Levi and Krysti Morrow from Morgan County are the editors of the Sept. 23, 2019 Growing our Generation enewsletter, featuring insights and ideas directly from Ohio’s young farmers and food and agricultural professionals.
Hi! We’re Levi and Krysti Morrow, your guest editors for the Growing Our Generation e-Newsletter this week! With the “help” of our 15-month-old son, Charlie, we own and operate Rocky Knob Farms in McConnelsville. We are the u-pick strawberry and pumpkin source in Morgan County and now are dipping our feet into the commercial hair sheep business. Krysti spends her time split between mom life and farm life managing the day to day chores, marketing and planning for our u-pick operations and farmers markets. Levi is an agriculture education teacher at Morgan Local Schools in our county and does all the cropping and haying for the farm.
In our 2017 edition, we discussed the importance of business planning, knowing your resources as a beginning farmer and what exactly we do with our leftover pumpkins. Thanks for joining us this week as we dive into some cool ideas!
Our jump into the sheep industry really took off in March of this year. I (Krysti) found myself in a sticky situation that I wasn’t really strong enough for. A calving cow was having a hard time and although I was able to pull the calf I couldn’t – by myself – move the cow around to help her circulation. Thankfully, a family member got home just in time to help move her and all ended up fine. That was a big wake up call for me and started the thought process that maybe cattle weren’t going to be the path we followed for our operation.
Sheep, hair sheep specifically, were the livestock we found that seemed the best fit and so far we are enjoying learning more and more. One of the things we found helpful in deciding was the outlook for the sheep market; with the growing ethnic population in America, the market is seeing more and more of a demand for lamb. The other major factor that helped us decide was how our pastures lay and the shape of the land. In Southeast Ohio there aren’t many flat places and sheep are adequately designed to be able to graze a hillside more efficiently than cattle.
We found this article, shared by the OSU Sheep Team, very interesting from the perspective that sheep may be one answer to repurposing some of the grown-up land in Appalachia and revitalizing some parts of our small communities.
When we opened the u-pick pumpkin patch for the first time in 2016, our two main goals were to make enough money to cover the mortgage payment and to help people understand how modern agriculture actually works by having conversations and answering their questions. It’s hard to start those conversations though just off the cuff. I mean, how do you ask someone what they think about modern agriculture without seeming too aggressive?
We found that over the course of that season, a handful of people did ask us about how we fed our cattle at the time and made hay for them to eat over the winter and how we planted our pumpkins. Once we added strawberries in the spring of 2018, the conversations came a little more easily, likely because we were providing a product that would actually be eaten not just sit on your porch and look pretty. More and more moms asked us if we sprayed our strawberries with any pesticides and how we felt about our food system in America. A lot of their concerns seemed to stem back to the labels they see in the grocery store and what they actually mean.
Now some of the people who asked us questions, already had their minds made up that if a product was sprayed with pesticide it was bad and they didn’t want anything to do with it – there was no changing or easing their mind. Others though were truly asking out of curiosity and wanted to know our opinions as farmers and the ones that are producing food. I think the portion of people in the middle – those that don’t know and are willing to listen and learn – are the group we’re looking to speak with and share the story of what happens on our farm with.
If you are into listening to podcasts, What The Farm Podcast with Rob Sharkey and Leslie Kelly is a really good one when it comes to learning how we can relate more to the public. We’ll try to do a better job of sharing what goes on on our farm from day to day to help the public really see how their food is grown, it can’t hurt.