Mark DePugh

Mark DePugh has sold high-end koi fish for decades, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it.

There is nothing marking his farm directly off U.S. 23 south of Chillicothe. There’s no signage and no website, though there is a Facebook page. There are no hours of operation.

“I’m here,” he said as he swayed on a double-facing, Amish built swinging chair gazebo he installed for his wife, Karla. Now retired, DePugh spent his professional career in various roles in safety and security with DuPont. “This is my life.”

It was during a work trip in Japan that DePugh said he “fell in love with Asian culture.” The form, order, discipline, and the beautiful koi fish left a mark on him. Plus, as a hunter and outdoorsman, he’s always felt comfortable with the land and animals.

DePugh has left his mark on his community – as a worship leader at his church, a wrestling coach at the local high school and an enthusiastic entrepreneur – for decades. It has all come together at the 72-acre DePugh’s Fish Farm, where people from around the region, and some across the country, come to find a knowledgeable staff of one who has a “passion for the fish, passion for people and a passion for farming life.”

People are the business

DePugh can weave a tale, layering on the story of how his koi obsession began with one koi pond for fun and turned into a thriving operation.

DePugh Fish Farm koiBy appointment only, DePugh caters to both families who just want pretty fish to folks who not only know one koi fish from another, but know the quality of the fish from scale color and different markings. DePugh takes pride in being able to offer both to his customers.
Besides an advertisement in the local newspaper 20-plus years ago, all of his advertising has been word of mouth. The fish farm is summed up on his only social media platform this way:

“We farm 10 ponds and spawn, hatch, and raise gorgeous high quality koi fish – standard fin, butterfly, scaleless and metallics. We have it all.”

DePugh exudes that assessment.

“I wrote a bunch of business plans when I was with DuPont, but never here,” he said. “This is way more than a business for me. It is a passion for me. We have been so blessed.”
The business has evolved over time. One story leads to the next. From one visitor who told him he’d give him $100 for a fish if he caught it from his pond 25 years ago and launched the business, to a former high school student who he called to bring over his trackhoe and dig the first two koi “grow out” ponds, to his 12-year-old grandson Micah, who has already told him he’s ready to take over the fish farm some day.

DePugh Fish Farm ponds
Fish in the ‘grow out’ strip ponds are netted every few weeks. Once caught, the koi are moved to a 30′ holding tank where they are treated for any potential bacteria or parasites.

Farm Bureau connection

Though he’s been farming for years, DePugh only joined Farm Bureau just last year after a chance meeting with members in Pike County.

A good businessman, DePugh had his farm in CAUV (aquaculture is included in the definition of agriculture), but did not plan to renew it this year.

“We were CAUV last year, but we didn’t renew it this year and actually the paperwork is laying on the counter right next to me,” he said via email earlier this year. “I don’t really have time to spare to go through the hassle of completing a segmented form each year. Is my thinking wrong?”

The short answer was “yes.” It turns out that DePugh’s Fish Farm’s CAUV value is about 30% less than its market value, so his next tax bill will see some savings in CAUV.

As for filing out the paperwork year after year, it is a good practice for a landowner to keep a copy for their records, which can help them easily fill out the paperwork each year.

DePugh learned from Farm Bureau that the delineations that need to be noted in part serve as a way to prove CAUV qualification – which must be done every year; it also helps the auditor in their inspection to know what they are looking for. It also can assist the auditor in ensuring any special valuations – for conservation or woodland – that might be applicable to property and allow for a lower valuation.

As for the application itself, there is no fee for renewal, only for when you first enroll. There is a small grace period if you miss the application renewal deadline, but it’s possible you will be taken off the program and will be charged recoupment. (See below.)

Armed with this information, DePugh made a beeline for the auditor’s office and then sent Farm Bureau an email that read: “Just left the auditor’s office. CAUV RENEWED!!”

With his farm safely staying in CAUV, DePugh can continue to “love the fish, the people and the farm life.”

DePugh Fish Farm sign

Online extra: CAUV recoupment

A farmland owner may lose CAUV status by failing to renew or not meeting the qualification requirements. If a farmland owner with property in CAUV misses a deadline or otherwise is out of the program, that person has to pay recoupment. Recoupment is equal to three years of the tax savings the farmer had by being on the program. Depending on the county, the auditor can usually estimate what recoupment will be if a farmer is thinking about leaving the program or changing their land use.

Photos by Dave Liggett

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.
Ernie Welch's avatar
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
The plan we are on is great. It’s comparable to my previous job's plan, and we are a sole proprietor.
Kevin Holy's avatar
Kevin Holy

Geauga County Farm Bureau

Ohio Farm Bureau Health Benefits Plan
We work terrifically with the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau, hosting at least one to two outreach town hall events every year to educate new farmers and existing farmers on traditional CAUV and woodlands.
David Thomas's avatar
David Thomas

Ashtabula County Auditor

CAUV: Past, present and future
Knowing that horticulture is under the agriculture umbrella and having Farm Bureau supporting horticulture like it does the rest of ag is very important.
Jared Hughes's avatar
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.
Austin Heil's avatar
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.
Mary Smallsreed's avatar
Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

Advocacy
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