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Licking County couple eager to field farming inquiries

Andy Hollenback knows what it is like to straddle the fence between life on the farm and life in an office. For 16 years he worked as a law enforcement officer with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. “I used to say I worked for the state to pay for my farming habit,” he said, with a laugh.

Herd
Andy is keeping an eye on his herd in the barn.

During that time his wife, Mamie, who grew up in the suburbs, could take care of most things on their then-burgeoning Licking County farm, but sometimes she needed an extra set of hands, especially when their sons Art, 9, and Bryce, 7, were younger. Yet, the future the Hollenbacks have built from scratch speaks to a tenacity of spirit shared by the couple as, little by little, they started to accumulate land, livestock and grain bins.

“We started with anything we could scrounge together,” Andy said.

Today they run an 800-acre registered Hereford herd, row crop, hay and chicken operation in Licking County. Andy is an active board member of the Licking County Farm Bureau and was named Beck’s Young Farm Leader in 2014. He no longer works for ODNR, after accepting a job less than 10 minutes from home, as manager of the service department for Evolution Ag, a Case IH dealer in Utica. He also is a member of the current AgriPOWER Class, Ohio Farm Bureau’s leadership and advocacy development program for future ag leaders throughout the state.

DoubleYolk
A fertile egg with a double yolk is compared to a single-yoke egg at the 2 Chicks egg laying facility.

Mamie runs 2 Chicks, LLC, which is a fertile egg laying facility for Case Farms Hatchery. At any given time about 45,000 chickens, in a 10-to-1 hen to rooster ratio, live in a cage-free environment in three 525-feet-long by 42-feet-wide chicken houses for 40 weeks out of the year. At peak production times 2 Chicks processes 30,000 eggs a day.

He and Mamie both are hoping to carry on the values of friend Art Cochran, who along with Andy’s father Sam, took Andy under his wing and helped lead him to becoming the farmer he is today. The Hollenbacks are proud of the conservation efforts they have implemented on the farm and aren’t shy about acknowledging that they used grants and other government supported opportunities to help jump-start farm projects.

Taking what they learned from Cochran, the friendships and close alliances they have made with couples both inside and outside of agriculture in their community and a willingness to grow their business, the Hollenbacks have a unique perspective on the relationship between farmers and consumers.

FeedingTime
Mamie lifts food bins out of the flock in preparation for the next feeding time.

Q&A

What do you wish consumers better understood about farming?

Farmers take great pride in what we do. For us, whether it is crops, other produce, our eggs in the chicken barns, cows, etc., we take pride in farming. We have to tell our story and we have to tell a truthful story. It’s a two-way street. Ultimately if consumers understood how much caring, pride and hard work goes into farming they would be open to us (farmers).

What do you wish farmers better understood about their customers?

Consumers just want to know the truth – they want to know where their food comes from and we want to show them. We’re happy to do it. For every one bad thing (that is reported) there are a thousand different farmers doing it a different way, the right way.

What is your vision for food and agriculture in Licking County/Ohio?

Licking County has the opportunity, just from where we are geographically, to educate thousands of consumers. We have it all here in the county – from livestock to crop to specialty farms. We have the ability to reach a lot of people in a good way. We just need to get the people here.

Why be active in Farm Bureau?

Anybody who is passionate about anything, they’re going to find a way to promote and grow that passion in other people. I like to tell our story. I want to open up our farm. Farm Bureau is a place to meet people who have their own story but a similar passion and together we can help spread the word.

Featured image: Mamie and Andy Hollenback in the 2 Chicks fertile egg laying facility on their farm in Licking County. The couple is always willing to share their “from scratch” farming story.

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Kelli Milligan Stammen is director of publications for the Ohio Farm Bureau.