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Sharon and Steve Grover have spent the last 30 years raising kids, strawberries and more on their farm in Trumbull County. Deeply rooted in farm, family and faith, the Grovers, owners of Ridgeview Farm and Tours, have experienced the abundance of highs, lows and changes that often are experienced in the ag industry.
Ridgeview Farm, which consists of 101 acres in the midst of Amish Country, has been in the Grover family for nearly a century, purchased by Steve’s grandfather in 1926.
“They lived in the city at the time and they wanted to get out of the city,” Sharon said. “The city was getting too encroached and they decided they’d rather live on the farm.”
Steve, who has been an Ohio Farm Bureau member on and off for more than 40 years, moved to the farm in 1978, when he was just 19 years old, to help his grandfather with the dairy farm. The farm also grew peaches and produced maple syrup in its earlier years.
Sharon and Steve got married and took over the farm in 1992 with the common goal to allow their children the unique experience of growing up around agriculture and instilling a great work ethic.
“We wanted to raise our five children on the farm and we’ve accomplished that with our youngest being in college now,” Sharon said.
Today, Ridgeview Farm produces grain crops, strawberries and beef cattle. With the average farm in Ohio being 176 acres, the Grover’s farm is considered a smaller operation.
“You definitely can’t traditionally farm with 101 acres, it’s just not going to happen, so you have to bring something else into the fold,” Sharon said.
In 1993, the Grovers started growing strawberries and allowing locals the opportunity to pick their own or purchase pre-picked berries from May to July, depending on the weather.
“Farming is so reliant on the weather and we can’t predict what Mother Nature will do each year, let alone each month, week or day,” she said. “All we can do is pray that God will provide. And more often than not, everything works out.”
During strawberry season, the Grovers sell an average of 300 quarts a day from their two acres of land dedicated to the crop.
“We have a great customer-base, we hardly do any advertising and we have no problem selling strawberries,” Sharon said. “People appreciate good strawberries.”
As is the case for many smaller farming operations, the Grovers have experienced their fair share of changes throughout the years.
“The customers have changed too. Now, customers like to pick, but don’t pick enough,” Sharon said. “They like to bring their kids out to the farm more for an agricultural activity, so we sell more pre-picked than pick-your-own now.”
Ridgeview Farm welcomes school kids of all ages to the farm for field trips and families for fall farm fun days to learn about various aspects of agriculture, which was very important to Sharon, in particular.
“Children really need to learn about farming,” she said. “We were making great progress educating the younger generation and even some of the parents who haven’t been exposed to the farming industry.”
As an extension of the educational effort, the Grovers also organize bus tours primarily around Amish Country.
“Prior to the pandemic, we averaged 125 bus tours a year,” Sharon said. “We’ve seen some of that interest begin to return in 2022,” as there are more than 60 bus tours on the schedule for the year.
They have adjusted the way they farm their land in recent years to help conserve the land and retain the topsoil, something their son is very interested in and passionate about.
“We will keep the farm in the family,” she said. “It’s a way of life. We are going to pass it down to our kids and grandkids, but what they do with it will be their decision from their own ideas.”
Until then, the Grovers look forward to continuing to have visitors at the farm to pick strawberries, guide tours throughout Amish Country and educate children and adults any chance they get.
“You have to take it one day at a time, and you have to be prepared for things to change, you need to be flexible, but it always works out in the end.”
Online extra: New app connects consumers with agritourism venues
The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture is looking for orchards, pumpkin patches, corn mazes and more to showcase on a new app dedicated to connecting consumers with agritourism venues.
The American Farm Trail app, created by the foundation and sponsored by Corteva, allows farmers, ranchers and farm attraction managers to sign up for free to showcase their agritourism venues. Farms and attractions can create a profile promoting their business, history, available products and more.
Consumers using the app will be able to connect directly with local farms by searching area, type of attraction, or products for sale. The foundation plans to add additional educational resources to the app and launch the app in the spring of 2022.
Enter your email address to receive a download link when it the app goes live.