A Farming Heritage

When we think about family heirlooms, images of fine jewelry, antique furniture and vintage photos often come to mind. But for hundreds of families in Ohio, passing down the family farm from one generation to the next is a practice that’s been happening for decades.

Farms or homesteads that have been owned by the same family for more than 100 consecutive years are commonly called “century farms.” In Ohio, dozens of family owned farms are recognized annually by the Department of Agriculture with the Ohio Century Farms Program. To date, more than 850 farms throughout Ohio have been registered with the program, which was launched in 1993. Though the program has existed for nearly 20 years, most families learn about the program by word of mouth.

“Many families find out about the Century Farms Program by talking with their neighbors about a neighboring farm that was recently registered,” said Cindy Shy, program manager in a recent article in The Post. “It’s a matter of outreach, just getting the word out to the families that qualify for century farm registration.”

In Belmont County, Bob and Marietta Martin are the proud owners of a farm that has been in the Martin family for more than 200 years and the couple received a century farm designation several years ago.

Their charming, well-kept farm, which was featured in Our Ohio magazine, has been home to five generations and they have the historical documents, including the original deed given to James White — Bob Martin’s great-great grandfather — displayed on the dining-room wall to prove it.

To receive century farm designation, applicants must complete a six-part registration process that includes providing a history and current photo of the farm with deed documentation that shows a continuous chain of ownership by family members.

In January, 52 additional farms were added to Ohio’s increasing list of century farms. Currently, there are registered farms throughout 85 of the state’s 88 counties. The only counties without century farms are Athens, Noble and Pike.

Celebrating century farms isn’t just an Ohio thing. There are similar recognition programs throughout the U.S., including The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, which recently launched a website that includes an interactive map and profiles of century farms throughout the country.

Do you have a farm that’s been in your family for more than 100 years or know someone who does? Then visit the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s website about how to register for century-farm status.

Photo obtained from: scenicreflections.com

More Online Agri-tunities

Most of the population is embracing social media because of curiosity, interest or necessity. The ag industry is one of society’s latent groups to this communications medium but has rapidly developed a presence at Facebook, YouTube and Twitter and is now utilizing one of the newest social-media developments — Pinterest.

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard online — a social photo/video sharing website allowing users to create and manage theme-based image collections.

Each item of media is known as a "pin.” Pins are then assigned to a user’s "board," which is a collection of pins about a topic. Popular topics include wedding ideas, recipes and home design. Pinterest also allows users to view the activity of other Pinterest users and re-pin other users’ pins at their own boards.

View examples of ag-related Pinterest boards:
So why should agriculture invest at Pinterest?

“If you’re not at the table, you can’t be a part of constructing the face of agriculture — nor can you counter misinformation,” states Cause Matters Corp., a cause-marketing business specializing in agricultural advocacy in reference to today’s social-media platforms.

North Dakota State University’s Ag Communication Web Services received so many questions about the online tool, that it hosted a Webinar about Pinterest February 3 to help ag-industry members become affiliated with it and begin to use it as an extension of their outreach efforts. The University of Wyoming Extension, among others, also features a Pinterest learning guide online.

A recent Twitter user posed the question, “What’s the next ‘big’ thing in ag communications/social media?” One response: “I think Pinterest is catching a lot of momentum…Maybe this is a good place to share your farm message!”

An ag-industry-focused communications consulting firm wrote a blog about the delay between the farm community and Pinterest and begged the question, “Is ag keeping pace with Pinterest?” Her observations:
  • Few pins exist directly related to production agriculture: Few pins related to the process of raising and harvesting today’s food, fuel and fiber were at the site. I was able to find a few ranchers and their pins of the animals and their day-to-day work. However, the vast majority of pins focused on urban farming, organic food production and the new-age food revolution.
  • Food is the common ground between Pinterest and the ag industry: The amount of information about food — selecting the right foods, preparing meals and enjoying the feast — has expanded exponentially at Pinterest. Just logging in, 11 of the first 20 pins are related to eating. Therein lies the gap and the opportunity — connecting the process to the bountiful food on the table.
  • There’s an opportunity to close the gap: Pinterest is a great place to showcase what farming is about. Even one photo a week highlighting how farmers care for animals and provide a safe food supply can promote agriculture to Pinterest users.
Importantly, the author concluded, “It’s another way to tell our story where consumers are congregating.”

Though it may not be the most optimum channel for the average farmer managing day-to-day responsibilities, it certainly has its advantages for ag-related advocacy and education organizations.

Have you heard of Pinterest? Do you have a Pinterest account? Do you know of any farmers or ag-industry members using it? If interested in learning more, visit this beginner’s guide online.

Goat: The Other White Meat

When you think of goats, you probably don’t think of them in the same respect that you do cows, pigs or chickens. You may even believe that goat meat isn’t that popular in the United States. However, you would be mistaken.

The preference for goat meat in the United States is rapidly increasing, as reflected by record prices the past two years.

The USDA reports that the goat industry in the United States is expanding, both regarding inventory and markets for goat products. The changing demographics of the United States’ population are credited with increasing demand for goat products at the same time that increased hobby farming has resulted in more goat farms.

“This increase in consumption is primarily related to a rapidly growing population from traditional goat-consuming residents,” said Jodie Pennington, small ruminant educator with Lincoln University Extension.

According to an article in Farm Talk, the Hispanic population provides a significant consumer base for goat-meat products, particularly fresh goat meat served during festivals or significant occasions. In addition, the United States is also experiencing an increase in religious groups that prefer goat meat, particularly those of the Muslim and Islam faiths.

Easter has the strongest goat-meat demand in the United States. Jodie Pennington states that market kid and goat meat prices tend to reach their peak just before Easter in March and April, decrease significantly in June, October and November, but begin increasing again during the Christmas season.

In addition to changing demographics causing an increase in goat consumption, urban goat farming has become part of a nationwide movement to eat food produced locally.

Jennie Grant, an urban goat farmer in Seattle, discussed urban goat farming in a recent USA Today article.

“I wasn’t a stranger to urban farming. I already had chickens, bees and a large vegetable garden before I added my goats. After doing some research, I cleared a 20-by-20-foot patch of my yard, fenced it in and added a shed, feeding stations and the goat equivalent of a jungle gym.”

Grant states that besides gathering a gallon a day of fresh milk per goat, she also uses their manure to fertilize her vegetable garden.

As the United States’ population continues to increase and urban farming continues to gain in popularity it will be interesting to see what it will mean for the goat industry.

Do you or do you know a farmer who raises goats? Would you ever consider raising goats for meat or dairy purposes? What are your thoughts about urban farmers raising goats?

Photo obtained from: blogs.menupages.com

Generation Ag

The face of the American farmer is changing. Though the industry is still dominated by the older-than-50 set, the U.S. is experiencing a small but growing trend of young ag-minded professionals choosing country living over city life.

According to the USDA, the average age of the American farmer is 57 and more than 25 percent of farmers are 65 or older. However, the most recent USDA agriculture census also showed that the number of American farms increased 4 percent between 2002 and 2007 and that these new farmers are younger — 48 years old on average.

“I’m seeing an enthusiastic group of young people all across the country who want to get into farming,” said Fred Kirschenmann, a longtime farmer and fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University in Ames, in USA Today.

A recent CNBC report about young farming entrepreneurs credits an increasing interest in organic farming, farmer’s markets and restaurants purchasing directly from local farmers for making farming a more appealing and financially viable opportunity for a new generation.

“Young people are seeing this as a very rewarding lifestyle and career,” said Lindsey Lusher Shute, a New York-based vegetable farmer and a board member for the National Young Farmers Coalition. “For the first time in a long time, young people are interested, after decades of farming not being a very desirable career.”

But launching a farming venture is a risky proposition these days thanks to high start-up costs and the lack of affordable, available land. The answer for many newbie farmers is to start small. The USDA reports that most young farmers are opting for smaller, more manageable farms of about 200 acres or less compared to the average 418-acre American farm.

To encourage more young people to pick up pitchforks, in 2011 the USDA launched a loan program to help rookie farmers get started. The Beginning Farmers and Rancher Development Program provides approximately $18 million a year to support training, education, outreach and technical assistance.

Interested in farming as a career? Here are a few “Farming 101” tips from the Ohio Farm Bureau:
  • Use available resources — The Ohio State University Extension offers a wealth of information about land management, raising livestock and growing and preserving your own food, including educational workshops.
  • Be prepared for the expense — Livestock require pens, fences, feed and other items that can quickly add up.
  • Try before you buy — Talk with farmers or even offer to work on a farm to understand the amount of work involved.
  • Be practical — Planting something is the easy part, it’s the weeding, fertilizing, watering and pruning throughout the year that can become overwhelming.

Photo obtained from: Boston.com