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Growing our Generation: Charlie and Casey Ellington

Charlie and Casey Ellington are editors of the May 8, 2017 Growing our Generation enewsletter, featuring insights and ideas directly from Ohio’s young farmers and food and agricultural professionals.

Stick-to-itiveness

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.  – Thomas A. Edison

We love this quote! How fitting is it for farming and many other facets in life, but in relation to farming hard work is required as there is always work to do! Stick-to-itiveness is essential because there will be many days it would be easier to quit and sell out, but we keep with it because it is our passion and besides, what would we do with all of that time? Common sense, though it seems hard to find these days, in farming we need it to stay safe and think through our actions and business decisions so we can farm another day.

Though we aren’t Thomas Edison, we value his inventions and advice. We are Charlie and Casey Ellington of Ellington Farms located in Stark County. We live in Louisville, Ohio with our children Coy and Bellamy, raising Holstein steers and hogs for our freezer meat business. We are also part owners in the small family dairy Southern Star Farms located in Mechanicstown.

In addition to the farms, Charlie has an off the farm job with Agland Cooperative as a nutritional consultant specializing in dairy and beef nutrition.  Casey manages the sales of Ellington Farms meats as well as the babies, our home and other farm- related tasks. Charlie is also a graduate of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation AgriPOWER course.                                

Find us at Ellington Farms Facebook and Instagram.

Unity in the community

ellington_fieldIn the past month, a video was being shared throughout the agriculture community on social media of the Former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Secretary Vilsack was discussing the need for unity and celebration of our fellow farmer no matter if they are organic or conventional, and how fortunate the American people are for this hard working group of farmers. I think this is a strong message that needs to be heard in our community.  Our consumers have strong opinions about where their food is coming from, and luckily for consumer and producer, the consumer can purchase wholesome and nutritionally rich foods no matter the growing method.

How lucky are we that we somewhat get to have the choice on how we raise our food. I know it is easy in this day and age of instant communication to get bogged down with our consumers and even other farmers opinions and telling us that the way we may be doing things isn’t what some deem correct. However, we take encouragement in the fact that most of us have science and technology on our side. The majority of consumers really want a farmer to be able to approach and learn from, and while there will always be people whose mind is unable to be changed, the majority of people really want our methods explained. When it comes to our meat business, we openly address and welcome questions on our grain diet, if and how we use antibiotics on our animals and why we happily choose to raise GMO grains. Transparency, accurate sources and being approachable is our duty to the public. We discussed more about our meats business in a local magazine for the Canton/Stark County area.  

Advocate to stay in business

ellington_agripowerWe have been getting more involved on several levels of different agriculture organizations in the past couple years.  We noticed the need for more knowledge to be shared with our community and state about agriculture in several aspects. Casey is a director for the Stark County Cattlemen’s as a way to stay knowledgeable on local current issues that affect our beef operation, and also to help our youth with scholarships and sharing knowledge with our community of local beef producers.  Charlie just finished his AgriPOWER class, which has encouraged and groomed him for even more community involvement. We are also members of Ohio Cattlemen’s and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Casey works the membership booth at Ohio Beef Expo as well as the food booth during state fair.  Casey has also attended several Women in Agriculture days from Ohio State University Extension. These events bring together experts from all different parts of agriculture and you always seem to learn something new.

These experiences of connecting with other farmers and the public have proven to be worthwhile. The interactions from the public when they meet someone that raises the food that they eat always poses questions and conversation, most of which has been positive. We feel that these organizations are valuable because we have strength in numbers, and it is our responsibility to advocate for our own industry. So no matter your farm size, your voice is needed. Go to the annual meetings. A little can go such a long way into showing you the opportunities in agriculture are endless.  

Open mind

ellington_dairyWe are a relatively small operation compared to most, but we have been fortunate to be able to grow relatively quickly due to being open minded.  Charlie comes from a dairy and grain farm background, and I come from a tobacco, cow & calf operation.  Seven years ago our options to farm were pretty limited.  We were living in the tiniest little house on Charlie’s family farm, but there was a very tiny barn on the property that was open as it was not big enough for his family to utilize, but it was just the perfect size for us to get three or four Holstein calves to bottle feed and finish. This was our opening, our way to get back into farming after college and on our own terms.

Charlie was and still is very passionate about properly feeding Holstein steers and getting them to a finished weight quickly while keeping their overall health as the No. 1 priority. We do this with no implants or growth promoting antibiotics.  At that time, Charlie was renting some ground to raise hay, but that business has since expanded and brought in more family and the majority of our hay now goes to the dairy farm. However through this whole startup, we owned no land of our very own; we rented. Even after we did purchase our home, it was still a very small eight acre farm where we had to overhaul the old barn and bring it back to life! We could have torn it down, but we would not have financially been able to build another barn at that size at that time. However by rehabbing the barn, we now had dead space that we could not fit steers in but would perfectly fit a few pigs. We never thought about being pig farmers, but our beef customers were asking so we seized the opportunity.

We have since found a small piece of ground that made sense to purchase, 25 acres next door to the family dairy, and even though we weren’t really looking at the time, we seized an opportunity and bought it.  We had to scrounge up our pennies, but we were able to build a larger barn for our steers so we could have more available for our local customers and also sell to our local sale barn. By being open minded we were able to divert from the norms of what we have always done with our families and grow in a different direction.

Thank you

We really appreciate this opportunity to share our thoughts and love of agriculture. If you ever venture to Stark County or need some feed expertise get in touch with us! We will fire up the grill and throw on some steaks and great conversation. Thank you, Charlie, Casey, Coy & Bellamy Ellington 

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The Ellingtons raise Holstein steers and hogs for their freezer meat business and are also part owners in the small family dairy Southern Star Farms. In addition to the farms, Charlie has an off the farm job with Agland Cooperative as a nutritional consultant.