Farm Bureau members enjoying Franklin County's Kickoff last year.

Farm Bureau harvests new members

Note: This article was published in the Geauga Maple Leaf Feb. 23, 2017

by Rose Nemunatitis

The average size of Geauga County’s farms may have declined over the years, but just as more farms are in production in the county, so is a growing interest in keeping Farm Bureau membership thriving.

“Well over half of our members in Geauga County are community members who have no ties to agriculture other than they love to eat,” said Mandy Orahood, organization director for Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Mahoning and Trumbull County Farm Bureaus. “Those members care about their food and the farms the food comes from and their community.”

Geauga Farm Bureau held its 2017 Membership Kickoff off with a large turnout at The Smith’s Restaurant Feb. 16 in Burton, highlighting the organization’s mission, accomplishments, member benefits and involvement opportunities.

The theme of this year’s campaign is “Together with Farmers.”

“As Ohio Farm Bureau approaches its 100th anniversary, the organization faces new challenges and new opportunities, and growing membership is vital,” Orahood said.

According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, there are 75,000 farms in Ohio on 14 million acres.

“The future of farming in Geauga County can be exciting for those that are willing and able to compete and be creative and innovative with their product,” said Ty Kellogg, of the Kellogg Agency. “However, the amount of farmland in the county continues to dwindle and the costs for that land, in addition to other input costs (labor, taxes, insurances, equipment) and outside factors (regulatory) continues to rise.”

Members and new members mingled over Carolina-style barbecue at the event.

“We hope to bring some excitement to membership as well as equipping them with the training and support they need to make them comfortable with achieving the goals we have set,” Orahood added.

Geauga County currently has more than 2,500 member families.

Bob Sage, of Sage’s Apples, Fruit & Vegetable Farm Market in Chardon, became a Farm Bureau member about the same time he got his first car in high school.

“Having Nationwide Auto Insurance and a Farm Bureau membership gave me about 10 percent in the auto insurance,” Sage said. “My family had been members for years so there was no discussion, I just joined.”

Sage said the annual event is an important part of the Farm Bureau.

“Our main focus is farmer membership, but anyone interested in their food supply and in encouraging agriculture is welcome to join,” Sage said. “You do not have to be actively farming to join the Farm Bureau.”

Cost for a Geauga membership is $75 and if you are interested in supporting the organization, but don’t want full membership with all the extra benefits, then a $25 supportership will get you a monthly magazine and invitations to some of the annual events.

Keith Bales, of D & S Automotive, came to represent his company and partnership they have with the Farm Bureau.

“It’s a great event for us to promote our connection to the Farm Bureau, as well as let Farm Bureau members know who we are and what we do,” Bales said.

Russell Township’s Kristina Port said she felt bad she didn’t join the organization sooner.

“As for being a member, I would be classified as associate, as I am not a farmer,” Port said. “I would like to be instrumental in advocating on behalf of an organization once I learn more about where I might make the biggest contribution or impact.”

Port listened as Kim Skala, representative from Nationwide Insurance, explained the long history of serving the Farm Bureau.

Port said her testimony only enhanced her feeling that the membership campaign is worthwhile and necessary.

“Although I am not a farmer, I understand the economic engine impact of farming is within Geauga and other Ohio counties and that must be preserved,” Port said.

Farming has deep roots within Sage’s family, with Sage’s Apples being a family farm for nearly 150 years.

“Farm Bureau is a general farm organization. Our Geauga staff works with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation staff in Columbus and the American Farm Bureau in Washington, D.C. to support all of agriculture, big, small, beef, dairy, corn, soybeans, nursery, greenhouse, equine, of course apples, just to name a few,” Sage said.

Sage added he is specifically interested in lobbying efforts to rein in new regulations that carry with them so many hidden costs.

“The Farm Bureau is also a service organization who tries to keep us up-to-date on new regulations and how to follow them,” Sage said. “But when everything settles at the end of the day, the organization knows the food that you, the consumer, prays the Lord’s blessing over needs to be nutritious, wholesome and healthy so the farm bureau works with all government agencies, food processors, grocers and everyone else involved to keep the farm to table network strong.”

Orahood said agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Ohio, with farmers growing and raising more than 200 products ranging from conventional to organic, and from small backyard “hobby” farms to large scale, family-run operations.

“This bureau has a presence in all counties in our great state, and the concerns and needs are not just local, but affect our Ohio’s economic growth, direction and future,” Port said. “There is something for everyone, every age and activities that sound very engaging, if only one has the openness to reach out and explore the possibilities of becoming a member.”

Not a member? Visit our website and join today.

Published February 23, 2017 by Rose Nemunatitis / Geauga County Maple Leaf.