2023 Ohio Farm Bureau interns

Allow us to introduce ourselves: We are Ashley Tate, Reily Bell and Branson Van Fleet, the 2023 Ohio Farm Bureau state fair interns. We recently began our summer working with the Ohio Farm Bureau and are excited for everything to come! Our responsibility is to oversee all aspects of the Land & Living exhibit at this year’s Ohio State Fair. Over the next few months, we will collaborate with commodity groups and agriculturalists across Ohio to develop educational exhibits and activities that enlighten fairgoers about the diverse agriculture industry in our state. However, we needed to experience it ourselves first. During our first full week with the Ohio Farm Bureau, we packed up and took off on the annual intern trip. 

Each year, the state fair interns begin their summer with a trip to different farms around Ohio. The farms we visit are owned by members of the Ohio Farm Bureau Board of Trustees. During our visits, we learn about the same types of agriculture that we will be educating others about during the fair. This year, we were also joined by the OSIA Intern Adam Bensman, pictured above with us.

We recently returned from our trip and are happy to say that it was a great experience! Since this trip was such a big part of our summer, we wanted to share it with all of you. Continue reading to learn about each farm we visited and the experiences we had while being “On the Farm”.

Harrison Farms
Harrison Farms
Located in the bottom corner of Franklin County, there is no shortage of diversity on Harrison Farms.

Our first stop on the trip was to Harrison Farms in Canal Winchester, owned by Katherine Harrison. Located in the bottom corner of Franklin County, there is no shortage of diversity on this farm. Living close to Columbus gives Katherine a unique opportunity to tap into a part of the industry that is often overlooked – agritourism. Whether it is goat yoga or the beautiful event spaces, many people are drawn to Katherine’s farm. While there, visitors can see her many animals, including sheep, goats, chickens, bees, ducks, pigs, cats, and even her horse, Molly. If that doesn’t make you want to sing “Old McDonald,” we don’t know what will! Katherine truly has it all, and we were grateful for the opportunity to experience her farm. 

Another thing that makes her farm even cooler is that a lot of her animals are rescue animals. Unfortunately, animals such as ducks, goats, cats and much more are often purchased by people who are unable to or unaware of how to take care of them. Once this becomes evident, many of them are sent to Harrison Farms where they can live the rest of their life happily with proper care. 

From the baby goats that are part of goat yoga, to the farm celebrities like Nina the goat and Molly the horse, they were all a blast to be around. It was neat to learn more about agritourism and the ever-evolving activities within it. If you are ever looking to get away from the fast pace of life and want to relax with some awesome animals, we highly recommend checking out Harrison Farms!

Bell Farms

From Canal Winchester, we went to Muskingum County to see Matt Bell’s hog farm. Matt is a 6th generation hog farmer who produces finished hogs from birth to harvest. He also raises soybeans and corn, which are fed to the pigs. The farm has many buildings for each stage of the pigs’ lives. We talked to Matt about the successes and trials of raising hogs, and toured the farrowing house, where all of the pigs are born. Pigs are born at the farm every day, and each sow has a gestation period of three months, three weeks, and three days. We were shown the cards that are kept with the sow to show her productivity and got to see a litter of just over 20 pigs! The information that we learned was incredibly valuable to us, as we plan to have sows in the Land and Living exhibit again this year. Although the hog market is currently lower than ideal, Matt and his family work hard to produce quality pork products.  

Cox Seed Sales

After visiting Matt Bell’s hog operation, we drove to Dresden where we met with Jenny Cox. Jenny and her husband, Jared, own Cox Seed Sales, a company that sells Pioneer seed to farmers in eastern Ohio. We helped Jenny load up 20 bags of seed for a customer, and she taught us about seed packaging and the different variations they sell. Jenny also shared her career journey with us and how she got involved in Farm Bureau. With a few changes coming to the environment zone this year, it was valuable for us to learn more about crops.

Four Pines Farm
Four Pines Farm
One neat aspect about Four Pines Farm is that you can see the full history of the farm while you’re there.

Next, we stopped in Sugarcreek at Four Pines Farm, owned by Mackenzie Deetz and her family. Their dairy farm has been around for multiple generations. They currently house over 16,000 Holstein dairy cattle. Between their family and their employees, they stay busy managing the herd and milking three times per day. One neat aspect about Four Pines Farm is that you can see the full history of the farm while you’re there. They have recently built newer and bigger facilities, but the older facilities are still standing and used on a different part of the farm. We saw the parlor they used to milk in with fewer machines and an older computer system, all the way to a much larger parlor with a much larger capacity and a state of the art computer system. The three of us were raised in agriculture but weren’t as familiar with the milking process. It was interesting to see everything from the cows being brought into the parlor, the milkers in action, and the machines sending it through a cooler system and directly onto the trucks to be shipped off. We also got to see other aspects of the operation, such as their barn flushing system, the ponds that were built to clean the water after it is used to flush the facilities, their grain and silage storage areas, and much more! We all learned a lot about the dairy industry and appreciate the farmers who work in such an important part of the industry!

Boyert’s Greenhouse & Farm

After our visit to Four Pines Farm, we traveled to Medina for a visit to Boyert’s Greenhouse & Farm. The facility was full of plants and gardening materials to fit every need; there were houseplants, tropical fruit trees, flowers, and vegetables for gardens. Right now, they are working to sell all of the spring flowers and vegetables. It was truly amazing to see so many plants in one space! We were told about plant propagation and care, and left with our hands full! Reily bought tomato plants, Branson picked out a papaya tree, and Adam left with a pineapple plant! We also got to talk to owner Mike Boyert, and he shared some history of the farm, and how it became what it is today. 

Patterson Fruit Farm
Patterson Fruit Farm
Along with the beautiful orchards and market, Pattersons also has multiple family friendly areas.

Next, we stopped in Chesterland at Patterson Fruit Farm, owned by the president of the board, Bill Patterson, and his family. Their farm is in the business and tourism part of the industry, just like a few others we saw on our trip. We first toured their market, where you can buy a wide variety of agricultural products grown on their farm. The Pattersons grow apples, and they sell many apple products in their market. We enjoyed some apple cider slushies and apple cider donuts while we were there! Next, we got to see the second area of their farm where they host events such as their fall festival. We saw their orchard, where customers can pick their own apples, strawberries and even peaches. Along with the beautiful orchards and market, they also have multiple family friendly areas including several playgrounds, a barn to see farm animals in, and much more. It truly is the definition of a family farm. Whether it’s the multi-generational ownership and operation of the farm by their family or their welcoming approach to anyone seeking a place to spend quality time, both contribute to their farm’s appeal. It was really cool to see the process of their products going from farm to table through their market. We are grateful for the chance to experience their farm and are glad to see an example of farms like this one that serves the community so well!

Oakshade Dairy

After making the trek to Wauseon the night before, we visited Oakshade Dairy on the third and final day of our trip. With around 1600 head of cattle, Oakshade Dairy is owned by Chris Weaver and his family. In the herringbone-style milking parlor, all the cows are milked three times a day. After visiting Mackenzie Deetz’s dairy farm the day before, it was neat to compare and contrast the two operations. Our amazing and hilarious tour guide, Saul, showed us how they mix feed and recycle sand bedding. Oakshade works with Nate Andre to compost their manure. It was quite fitting that we visited Nate next!

Andre Farms
Nate Andre Farm
In addition to things like food scraps from local sources, Andre composts manure and straw to create nutrient rich and balanced compost for gardens and fields.

Nate Andre has an operation unlike anything we have ever seen! In addition to other things like food scraps from local sources, Andre composts lots of Oakshade Dairy’s manure and straw. He works to create nutrient rich and balanced compost for gardens and fields, and sells compost to consumers. He mentioned that the soil in Fulton County was very sandy, but we were surprised to find out that the soil looks and feels just like beach sand! This impacts how crops can be produced, and it is what introduced him to the world of compost. Before planting his fields, Andre will apply a layer of compost and lightly till the area to create a fertile area for crops to flourish. Additionally, he runs “compost tea,” or liquid through his irrigation pivot to provide nutrients throughout the growing season, and uses drainage tiles to keep the water levels of the field in check.

Thank you so much to our gracious hosts who took time out of their busy day to share their livelihoods with us and opened our eyes to the diversity of Ohio agriculture. We learned so much, and we look forward to displaying our new-found knowledge in the Land and Living exhibit.

Photo caption: Pictured l to r: Ashley Tate, Reily Bell, Branson Van Fleet and Adam Bensman.

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Farm Labor Resources
I appreciate the benefit of having a strong voice in my corner. The extras that are included in membership are wonderful, but I'm a member because of the positive impact to my local and state agricultural communities.
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Ernie Welch

Van Wert County Farm Bureau

Strong communities
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
Matt Aultman's avatar
Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
Farm Bureau involvement has taught me how to grow my professional and leadership experience outside of the workforce and how to do that in a community-centric way.
Jaclyn De Candio's avatar
Jaclyn De Candio

Clark County Farm Bureau

Young Ag Professionals program
With not growing up on a farm, I’d say I was a late bloomer to agriculture. I feel so fortunate that I found the agriculture industry. There are so many opportunities for growth.
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Jenna Gregorich

Coshocton County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Knowing that horticulture is under the agriculture umbrella and having Farm Bureau supporting horticulture like it does the rest of ag is very important.
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Jared Hughes

Groovy Plants Ranch

Groovy Plants Ranch
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
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Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
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Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

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