Every year, the Ohio Farm Bureau State Fair intern team takes a trip looking for inspiration and information to bring back and implement in the Land and Living Exhibit. In the past, interns have traveled across the United States to various agricultural exhibits and agritourism destinations. This year, we decided to get back to our roots and travel across Ohio to visit the operations of six of our state board members.
All the baby animals
We started our trip in Franklin County with Katherine Harrision. On her farm, Harrison raises goats, sheep and chickens. We spent the morning bottle feeding the kids and lambs then discussing the importance of reaching people who do not have any connections to agriculture. Harrison shared her experiences of making solutions for other people’s problems. She uses those experiences to open the door and start conversation about agriculture with those consumers who are otherwise unconnected.
Next, we traveled to Muskingum County to visit Matt Bell at Bell Farms Ag. One of the larger exhibits within our animal zone is the sow birthing center. The main focus of our visit to Bell Farms was the farrowing house. Bell educated us on the benefits of using farrowing crates on a large, commercial scale. It is important to learn this information first hand from a commercial hog farmer so we can ensure all information shared with fairgoers is accurate.
Playing in the dirt… I mean soil
On the second day of our trip, we traveled to Nathan Brown’s farm in Highland County. Brown is a passionate first-generation farmer. We were very excited to hear about his experience with cover crops and no-till farming. The most impactful part of this visit was when Brown dug a shovel full of soil out of a field that utilizes cover crops and no-till, then a shovel full out of a field that uses conventional tilling practices. The difference in the soil profiles was eye opening for us interns.
We rounded out the day with Lane Osswald in Preble County. Our cover crop conversation continued to a discussion about the importance of cover crops and no-till practices. Osswald also brought water quality into the conversation and helped us come up with ideas for activities within the environment zone. Both of these stops were very valuable for the exhibit, as well as our own understanding of how farmers play a part in soil and water quality.
Education: Not in the classroom, but on the farm
The third and final day of our intern trip started in Crawford County at Hartschuh Dairy with Rose Hartschuh. We discussed her nonprofit, Acres of Adventure, and what it looks like to educate students about agriculture outside of the classroom. Hartschuh’s educational materials sparked many ideas for the Land and Living exhibit. We also toured the dairy barns and the Hartschuh’s crop fields. While touring the fields, we discussed regulations the Hartschuhs follow because they live in the Lake Erie Watershed and how this affects their operation. Hartschuh shared a lot of useful information that we are excited to implement into the exhibit.
We ended the trip with OFBF President Bill Patterson at his family’s fruit farm in Geauga County. Patterson shared the history of his family’s fruit farm and how many small components make up a large business. One of the important things we learned was that even though some parts of the business seem small in terms of profits, they help drive the larger parts of the business. We asked questions and discussed the importance that agritourism plays in educating consumers about agriculture, especially those who do not have any other connection.
We cannot thank the members of the OFBF board enough for taking the time to show us their operations and share their passions with us. Many of the things we learned on the trip will be showcased throughout the Land and Living Exhibit. “Going back to our roots” proved to be not only an amazing trip, but extremely educational and valuable to the planning of the exhibit.