Joe and Hannah DiVencenzo from Lorain County are the editors of the Jan. 14, 2019 Growing our Generation, featuring insights and ideas directly from Ohio’s young farmers and food and agricultural professionals.
Hello, we are Joe and Hannah DiVencenzo from Lorain County. Currently we live in Grafton in what some people would refer to as “in town.” Joe grew up in Grafton Township on his family’s Christmas tree farm and has a good amount of agricultural experience. Hannah grew up about 20 miles north of Grafton in Avon Lake which could not be any more different than Grafton. We met during our college years and got married in 2013. We have two sons Wyatt (4) and Caleb (2) and are expecting our third son in early May. Joe’s rural upbringing was similar to many others including 12 years with the local 4-H club, where he held many leadership positions over the years. Even though Hannah did not grow up in the agricultural community, it has always been something she was interested in. Neither one of us currently work full time in an agricultural-related role but we help in the maintenance of Joe’s family tree farm. Due to the unexpected loss of Joe’s dad in July 2018, the future of the tree farm is uncertain at this point. A lesson we are finding out the hard way is that it is never too early to discuss succession planning on your family’s farm.
Volunteering in our community
Even though our backgrounds were different growing up, our families both worked hard to teach us good values. One of the most important values that we both include in our daily lives is volunteering. We are both current members of the Grafton Village Fire Department — Joe as a firefighter/EMT and Hannah is an EMT. These values extend also into our work at the tree farm. For the past several years, the farm has donated trees to US troops serving overseas through a program called Operation Evergreen.
We have also volunteered with the county Farm Bureau’s Fall Farm Tour and Brunch with a Farmer events. These are both great opportunities for the public to learn about agriculture in our community.
Al DiVencenzo, Joe’s father, served as a 23-year Farm Bureau volunteer, who passed away unexpectedly this past July. He served as president of Lorain County Farm Bureau plus in many other leadership roles including state trustee for Ohio Farm Bureau representing members from Cuyahoga, Erie, Huron and Lorain counties. He served as vice president of the Ohio Christmas Tree Association and led its popular Ohio State Fair exhibit.
Joe and I attended the 2017 YAP conference under the direction of Al because he bribed us with free babysitting for the weekend. With the promise of a special weekend away we were so excited. In order to get the most out of the conference we split up and attended separate sessions to get as much information as possible. Joe attended the succession planning breakout and that started the conversation related to the future plans for the tree farm. One thing we learned from our experiences is that farm planning is an ongoing process and should not be put off. We started the conversation but never got the opportunity to finalize plans, therefore the farm’s future is still uncertain. We strongly encourage you to take advantage of Nationwide’s Land as Your Legacy succession planning resources.
Growing up canning
Even though I grew up in Avon Lake I was fortunate enough to learn about canning from my grandmother and grandfather as they had a considerable sized yard. My grandpa had the most amazing gardens and I will never forget the taste of cherry tomatoes as we helped pull weeds. As a child I enjoyed eating all of the freshly canned fruits and vegetables that my grandma put so much hard work into making for us. Since Joe and I have known each other, we have always had some form of a garden. Even when I was in college working toward my master’s degree, we had tomatoes in pots behind our tiny one-bedroom apartment. Canning is a lost art that is extremely beneficial for supporting families.
As the mother of soon to be three sons, I have made it my mission to have a stocked pantry. I have learned a great deal from other family members about freezing, drying and canning to preserve the garden’s harvest. One of the ways I try to connect agriculture with my daily job at Lorain County Community College is through my nutrition classes. I have the pleasure of teaching students about basic and clinical nutrition. I try each semester to make a mention of my passion for canning and food preservation in the hopes that I can inspire someone else to give it a try. Even though the temperature outside has not reflected winter as we typically think of an Ohio winter, I would call it soup season, so I wanted to share what I do to stock my pantry for soup season.
How to make vegetable stock:
I start by saving all of my vegetable scraps in a gallon zipclose freezer bag. Whether you are doing your weekly grocery shopping and chopping up all of the vegetables for the week or making a vegetable tray for a party, you will have scraps at some point. Instead of throwing them in the compost pile, put them in your freezer bag. When you get enough scraps (onion ends with the peels still on, ends of celery, or ends of carrots, garlic ends with peels, etc.) saved, it is time to cook it down. I use a roaster but if you do not have a roaster you could use a stock pot or crockpot. Put your scraps into your pot and add water to cover the scraps. You can add any seasonings you would like. Then you cook it down for as long as you have time. The ball canning recipe book recommends 2-4 hours, but I have honestly just put it all in the roaster and let it go for about 6-8 hours. Once cooking is complete, strain your stock through a fine sieve or cheesecloth-lined strainer to get the vegetables out. At this point you can either freeze the stock in zipclose bags or you can pressure can it if you have the materials. The choice between which one you would do depends on many factors: Do you have the freezer space? Or the pantry space? Do you have the right equipment? I actually do some of both with my vegetable stock. I then use the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving to finish off my stock and pressure can it for storage. I use this valuable resource for almost all of my canning recipes.