“We are very transparent. We do what we do because it’s important that people understand where their food comes from.” – Casey Ellington
Bellamy Ellington has no fear, according to her mother, Casey. The toddler has been known to stroll headfirst into the barn to visit the cows on their family’s farm just off Route 62 in Stark County. The big animals don’t frighten her.
“She’s a spitfire,” Casey said, shaking her head with a smile on her face.
The beef cattle Casey and Charlie Ellington finish at Ellington Farms live on land in Carroll County and in a barn and pasture off the driveway of their family home in Louisville. Their kids, Bellamy and her big brother, Coy, treat the cows almost like pets. But, the children know the cows won’t be with them for very long.
“They always ask ‘is it so and so’s turn’ to be processed?” Charlie said. “They understand.”
That’s exactly how they want their customers to feel about the beef and pork they are buying from the Ellingtons, who have a freezer beef, pork, grain and hay operation and sell much of their products direct to the consumer. They try to keep between 80 to 100 cattle to finish and sell a small amount commercially. They also are part owners of a dairy, Southern Star Farms, with family.
Charlie has a degree in animal science and uses that knowledge to educate their consumers about the meat they are buying. Charlie, whose family has farmed in and around Stark County for generations, likes the business side of farming almost as much as he likes the production side. Off the farm, he works as a livestock nutritionist for Heritage Cooperative.
He understands how feeding an animal the right mix of feed and supplements can help both the animal’s health and the quality of meat it produces. Casey comes from a long lineage of farmers in southern Ohio, where her family raises tobacco and has a cow-calf operation in Brown County. She takes care of the farm, marketing and order fulfillment from home. She said she loves working with customers and connecting with them about Ellington Farms and farming in general.
“We are very transparent,” Casey said. “We do what we do because it’s important that people understand where their food comes from.”
The Ellingtons buy their animals from other local farmers. Casey said they know exactly how an animal was raised and treated before it moves to their farm. They have a policy of prevention and treatment when their animals are ill, but they do not use antibiotics for growth.
“I can tell you if the animal you are waiting for is sick or not,” Casey said. “I can tell you how it was treated. We follow withdrawal times (for an antibiotic used to treat an illness to leave the animal’s system before it it processed). The Ohio Department of Agriculture does random testing and this is the standard.”
Diversity and an ability to respond to new consumer interests is something they both see as the keys to their farm’s growth and sustainability. The key to agricultural sustainability, they agree, is advocacy and involvement.
Both Casey and Charlie are graduates of Ohio Farm Bureau’s elite leadership program, AgriPOWER and both serve on the OFBF Young Ag Professionals State Committee. Charlie also serves on the Stark County Farm Bureau Board of Trustees and both are involved in their local Cattlemen’s association.
Charlie admits that he was initially part of AgriPOWER Class VIII because his boss at Agland (now Heritage) wanted him to be. After completing the program, which exposes participants to agriculture advocacy and issues as well as varied farming operations, he was hooked on becoming a leader in Farm Bureau.
“I learned a whole heck of a lot on the out-of-state trips (to farms in other states and an advocacy trip to Washington, D.C.). That experience is so valuable,” he said. He now wants to participate in Farm Bureau at its highest volunteer level.
Casey participated in AgriPOWER just after him and is a graduate of Class IX.
“If we don’t advocate for ourselves, we’ll be putting ourselves out of business,” said Casey, who is happy engaging with members and consumers through various events as an active Farm Bureau volunteer on the county level.
Charlie graduated from AgriPOWER with a drive for agriculture he hadn’t experienced, even though he’d grown up around farming all his life. Both see their participation in Farm Bureau growing as strong and steady as their family and farm.
“We as members need to be more involved in Farm Bureau,” he said. “It is vitally important.”
Casey Ellington said her experiences growing up in 4-H and FFA gave her the confidence and skills she needs to relate farming to consumers today – even some of the smallest ones.
Last year the Ellingtons utilized checkoff resources from beef, pork and dairy organizations to put on an ag education day at their son’s preschool in Louisville. What started out as a visit to his preschool ended up being an all-school affair, complete with visits from farm animals that the children could see and touch.
“Even though these kids live in a rural county, they don’t all live on farms,” she said. “We would love to do more days like that.”
AgriPOWER is an elite leadership program designed specifically for farmers and agribusiness professionals. This yearlong program focuses on public policy issues confronting agriculture and the food industry. It helps individuals develop the skills necessary to become effective leaders and advocates for agriculture. Applications for the 2019-2020 class are due April 19 and are available at ofb.ag/agripowerapp19.
Featured Image: Charlie and Casey Ellington both grew up in farming families and want to raise their children, Coy and Bellamy, with the same experience, while also having a broader impact on consumers and the agricultural community.
Photos By Bryan Rinnert