would also like to add dairy products, like milk and yogurt,” said Marissa, “and meats for a full service CSA.” Right now their short-term vision is to get through the fall harvest and onto planning for the next season as well as the future.
More info: Kruthaup Family Farm
4637 Middleboro Road | Morrow
Marilou Suszko is a food writer from Vermilion. She is the author of Farms and Foods of Ohio: From Garden Gate to Dinner Plate and The Locavore’s Kitchen.