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Ohio Agriculture Week

Ohio Environmental Council, November 21, 2012

Celebrating Local Family Farmers and Fresh Food

Today marks the first day of Ohio’s first official “Agriculture Week.” The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is pleased to celebrate Ohio Ag Week and applaud the many farms that drive our economy, provide fresh foods that nourish our communities, and are fundamental to our social fabric.

Harvest Sun FarmsAlthough large, highly-mechanized farms get most of our attention, in recent years an important and surprising trend has emerged in the agriculture community.

A rapidly-growing number of small farms are springing up in traditional farm communities across Ohio and community gardens in urban neighborhoods. These small farmers bring fresh fruits, vegetables and livestock products to their local communities.

By focusing on local markets, these small-scale farmers bring an extra measure of freshness and variety to kitchen tables across the state, drive the local economy, and allow people to know where their food comes from.

Harvest Sun Farms in New Knoxville is one of those new style farms. Jeff and Deb Eschmeyer are typical of the new breed of family farmers who are increasingly making such choices and commitments.

The Eschmeyers grow fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs organically. They sell them at the Sidney and Bexley Farmers Markets. Their young, but growing business is physically demanding, but they find it quite rewarding (mostly in non-monetary ways). Like all farmers, they are constantly seeking new growing methods that can make their business more productive and profitable.

Recently, they have begun to incorporate some modest greenhouse-like structures called “high tunnels.” Using these simple structures, they have been able to extend their normally-brief growing seasons, providing fresh vegetables well into late autumn and even early winter.

The National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), understands these benefits and has launched a program to assist beginning farmers in the installation of high tunnels. Through a funding program called EQIP, NRCS shares the cost of purchase and installation of high tunnels with farmers.

“We’re proud to be part of the growing number of young Ohioans working to market locally grown food directly to consumers” said Jeff Eschmeyer. “As we grow our farm, we’re aiming to add a high tunnel this year, taking advantage of the USDA’s EQIP High Tunnel program. We appreciate supportive programs like EQIP’s High Tunnel and Organic Initiative that will help us extend our growing season, build our business, and encourage sustainable farming practices.”

Ohio NRCS State Conservationist Terry Cosby speaks with pride of the nearly 200 farmers that his agency has helped by adding high tunnels to their operations: “Ohioans want to know their farmers and know more about where their food comes from. Our EQIP offers much-needed help to farmers across Ohio and the nation, helping to diversify our food system and support rural communities.”

The OEC celebrates the growing number of small farmers who are bucking the trend of a few larger operations and are helping to re-invent community-based agriculture, adding resilience to our food system.

Thanks to the work and dedication of Jeff and Deb Eschmeyer and forward-looking programs of agencies like NRCS, Ohioans can look forward to fresher, wholesome food, even in December.

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The mission of the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is to secure healthy air, land, and water for all who call Ohio home. The OEC is Ohio’s leading advocate for fresh air, clean water, and sustainable land use. The OEC has a 40-year history of innovation, pragmatism, and success. Using legislative initiatives, legal action, scientific principles, and statewide partnerships, the OEC secures a healthier environment for Ohio’s families and communities.