Agriculture + Kids = Cool

Launched at the Ohio State Fair in 2011, the “Agriculture is Cool” education program is set to return to this year’s expo July 25 to August 5.

The purpose of the program is to generate excitement and interest among students about agriculture, which is Ohio’s largest industry and a key component of the state’s history and identity.

“The great thing about this program is that it helps young people understand you don’t have to live on a farm to have agriculture touch your life every day,” said David Daniels, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture in a recent article. “By exploring Ohio agriculture at the Ohio State Fair, families get the opportunity to see how farmers today are using state-of-the-art technology to grow food. It’s pretty incredible.”

The program, which was recently recognized by the International Association of Fairs and Expositions as the best special or specific agricultural education exhibit, event or program, offers students and visitors of all ages the opportunity to learn more about different facets of the state’s agriculture industry and how it impacts the daily lives of all Ohioans.

In addition to interactive exhibits, the program also offers exiting fourth-grade students the opportunity to win one of four $500 scholarships, provided by the Ohio State Fair Youth Reserve Program, by submitting a one-page essay or creative story about what they learned from the Ag is Cool program.

This year, the program is also offering fourth-grade teachers the chance to attend the fair for free and possibly win one of two $2,500 classroom grants from a random drawing.

Are you interested in learning more about the Agriculture is Cool program? Visit the program’s website for more information.

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The Summer Food Staple

Shortcake, sundaes, jam.  What do they have in common? Each is tastefully complemented with strawberries.

Strawberry production and purchasing is in its prime this time of year, as are strawberry festivals. Some examples:

  •      Troy Strawberry Festival — Troy, Ohio
  •      Depot Town Strawberry Showcase — Ypsilanti, Michigan
  •      Newark Strawberry Festival — Newark, Ohio
  •      Strawberry Days — Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
  •      The Belleville National Strawberry Festival — Belleville, Michigan
“Farmers from Lake Erie to the banks of the Ohio River are harvesting strawberries now,” said Brad Bergefurd, an OSU Extension horticulture specialist in a recent OSU Extension story.

According to the USDA ERS, Ohio harvested 730 thousand acres of strawberries last year.

Like other crops, strawberries have trade association representation. The North American Strawberry Growers Association (NASGA) supports USDA and state/provincial research programs and develops educational seminars and publications, promotes development of equipment, varieties and cultural methods to improve efficiency for the strawberry industry to strengthen and improve strawberry production and marketing.

An example of such industry development is a new strawberry production method being tested at The Ohio State University Extension called plasticulture. A recent story details the practice — allowing farmers to grow strawberries with better commercial attributes — larger fruit size, more sugar content and better disease resistance — and that can also be harvested as early as the first week of May and as late as October.

Plasticulture strawberries have the potential to yield 20,000 to 25,000 pounds of strawberries per acre, compared to 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of strawberries per acre using the traditional matted-row method.

Retail strawberries are priced about $2.50 to $3.50 per pound, so the opportunity for increased profits is appealing for farmers who take the time to invest in this new growing method.

“Just about every Ohio farmer that grows them for retail always sells out, so there is a strong market for the locally grown fruit,” said Bergefurd.

This superfood is healthy, tasty and adaptable for many recipes (and eases the pain of sunburns!). How do you most enjoy strawberries?  

Photo obtained from: Ashlee Culverhouse

Ohio’s Wine — The Best-Kept Secret of Ohio Agriculture

  When people think about Ohio agriculture, images of soybean, corn or wheat fields, or maybe even a livestock farm, probably come to mind. However, most people wouldn’t think of Ohio’s grape and wine industry as being a significant agriculture contributor but surprisingly, it is.

The Ohio General Assembly recently designated June as Ohio Wine Month, so now is the time to celebrate Ohio’s wines — known as some of the best in the country — and their significant impact to Ohio’s economy.

According to Dave Daniels, the Ohio Department of Agriculture director, Ohio has 162 wineries, which incorporate 1,600 acres of grapes that produce more than 1 million gallons of wine each year.

Listen to the director’s interview with Brownfield Ag News about Ohio’s wine industry.

During the past 10 years, Ohio’s wine industry has grown significantly. According to a 2008 Economic Impact report, Ohio’s grape and wine industry generates more than $580 million in economic activity that supports local communities while producing a superior agricultural product. The Ohio grape and wine industry also employs more than 4,100 people and provides a payroll of $124.2 million.

Ohio Wine Facts (Taste Ohio’s Wines) 

•    Prior to the Civil War, Ohio was considered America's most
     important wine-producing state
•    Today, Ohio is one of the top 10 wine-producing states in the
•    Most of the wine produced in Ohio is from the northeast corner of
     the state — in Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties — but Ohio’s
     wineries are located throughout the state
•    An average of 800 grapes make a bottle of wine
•    Grapes are the most valuable fruit crop in the United States
•    There are more than 10,000 varieties of wine grapes 

As you enjoy cookouts with family and friends this summer, try an Ohio wine with your meal. Better yet, plan a trip to an Ohio winery — many offer wine tastings and tours to educate visitors about the art of wine making and the great quality of Ohio wines. Visit to locate an Ohio winery. 

Did you know that wine is a significant contributor to Ohio’s agriculture? Do you produce your own wine or do you know an Ohio wine producer? How do you plan to celebrate Ohio’s wine month? 


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Robots on the Farm

Science fiction is quickly becoming fact in the agricultural world. Today, many farmers and agribusinesses are looking toward the future and at autonomous farming machinery or “robots” to help enhance efficiency, decrease workload and increase productivity.

While using technology at the farm is nothing new, some companies are beginning to push the envelope. For example, Jaybridge Robotics and Kinze Manufacturing recently partnered to create a robot drone tractor, which uses guidance-communication systems to allow a tractor to function without an operator.

Farmers are already using global positioning systems to guide tractors and combines, but that technology still requires an operator. By removing the operator from the equation, Jaybridge and Kinze hope their “robot” tractor will solve a persistent problem for many farmers — finding skilled, reliable labor.

“You put in such long hours at harvest and if you have one less person that’s needed, or you still have the same number of people helping but they can relieve somebody else a little bit during the day, it would make it much nicer,” said Jason Ochs, a Kansas farmer during a KVNO radio report.

With autonomous farm machinery, a farmer could theoretically plant and harvest 24-hours a day — a feature that would enable farmers to be particularly productive during periods of good weather.

Employing robots and other autonomous machinery could also free farmers to focus on managing their business or even having rare downtime with their families.

“Just this past Christmas we had a customer that had just started two of our robotic milkers with their herds,” said Mark Futcher, a product manager with milking machine manufacturer DeLaval in a Kansas City Star article. “That Christmas morning was the first time that gentleman had ever been witness to his children finding their Christmas stockings.”

What do you think about robots helping out around the farm? Would you use robot technology to reduce your workload?

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