John and Sarah Bolte

Growing our Generation: John and Sarah Bolte

John and Sarah Bolte from Seneca County are editors of the October 2021 Growing our Generation newsletter, featuring insights and ideas directly from members of Ohio Farm Bureau’s Young Agricultural Professionals State Committee.

Sarah and I operate Bolte Farms, a small grain farm as well as a pumpkin operation in which we sell the produce at our roadside stand. We grow and pick around 3 acres of pumpkins per year. We also have turned our 1860’s bank barn into a wedding venue, Arlington Acres Ohio. The structure itself was not usable in row crop agriculture as we farm today, so we decided it was time to give the barn a facelift and a new purpose in life. We love the opportunity to host and share our property and operation with families from Ohio and surrounding states on their special day. We both had a desire to get involved with our county Farm Bureau upon graduating from Ohio State and were excited to get even more involved with the YAP committee when the opportunity presented itself.

Current happenings on the farm

Bolte pumpkin pickingThis week we picked the last of our 2021 pumpkin crop. This year we upgraded from picking into a dump trailer as needed, to pre-picking all of our pumpkins into crates in order to get them all out of the field when they are ripe. We did this because we have struggled with both fungus and bug pressure this year due to all of the rain. We can’t complain about the rain though because we have grown our best yielding pumpkin crop this year in both size and beauty. It has been all around a great year for pumpkins! We store the crates of pumpkins in one of our sheds to keep them out of the sunshine and rain until it is time to put them out at the stand. This helps to ensure perfect looking pumpkins until Oct. 31!

Harvest is also right around the corner. We expect to start at the end of September, as soon as the ground dries off from the rain. From what our neighbors have seen, I also expect this to be a GREAT year for corn and soybean yields in Seneca County, Ohio. The forecast looks good and I am hopeful this is a quick and efficient harvest.

Challenges affecting our success

Arlington AcresOur biggest concern is still what the government will do in relation to continued COVID pressure. Due to our wedding venue’s success being determined by our ability to gather families and friends for celebrations, COVID policies are always a concern as to how they will change or affect that business. We both hope we are past the shut downs now.

With both Sarah and I working full time (I’m with Seneca Trading, and Sarah is with Ohio Auditor of State, Keith Faber), time is also a challenge and figuring out how to most efficiently use our time to best benefit the business. We both feel there are a lot of opportunities for growth right now for us, but figuring out how to keep building on what has worked is our biggest challenge. We don’t want to misuse any time or the resources that we are lucky enough to have.

Are you implementing any new technology in your life?

We are looking at changing up how we grow our pumpkins. We invested in a new planter a couple years ago, and I am not quite happy with how that has worked out. I am actually looking at growing pumpkins on plastic with drip irrigation going forward. I believe that will allow us to have quality consistent with what we have this year regardless of the rainfall and disease pressure.

Do you have a go-to website, publication or media source and what does it provide that is helpful to you?

Because my day to day job involves the commodity markets and trade, I spend time reading Agweb, Farm Journal and the Wall Street Journal everyday. I also really enjoy catching the Closing Market Report podcast from Illinois Extension every day. The CMR provides a nice recap for the day of trade on the commodity markets as well as a recap of the big ag news.

Are you seeing any trends in ag or business?

I think we have seen a lot of consolidation in the last 10 years, and I believe that the volatility in the markets will continue to push consolidation for the years to come. I think this is true on a farm level and through corporate America. I do not see consolidation as a bad thing. I believe that it continues to make the market and business world more efficient. I also believe that it forces us to focus on our strengths and continue to diversify our businesses to set ourselves apart from the rest.

Who is your mentor? 

I have had a few people that I look up to and have tried to mimic in my life. I wouldn’t call it a true mentorship, but certainly people that I have listened to and learned from every opportunity that I have. Whether it was Carl Zulauf, my old OSU professor in risk management and grain markets, Rob and Christy Leeds of Leeds Farm who inspired us to go into the “agritourism” business, or our parents and grandparents who have all been successful in their own endeavors in life. We certainly seek guidance from all of them whenever the opportunity presents itself.

I do believe these relationships are beneficial and that everybody should find a mentor in the field or business that they are trying to make a go at and seek wisdom whenever possible. Most of the time, our mentors have all experienced the problems that we are currently experiencing and have a different way to approach the solution. 

How have your leadership skills developed and are you still trying to grow them?

Through both AgriPOWER and the YAP committee, I have had great opportunities to learn and develop leadership skills. I have learned more about what my weaknesses are as a leader in recent years and how to try to build those weaknesses up. I believe that we should always be challenging ourselves to grow and develop new skills because at the end of the day, I feel that if we are not growing, we are going backwards.

What inspires us

Bolte familyFaith, family, and the opportunity to keep working towards a better future. Our faith is what keeps us pushing through the tough times. We also know that every challenge that we can overcome is one less challenge that the next generation will have to worry about. We are proud of the family legacy both of our families have and want to make sure we can keep building our operation for our children.

Favorite Pumpkin Recipe

Pumpkin Bread

2 cups canned pumpkin (15 ounce cans)

3 cups sugar

1 cup water

1 cup oil

4 eggs

3 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix all ingredients Bake at 350 degrees in two greased loaf pans for 60-70 minutes.