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Everything you need to know about the farm bill in one summit

An in-depth examination of policy and practical application

First Posted: 11:25 am - March 19th, 2019 - Views

By Alayna DeMartini - OSU Extension

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COLUMBUS — Profits for Ohio corn and soybean farmers are not likely to be as high as they were in 2018 when growers benefited from above normal yields and new government aid, according to an agricultural economics expert at The Ohio State University.

At least two factors could be different this year: Yields in 2018 were record high for corn and soybeans, which may not happen again in 2019, and the government payments that farmers received to compensate for the impact of foreign tariffs may not be reissued, said Ben Brown, manager of the farm management program in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University.

“We’re expecting Ohio corn and soybean farmers, on average, to either break even or experience losses in 2019,” Brown said.

The majority of corn and soybean returns for producers are determined by the price per bushel the farmer is able to sell them for, in addition to the number of bushels per acre the crop yields. Also, farmers can receive government aid. For corn, roughly 8 percent of per acre gross returns comes from direct government assistance; for soybeans, 6 percent, Brown said.

Government payments are authorized through the federal farm bill, which Congress passed in December and is budgeted to cost $426 billion over five years.

On April 11, a Farm Bill Summit in Versailles, Ohio, will be hosted by CFAES and other partners to address changes in the new farm bill and the implications for the state’s farmers.

“We want people to know what the farm bill means to them and what steps they can take to maximize profits going forward,” Brown said.

Brown will serve as moderator of the summit, which will feature three speakers:

Keith Coble, Giles Distinguished Professor and head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Mississippi State University.

Jonathan Coppes, director of the Gardner Agricultural Policy Program, director of the Bock Agricultural Law and Policy Program, and clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois; and past administrator of the Farm Service Agency.

Patrick Westhof, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, Howard Cowden Professor of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Missouri; and past economist to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

The speakers will address government assistance paid or partially paid for in the farm bill including crop insurance, compensation for farmers who set aside a portion of their land for conservation, and payments to farmers who grow corn, soybeans, wheat, and other commodities when losses occur due to low commodities prices or low revenue.

Producers of commodities have a choice between two programs: Agricultural Risk Coverage or Price Loss Coverage. Prior to the 2018 farm bill, growers chose between the two programs at the beginning of the farm bill and were required to stick with their choice for the authorized period, typically five to seven years.

The new farm bill allows producers to make a choice for the first two years (2019, 2020) and then, beginning in 2021, allows that choice to be made annually. Which program is more profitable for a farmer can change from year to year.

Another significant change in the new farm bill will affect dairy producers. The Dairy Margin Coverage program provides aid to dairy farmers when the margin between milk prices and feed costs dips below a certain coverage level that the dairy farmer chooses. Higher coverage levels have a higher probability of triggering a government payment, so the premium a dairy farmer must pay to enroll in the program also increases. The 2018 farm bill lowered the cost of premiums for the first 5 million pounds of milk, but raised premiums costs for any milk over 5 million pounds.

“The change will help all dairy farmers who participate in the program, but particularly small dairy producers,” Brown said.

Producers who participate in the Conservation Reserve Program will see changes as well. Those who opt to set aside a portion of their land for conservation to reduce soil loss, improve water quality, or increase wildlife habitat could receive less compensation per acre compared to what they received under the previous farm bill. However, the farmers will have the option of enrolling more acres in that program.

Nationally, the total acreage allowed in the program rose to 27 million acres from 24 million, but the payment rate for farmers enrolled in the program dropped. Farmers have been paid the county rental rate for their property placed in the conservation program, which differs by county. The new compensation rate has been decreased to 85 percent of the county rental rate.

To register or learn more about the summit, which is free and open to the public, visit Questions can be emailed to Brown at, Sam Custer at, or Dudley Lipps at Images
An in-depth examination of policy and practical application

By Alayna DeMartini

OSU Extension

Champaign Berry Farm entry wins award

Pullins to lead Ohio Produce Network

First Posted: 1:04 pm - March 7th, 2019 - Views

By Amanda Rockhold -

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URBANA — The Pullins of Champaign Berry Farm are really pulling their weight when it comes to growing raspberries and participating in the Ohio Produce Network. With more than 40 years of farming, Mike and Cathy Pullins have certainly made a name for themselves within the farming industry.

Mike and Cathy Pullins of Champaign Berry Farm in Urbana won the Value Added Product Tasting with their Black Raspberry Jam entry during the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association’s annual Ohio Produce Network on Jan. 16-17 in Dublin. In this contest, growers vote for their favorite jam, salsa, jelly or specialty product. This year the Ohio Produce Network featured 56 educational sessions, a membership meeting, keynote address by Wendy’s Chief Communications Officer Liliana Esposito, a sold-out industry trade show and a few hands-on sessions.

Also at this year’s conference, Cathy was elected president of the Ohio Produce Network, where she will serve with Alex Buck of Fruit Growers Marketing Association in Newcomerstown as vice president.

Cathy’s husband, Mike, served as executive director of the Ohio Produce Network during the 1990s and early 2000s.

The Champaign Berry Farm began as an FFA project for Cathy and Mike’s son, Matt. The farm evolved from 5 acres in 1995 to its current 25 acres. On their farm in Mutual (village just outside of Urbana), the Pullins grow black raspberries, red raspberries, currants and gooseberries.

“I see us as providing a service to the public; every year we have people saying ‘thank you for being here, thank you for doing this,’” said Cathy.

Both Cathy and Mike are retired from other jobs and Cathy said farming keeps them physically fit and busy. “[We farm] to help people have good food to eat,” said Cathy, adding that there are a lot of healthy benefits to raspberries. “Any dark fruit is good for you.”

“And we just love doing it. We’ll probably [farm] until we can’t,” said Cathy.

Cathy worked with children with disabilities for 34 years at the Lawnview Child and Family Center in Urbana (which is now called Madison-Champaign Educational Service Center). Mike worked for the Ohio Farm Bureau for 33 years before he retired and he served as executive director of the Ohio Fruit Growers Society, Ohio Vegetable and Potato Growers. However, they farmed in addition to their jobs. They bought their first farm in the late 1970s and Cathy said that they were able to “hang on” when the 1980s Farm Crisis hit because they had other jobs. They lived in eastern Ohio until 1988, when they moved to Champaign County.

In 2013, they planted a test plot of peach trees and have been growing them since. They have a total of 1,000 peach trees on their home farm on South Ludlow Road in Urbana and on the test plot in Mutual.

Three weeks out of the summer, usually mid-June to mid-July (depending on the weather), they open up their farm to the public, bringing in seasonal workers. People are welcome to visit the farm and pick their own berries, or people can put in orders to have berries picked for them. More than 80 percent of Champaign Berry Farm’s raspberries are pick-your-own. According to the Pullins, more than 40 percent of the customers come from the Columbus area, some others coming from as far as Kansas, Colorado, Virginia, New York, and Florida.

Champaign Berry Farm is registered with the Ohio Farm Bureau Buying Local directory and the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Farm Markets directory. Twenty percent of their berries are sold wholesale to farmers who will then sell them at farmers markets, such as the Clark’s Farm Market in Springfield; Miami County Farmers Market in Troy; Champaign County’s Virtual Farmers Market; Logan County Farmer’s Market; and others throughout Ohio. They have jams and sauces that are made with their product, which are available year round.

Mike said that their geographical location is very beneficial to them, an hour’s drive or less from Columbus, Dayton, Marysville, Bellefontaine, Delaware, Piqua, Springfield, London and other surrounding towns and cities. “We have two to three million people within 40 miles,” said Mike.

Overall, the Pullins family owns and farms about 1,400 acres, including the berry farm, peach trees, corn, soybeans and hay. Some land they farm themselves, and some they lease to others. Mike and Cathy have two sons, who are both managers and investors in the family farm business. They also have a daughter, who raises livestock.

Raspberry challenges

Red raspberries are grown throughout the world, said Mike, but black raspberries are only native to the Midwest. Raspberries have to be picked dry because they will mold if wet, and they are difficult to grow.

“[Black and red raspberries] are a very difficult crop to grow because of all of the pests and diseases,” said Mike, adding that there are more than 20 fungal diseases to which raspberries are susceptible. “Raspberries are very closely related to roses; they’re in the same family. And so any gardener who grows roses knows all the insects and diseases that attack raspberries.”

Mike added that within the past 6 years, an invasive species from Asia called Drosophila suzukii, or the spotted wing Drosophila, commonly known as a fruit fly, “has attacked all soft fruits, but particularly is devastating to raspberries and black berries…and it’s very difficult to control.”

“There’s a spray program that Mike follows with fungicide for the fungal diseases and then with insecticides for the SWD (spotted wing Drosophila),” said Cathy, adding that because of these obstacles it’s difficult to be organic. “People ask us all the time if we’re organic. We could not have a crop—however, we do follow recommended practices in spraying and we’re very cognizant of the bees…because we love the bees and the bees love the berries when the red raspberries are in bloom.”

Most raspberries are biennial plants, which means the flowering plant takes two years to complete its biological lifecycle. In the first year, the plants grow leaves, stems and roots and enter a period of dormancy during the colder months.

“The cane (stem) grows one year, overwinters, and then fruits in early summer,” said Mike. “Then that cane dies, not the plant, just that cane dies. And at the same time the cane is growing for the next year. So you have two crops always growing at the same time.” Raspberries require 2,000 hours of cold.


For more information about Champaign Berry Farm visit:

The Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association is a non-profit organization that works for the betterment of the produce industry in Ohio. For more information about the organization, visit the OPGMA website at
Pullins to lead Ohio Produce Network

By Amanda Rockhold

The Ashmores awarded at the OEFFA Conference

First Posted: 12:28 pm - March 5th, 2019 - Views

By Amanda Rockhold -

Guy (left) and Sandy (middle) Ashmore of That Guy’s Family Farm won the Stewardship Award during OEFFA’s 40th annual conference, Feb. 15. Carol Goland (right), OEFFA Executive Director, presented them with the award.
Courtesy of OEFFA
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Editor’s note: This is the eleventh in a series of monthly articles following a farm family through the course of a year. This year, Rural Life Today is following the Sandy and Guy Ashmore family in Clinton County.

CLARKSVILLE — The Ashmore farm, That Guy’s Family Farm, hasn’t always been certified organic. And when they made the transition from a conventional farm raising hogs to growing organic vegetables after joining The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) in 1988, they described it as a “turning point in our farming practices and ultimately our lives.” Their first acres were certified organic in 1998.

“Farming began to be fun, rewarding, and enjoyable again. Our children could help; we could farm a lot less acres and make a profit,” according to Guy and Sandy. By 2005, their entire farm was certified organic.

Every year Guy and Sandy Ashmore attend the OEFFA annual conference. This year they received the Stewardship Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the sustainable agriculture community. The announcement was made Feb. 15 in Dayton as part of OEFFA’s 40th annual conference, “Just Farming: The Path Before Us.”

“We were adding more land, more chemicals, and more livestock, but things were not working out. We were stressed; our livestock and crops were stressed. We enjoyed farming, but this just didn’t seem right for us,” said Guy. The Ashmores wholesale produce through the Local Food Connection and Dorothy Lane Markets, and sell at a farmers’ market, their farm store and through a winter and summer community supported agriculture (CSA) program.

They have held OEFFA farm tours, led OEFFA conference workshops, and are active members in their OEFFA chapter. They received the Snail of Approval from Slow Food Cincinnati in 2018 and were elected to Dorothy Lane Market’s Vendor Honor Roll.

“I saw the Ashmore family in full swing when they let me “help learn” how to process chickens. With good-natured determination and sense of purpose, they have continued to grow and share their insights. Their love for food, farming, family, and friends is an inspiring example our community strives to repeat,” said Steve Edwards, who has represented OEFFA’s Southwest chapter on the Board of Trustees since 2005.

Guy and Sandy’s daughter, Nellie, spoke at the OEFFA Conference on Saturday, Feb. 16. Her topic was “Selling Cut Flowers to Grocery Stores and Starting a Flower CSA.” (See the article headlined “Selling fresh-cut flowers” in this issue.)

On the farm

Both Sandy and Guy agree that they’re ready for spring. “It’s nothing like having two nice days in a row to really fire you up,” said Guy, referring to some of the warm weather in early February.

This month the couple plan to “get some field work done if it’s dry,” said Guy. “And possibly cultivate the overwintered crops.” Currently they have five unheated greenhouses and one heated, a total of 6,000 square feet that they use during the winter. In the spring they will transplant crops from their greenhouses to the fields. They have acquired all of the supplies to build a second heated greenhouse.

The couple raises about 30 different crops and around 130 different varieties on 8 to 10 acres. The Ashmores finished their seed ordering in February. Every year 10 percent of their total order goes to new varieties of crops.

They also purchased a vacuum seeder for the greenhouse, which will speed up the process of planting smaller seeds. “We’re excited about that,” said Guy. They are working on making their germination chamber larger. The germination chamber helps seeds germinate quicker by housing the seeds in a dark, insulated, warm, and moist environment. They are making it bigger so that they can store more flats (which hold the seeds) at one time.

Their winter CSA has ended. “Everyone was nice about the weather and grateful for the food,” said Guy. In addition to their CSA and selling wholesale to grocery stories, they sell at the Deerfield Farmers Market in Mason, OH and from That Farm and Flower Shop, a small refridgerated building stocked with fresh cut flowers and perishable produce. The store is a small building at the front their property that operates as a self-serve honor system stand. They opened That Farm and Flower Shop in June 2018 and the store will open sometime in the spring.

In February, two journalists from Tokyo, JP visited That Guy’s Family Farm to learn about small farms in the United States. “They came out here because they wanted to interview and look at small farms and see how they’re playing a role in American agriculture to try and ecourage more young people in Japan to get back on the land,” said Guy. “They’ve had a big exodus of young people leaving the farms over [in Japan].” According to Guy, the journalists thought that the Ashmores’ 48-acre farm was big, compared to those in Japan.

This season Guy and Sandy are planning to partner with Aberlin Springs in Warren County by providing produce to help supplement their product. Aberlin Springs is a conservation community set among acres of preserved forests and meadows where homes and hamlets are connected by looping country roads and a network of footpaths. For more information visit:

Guy and Sandy’s son, Conard, will begin planting oats as a cover crop in the spring on the 14 acres of land he acquired from a neighbor. He purchased a pull-type tractor in February, which he will use for cover crops and other work on the family farm. According to Guy, Conard plans to build up the organic matter and he will learn a lot about the soil’s fertility in the first year of farming the land. Connard will operate the land as certified organic.

The Ashmores have chosen their two apprentices for 2019, named Mara and Joseph. Every year the couple chooses two apprentices through the OEFFA Begin Farming program, who will work on the farm from May through October.

For more information about That Guy’s Family Farm, visit:

Next month: Preparing for spring.

Guy (left) and Sandy (middle) Ashmore of That Guy’s Family Farm won the Stewardship Award during OEFFA’s 40th annual conference, Feb. 15. Carol Goland (right), OEFFA Executive Director, presented them with the award. (left) and Sandy (middle) Ashmore of That Guy’s Family Farm won the Stewardship Award during OEFFA’s 40th annual conference, Feb. 15. Carol Goland (right), OEFFA Executive Director, presented them with the award. Courtesy of OEFFA

By Amanda Rockhold

ARC of Appalachia to host Wildflower Pilgrimage Weekend

First Posted: 12:40 pm - February 25th, 2019 Updated: 12:44 pm - February 25th, 2019. - Views

By Dorothy J. Countryman -

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BAINBRIDGE — ARC of Appalachia will host its annual Wildflower Pilgrimage Weekend April 12-14 at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary Appalachian Forest Museum. The weekend’s topic will be “Signature Animals of the Great Eastern Forest.”

Participants will spend the daytime hours hiking in several forested areas of the Sanctuary and will attend evening learning sessions.They will need to provide their own transportation to the trailheads.

Researcher Cheryl Mollohand will present a program on Allegheny Woodrats, an endangered species in Ohio. Fewer than 100 of these animals are known to be alive at this time. She will also discuss “The Bob Cat, an Ohio Native and Recent Re-Colonizer” in a separate presentation. The Bob Cats have been returning to Ohio after an absence of about 100 years. Her presentation will share information about the establishment of new Bob Cat dens in the state.

Researcher Kelly Williams’ topic for the program is “The Secret Lives of Hooded Warblers.” She will discuss the nesting habits of the birds based on observations of recent breeding seasons.

Researchers Denis Case and Rita Apanius will share the story of tracking Ohio’s Timber Rattlesnakes with radio telemetry during the past 17 years. Case and Apanius have been working on this project with the Division of Wildlife and have recorded about 1,000 encounters with the 14 snakes who have been part of the project.

An optional photography workshop, offered by Tom Croce, at additional cost will occur concurrently with the pilgrimage weekend.

Registration for the program, which will include meals, can be completed at

By Dorothy J. Countryman

H-2A issues discussed during Produce Network session

First Posted: 1:33 pm - February 22nd, 2019 Updated: 1:50 pm - February 22nd, 2019. - Views

By Dorothy J. Countryman -

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COLUMBUS — “There need to be some changes in H-2A, we all agree on that,” said masLabor Program Manager Kerry D. Scott. “[But] this Congress or this administration [is not likely] to do anything in the way of comprehensive immigration reform in your lifetime.” That said, there are ways produce farmers can effectively employ temporary, seasonal workers in their operations.

Scott’s company, masLabor, specializes in knowing the agriculture aspects of the H-2A program and in helping American farmers team up with groups of temporary workers. He presented to a breakout session of the Ohio Produce Network Jan. 16 in Columbus. Scott’s session was filled with producers from the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association annual meeting.

The H-2A program began as the Bracero Program on Aug. 4, 1942, following the ratification of the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement between the United States and Mexico. The program (bracero means manual labor) was created to allow Mexican laborers to come to the United States temporarily because World War II had created a shortage of farm laborers to harvest the crops. According to Scott, the rules of the game have remained essentially unchanged since that time.

Officially designated as a two-part workers’ program, called H-2A (for agriculture) and H-2B (for landscaping and construction) during the Reagan era, it now extends to temporary workers from countries other than Mexico. The open-range sheep and cattle ranchers were able to add language permitting them to bring in workers year-round to tend their livestock.

The produce workers are only permitted to work ten consecutive months at a specific job. Most of the Hispanic workers who work with masLabor take the opportunity to go back to Mexico for a vacation to visit with their families. Some of the workers, however, take short-term jobs to fill in the time until their long-term employer needs them again. After three years, they have to leave for a time before they can work again.

General Requirements for H-2A

Most of the preliminary work to hire temporary workers deals with government forms and regulations. For masLabor to create a team, Scott recommends that farmers contact the firm 120 days before the team will be needed. Three agencies have to clear the paperwork for these workers, but most of the focus is on the farm, not the worker. The Departments of Labor, State, and Homeland Security are involved.

Farmers have to prove that they have tried to hire local individuals to do the work. This can be a real hardship for the farmer, according to Scott. “If you’re a farmer on the East coast where the size of the newspaper ad you are required to publish will cost $3,000 for a one-time publication, it makes it more painful, when no one responds to the ad.” Scott said that any local temporary workers who do apply “rarely stay more than a day or two and then you need to replace them.”

Contracting for a team may seem complicated but masLabor helps its farm clients to get through the paperwork and can advise on specific advertising details. After the farm has completed the advertising and the paperwork to show that local help is not available, the request for visas should be filed 60-75 days ahead of “date of need.”

Once a decision has been made to bring a team, housing must be considered. The employer is required to provide housing for the workers. It must be rent-free, and must pass an inspection 45 days before the team is scheduled to arrive. Scott said that a checklist for the condition of the housing is provided to farmers beginning the program, and that a “new checklist is coming…sometime…,” but he doesn’t know exactly when.

The farm must also provide the workers with transport to grocery stores, laundry facilities, banks and other necessary local concerns. The workers must be contracted at a specific rate of pay and must receive three quarters of the contracted total before they may be released ahead of the end-of-contract date. Farmers must also grant the workers a work-free Sabbath if they request it.

Specifics for Ohio participants

In Ohio, once a worker has a pay stub, it is possible for him/her to obtain a one-year Ohio driver’s license. Scott recommends that the employer provide a van or truck for transport, choose a reliable member of the team who can speak enough English to be understood, and assist that person in getting the license. Then that individual can serve as the team’s transport officer.

Ohio’s minimum wage for temporary workers from outside the United States is $13.26. No Social Security or unemployment insurance is deducted from the workers’ pay. Temporary workers who are legal residents of the United States must, however, have these deductions made.

Questions from the audience

Throughout the presentation, Scott answered questions from the growers present, and frequently deferred for clarifications from those in the room who have worked with teams from masLabor.

One of the questions concerned workers from Jamaica. The grower had worked with Jamaicans before and wondered if masLabor would help him assemble a team of those individuals. Scott replied that while they had very good recommendations for individual workers from Jamaica, they have had problems with the government officials in Jamaica who control the processing of visas and other materials for the workers, so they are no longer working with Jamaica.

Another grower asked what to do if “a guy just walks away and doesn’t come back.” While Scott said he thought that seldom happened, one of his contracted growers said he had about one each year “slip away.” If that happens, Scott said it is necessary to contact the authorities and that masLabor would like to know that has happened also.

By Dorothy J. Countryman

Feral honey bees fighting back against mites

Propolis leads Ohio feral honey bee project

First Posted: 1:54 pm - February 15th, 2019 - Views

By Amanda Rockhold -

This feral honey bee colony has a 74 percent chewing rate and was tested as part of the Propolis feral honey bee project.
Screened bottom board with the tray pulled part way out. The screen is used to prevent bees getting to the tray, but allows mites to fall through the screen on to the tray when they are chewed or groomed off the worker bees. The hive boxes are placed on the screened bottom board all year.
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Imagine you had a mite the size of your fist attached to your back; that’s a Varroa mite to a honey bee.

These mites are called Varroa destructors, an external parasitic mite that attaches to honey bees, causing disease and weakening honey bees and their colonies. According to recent studies, feral honey bees in Ohio are adapting to fight back against these mites.

“Good news from the world of feral honey bees,” said Dwight Wells, president of the West Central Ohio Beekeepers Association and project manager of a feral honey bee project through Propolis Projects, LLC (Propolis). Propolis is an effort developed by the Levin Family Foundation and its mission is to combat the recent decline of pollinators in the Midwest and restore healthier honey bee populations in Ohio.

“The [feral honey bee project’s] results show that survivor feral honey bees are winning the war with Varroa,” said Wells. “[The feral honey bees] are gradually building the tolerance and chewing behavior to where the mites’ populations are very low.” Some of the feral honey bees will bite the legs or head off the mites, causing them to die.

Several organizations and experts are working together on this feral honey bee project to study the mite-biting behavior of feral honey bees in Ohio, including Wright Patterson Air Force Base (where Wells is beekeeper), Purdue University, Central State University, Penn State, The Ohio State University and others.

The project includes testing feral honey bees, not commercial or packaged honey bees. Feral colonies come from wild swarms, which were trapped, caught and kept as a stationary colony in bee boxes.

The project’s feral colonies are located throughout Ohio, including: 6 in Miami County; 30 in Logan County; 11 in Clark County; and 3 in northern Ohio, for a total of 50 feral colonies. The three feral colonies in a northern Ohio have kept the Varroa mites under a healthy level for 14 months, according to Wells. Varroa mites under 1 mite per 100 honey bees is considered a safe level for a colony. Some of the colonies are 1 Varroa mite per 400 honey bees, depending on the area of Ohio in which the colony is located.

Overall the chewing rate of the 50 colonies is about 60 percent, according to Wells. The percentage of mite-biting behavior by colony runs between 47 to 77 percent.

Four years ago, Wells and his team tested for chewing behavior on 10 feral colonies, and the chewing result was 40 percent, as compared to the 60 percent for the 50 colonies, “Indicating that the colony chewing behavior percentage is getting better over the years,” said Wells.

Wells began studying mite-biting behavior in feral honey bees in 2015, when he was working with the Heartland Honeybee Breeder Co-op out of Purdue University.

How do they test?

The Propolis team places screen bottom boards at the bottom of the honey beehive boxes. Beneathe the screen is a solid tray that catches mites that have been bitten. The screen keeps the honey bees from getting through, but allows the mites to fall through onto the tray beneath. They add vegetable oil on the tray so that mites cannot move. The hive boxes are placed on the screen bottom board all year.

“We take those mites and examine all those mites and determine what the percentage of chewing behavior is,” said Wells, adding that they use a microscope and a camera.

No one else is doing this type of research in the United States, according to Wells.

“[The bees] are getting better genetically. Their genes are being expressed better — evolving or adapting to become a natural enemy of the mites, just like they did in Asia many years ago,” said Wells. Asian honey bees have adapted the ability to groom the mites off their backs. They have had these mites for many years and have become more mite-resistant.

Propolis has another 150 colonies to test for mite-biting behavior, but Wells said they need warm weather in 2019 to test them.

Commercial honey bees

At Central State University (CSU), Dr. Hongmei Li-Byarlay, researcher within the College of Engineering, Science, Technology & Agriculture, is leading the university’s first apicultural program, emphasizing the importance of beekeeping and pollination in Ohio and the United States. Li-Byarlay helps lead the Propolis feral honey bee testing efforts.

Li-Byarlay did research on commercial honey bees, finding that their mite-biting behavior was between 3 and 10 percent. This is low compared to the feral honey bees.

The feral honey bees are stationary and, “don’t get mixed up with the ones out there in the Almond fields,” according to Wells.

In February and March, 2.4 million colonies are shipped to California to provide pollination to crops, such as Almond fields. Chemicals are used to treat the mites in these colonies, said Wells, adding that many of these honey bees often lack nutrition.

“Not sure where the commercial guys are going to go,” said Wells. He explained that Drones (male bees) that aren’t fed properly aren’t strong enough to penetrate the egg, and don’t have good, healthy sperm to reproduce.

“I don’t know where that industry is going to go in the next twenty years,” said Wells.

According to Wells, the 11 feral colonies in Clark County have not been chemically-treated to kill mites for five years and the bees are chewing and keeping a safe level.

“We collected Drones from the best percent of chewed mite colonies to harvest semen from,” said Wells, explaining that with 50 tested colonies, they have enough resources to do selection and insemination of queens, the mother of all the bees in the colony.

Wells added that feral honey bees in Pennsylvania are beginning to show adaptations similar to those bees in western Ohio. Wells traveled to Armstrong County, PA at the end of January to teach a group of 40 people how to trap and catch wild honey bee swarms. “[Pennsylvania beekeepers] will do the same thing Ohio is doing in a couple of years,” said Wells, adding that he is working with Penn State on this project.

The Ohio State University has 21 honey bee colonies at its research farm. This summer OSU will transition 3 acres into prairie habitat for honey bees.

For more information visit:

This feral honey bee colony has a 74 percent chewing rate and was tested as part of the Propolis feral honey bee project. feral honey bee colony has a 74 percent chewing rate and was tested as part of the Propolis feral honey bee project.

Screened bottom board with the tray pulled part way out. The screen is used to prevent bees getting to the tray, but allows mites to fall through the screen on to the tray when they are chewed or groomed off the worker bees. The hive boxes are placed on the screened bottom board all year. bottom board with the tray pulled part way out. The screen is used to prevent bees getting to the tray, but allows mites to fall through the screen on to the tray when they are chewed or groomed off the worker bees. The hive boxes are placed on the screened bottom board all year.
Propolis leads Ohio feral honey bee project

By Amanda Rockhold

Mowrystown FFA to host farm toy show

First Posted: 2:53 pm - February 13th, 2019 - Views

By Dorothy J. Countryman -

Farm Toy Collectors (left to right) Dean Everetts, Jim Gorman and Don Kelley, share their hobby and a long friendship.
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MOWRYSTOWN — The Mowrystown FFA will host its annual Farm Toy show Feb. 23 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Whiteoak High School. Numerous collectors have plans to share their wares. Exhibits will range from simple shelves of the much sought-after models to elaborate displays on layouts of farm sites. Competition in both the adult and student divisions is a highlight of the event, but it’s the “people you meet and the connections you make” while it’s all going on that makes the day for members of the Southwestern Ohio Farm Toy Collectors Club, according to Don Kelley, a founding member of that group.

For Kelley, it all started in 1950 when he received a John Deere model as a graduation present. He “bleeds green” according to his pal, Jim Gorman. Gorman, a dedicated Ford tractor guy, met Kelley when they both worked for the postal service in addition to farming. One day, Gorman planned to get some seed beans at Kelley’s farm southeast of Hillsboro. It was raining, so Kelley said, “You can’t plant beans in the rain. You might as well come up and look at the toys.” He did, and he was hooked. They started talking with their friends and discovered several others who were interested in collecting the model tractors, wagons and other machinery. They decided to see if they could form a club.


“We rented the New Market Township House and thought only a dozen fellows would come. It was standing room only,” Gorman said. “And then somebody decided to make some coffee.”

Here Kelley took up the story, commenting that “no one who was there will ever forget that, at least as long as I live.”

Gorman and Kelley had minimal experience with coffee pots for large crowds.“We found the fill line for the water and that seemed okay,” said Kelly and then Gorman chimed in, “and it said it was a 32-cup pot. The coffee can said it made 30 cups, so we dumped the whole can of coffee in.”

“Most of that coffee went down the drain,” Kelley concluded. Yet out of this meeting a club was born that has produced a record of 49 toy shows including the one they will host in August this year.

The initial group was led by Charlie Walker, who was named president, Walker’s son Jim, Kelley, Gorman and Randy Menzler. They have met on the first Tuesday of the month ever since, even when that Tuesday is on New Year’s Day as it was this year when 22 of the group got together. They set the dues at $10 a year and as the calendar progresses and the shows get nearer, more and more of the regulars, as many as 50, begin to appear.

Stories to tell

One of those regulars these days is Dean Everetts, who chides his two friends about their devotion to Ford and Deere. “I had one of those green things the first year I started in farming,” Everetts said, “and it didn’t take me long to see the light,” which is Oliver orange in his book. At 85, that’s been a long love affair with Oliver. The teasing goes on yet the truth is that all of them have some of “those other” brands in their collections.

All of these farmers started sharing their love of tractors at pulls, then moved into antique tractor shows, and finally have come to spend most of their leisure time collecting, selling, building and repairing the toys. Kelley collects and Everetts makes toys for his friends, but they say they don’t sell these days, and Gorman is most focused on building new toys that he would rather keep.

Gorman finds some of the materials for his repairs in “junk boxes under the tables at shows, but those are drying up,” he said. Yet even though they are not in the market, so to speak, they keep their eyes on the prices as they walk around the shows and visit.

Sometimes “if it’s a good deal, you get it when you see it because next time [you walk around the show] it’s gone,” Kelley said.

And they tell stories

These old friends have a wealth of stories to share about their collections, their friendships and the people they’ve met over the years. “We’ve met a lot of people and we’ve had a lot of fun,” Kelley said.

Gorman picked up the thought, “We had a man who read about Don in Toy Farmer [magazine]. He called up and said he wanted to come to our show.” It turned out that Toy Farmer Charlie lives in Vermont.

“So [Charlie] went down to Albany, New York,” Kelley continued, “and caught the train to Cleveland. From Cleveland he got a bus to Athens,” switched buses to come to Seaman. “He called and said to meet him at the bus stop in Seaman. I didn’t know there was a bus stop in Seaman, but there is.”

So Kelley went to find Charlie. They hit it off right away on the ride back to Hillsboro, and during the course of the show, Charlie bought a lot of toys. The only problem was, he hadn’t brought anything to pack them into for the trip back to Vermont. Kelley remembered he had some old suitcases. “I don’t know why I’d saved them,” Kelley chuckled, “but we packed them full of toys and off he went.” Charlie was afraid the bus company was going to charge him a lot to ship the suitcases, but apparently they didn’t. “And when he got home, he called and said that everyone here had treated him so nice, he’s coming back. I suppose he’ll be here in August.”

Connecting with the youngsters

Originally, the group set up their displays and invited others to join them at fairgrounds. This became too expensive, so they started looking for new venues. They started helping the Mowrystown FFA when the first show the FFA students planned fell on the day of a heavy snow.

“We thought no one would show up,” Everetts said. FFA Alumni Milt Simmons was “running that snow plow back and forth and he was soaked clear through.”

The club decided to kick in some money to help them out and “that’s all we’ve ever given them. The FFA gets all the profits [from this show]. Those kids come in awful handy” when it’s time to set up tables, Kelley said, “but we’ve got to get some young blood into the group.”

“I think they’re coming,” Gorman observed. “The displays are interesting…that the kids set up. And they have to explain what’s in the displays. They’re learning and getting practice standing up and talking in front of the strangers. It’s great what the kids can design now. They know things about the machinery I don’t even know.”

The Mowrystown show is growing. This year the displays are expanding out of the gymnasium and into the student center/cafeteria at the high school. “So many places they pack ‘em in so tight they don’t have room to walk,” said Kelley, adding that being so close really gets in the way of everyone visiting and really seeing what’s there to see.

“It’s a really good time. They work hard and we have a lot of fun,” Gorman concluded, “so everyone should come.”

Farm Toy Collectors (left to right) Dean Everetts, Jim Gorman and Don Kelley, share their hobby and a long friendship. Toy Collectors (left to right) Dean Everetts, Jim Gorman and Don Kelley, share their hobby and a long friendship.

By Dorothy J. Countryman

Pelanda, sworn in as 39th ODA director

First female to serve as director in ODA history

First Posted: 6:01 pm - February 12th, 2019 - Views

By Amanda Rockhold -

Dorothy Pelanda, new Ohio Department of Agriculture director
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COLUMBUS — Every day Dorothy Pelanda looks at her great-great-uncle’s portrait at the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), reminding her to be humble, hard-working and to follow in his footsteps.

Her great-great-uncle, Gideon Liggett, served eight years (six as treasurer) on the Ohio Board of Agriculture (the precursor to ODA) in the early 1900s. And on Jan. 14, Pelanda followed in his footsteps and was sworn in as the 39th director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture by Gov. Mike DeWine. Pelanda is the first woman to serve as director in the department’s history.

“I bring to this job my good working relationship with Capitol Square so to speak,” said Pelanda, referring to her eight years as a legislator. Capitol Square refers to the Ohio Statehouse. “Our focus right now is the budget and I will argue with a passion for the things we need to do in our budget to make sure ODA is serving citizens of Ohio.”

Pelanda’s family members have been farmers since the 1800s. She lives on the small family farm on which she grew up in Union County. She served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 2011-2019, serving on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Pelanda practiced law in private practice for nearly 30 years, representing hundreds of clients from Union County and the surrounding area. She is a graduate of Marysville High School, Miami University and the University of Akron School of Law.

“The most important thing is to recognize the humanness of what we’re doing. The most important job I will ever have is being a mother,” said Pelanda, emphasizing the many multi-generational farms in Ohio. Pelanda is married to Sam Gerhardstein and has three adult children.

In the future, Pelanda plans to travel throughout Ohio to “sit around kitchen tables and bring interested parties together in the spirit of negotiation.”

Tackling the issues

“We’ve inherited some critical issues,” said Pelanda, referring to water quality issues, House Resolution 6 and others. Some significant issues Pelanda plans to tackle in 2019 include the meat industry, amusement ride safety, industrial hemp, and water quality.

She emphasized the importance of providing safe and clean food to Ohio families, adding, “We may be looking at a new meat processing facility.”

Pelanda also said she looks forward to working with Sen. Brian Hill on introducing legislation regarding hemp soon.

Regarding water quality issues in Lake Erie, Pelanda said there are new players with opens minds and expertise in relationship-building.

“Many of the things we will do will have results that we will not see, but we know are the right things to do. Loyalty only to the right solutions,” said Pelanda.

There is a two-year term limit for Ohio General Assembly members, which Pelanda said limits the amount of change that can be done in two years. That’s why she said relationship-building is important.

“When you try to tackle a big issue, eat the elephant one bite at a time,” said Pelanda. “Term limits affect change in a two-year term. That’s where the relationships come into place, and those who will follow you.”

Her goal for young farmers is to help them understand the importance they have in Ohio’s future and become engaged statewide. Pelanda said she will promote some of the programs in existence now that focus on young farmers, encouraging farmers to become politically active and to “empower them to help them know their voice matters and we need them at the table.”

She said that farmers becoming politically active in local organizations, such as Farm Bureau and Soil and Water Districts, is critical for legislators to truly understand what needs to be done. “Take on leadership roles so we can understand what your concerns are and how we can help you have the most successful business you can have,” said Pelanda.

“Farmers are the boots on the ground,” she said.

Food and agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Ohio, adding more than $124 billion to the economy each year. In addition to providing leadership for the agricultural industry, the Director of Agriculture administers numerous regulatory, food safety and consumer protection programs for the benefit of all Ohioans.

Dorothy Pelanda, new Ohio Department of Agriculture director Pelanda, new Ohio Department of Agriculture director
First female to serve as director in ODA history

By Amanda Rockhold

The Ashmores share their family history

Growing up with a family of farmers

First Posted: 3:16 pm - February 6th, 2019 - Views

By Amanda Rockhold -

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Editor’s note: This is the tenth in a series of monthly articles following a farm family through the course of a year. This year, Rural Life Today is following the Sandy and Guy Ashmore family in Clinton County.

CLARKSVILLE — Birds flocking the bird feeder outside of their farmhouse, Guy and Sandy Ashmore watch the various types from their kitchen window, including the cardinal, blue jay, American goldfinch, sparrow, white-breasted nuthatch, woodpecker, the mourning dove and others. Four years ago, they spotted a bald eagle on their farm, and more since then. Every year the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers visit That Guy’s Family Farm for a winter bird count. The Ashmore’s farm is located near two creeks, Little Creek and Todd Fork. They are also between two state parks, Caesar Creek State Park and Cowan Lake State Park.

Although winter is here and the ground is snow-covered, the Ashmores have plenty to do in addition to bird-watching.

The couple have been keeping busy with general equipment maintenance, planning 2019 seed orders and working in their greenhouses.

“We’re kind of glad to see the snow because it’s really good for all our over-wintering crops and cover crops,” said Guy, explaining that the snow helps keep the greenhouses insulated from the cold temperatures. The Ashmores have crops such as head lettuce, spinach, kale, flowers and wheat (cover crop) in the greenhouses and the row covers.

The Ashmores will have placed all of their seed orders for 2019 planting by the end of February, ordering from a total of 6 or 7 companies. At the end of January, Guy attended a two-day food safety training through the Local Food Connection. The trainer was Savour Food Safety International out of Worthington, OH.

Guy and Sandy have also been interviewing apprentice candidates. They interviewed three candidates in January and will have decided on the apprentices by the end of February or the first of March. Every year they welcome two apprentices to stay at their farm for about five months, where they work on the farm and learn about the business.

“I’m kind of worried about young people trying to get into farming,” said Guy. “Land prices have always been kind of high, but [farming] is just getting more consolidated and competing with non-farm money for land, which is what’s kind of nice about smaller acreage.”

Sandy said that many of the apprentices the Ashmores have had in the past have not been entrenched in agriculture and have come without preconceived ideas. “Sometimes the hardest thing when you come with preconceptions is changing because when you change sometimes you can take it as ‘I was wrong all these years’ and people don’t want to change because they think they’re admitting they’re wrong,” said Guy. “I’ve been wrong a lot.”

“When I grew up they said there’s only three ways to get into farming: inherit it, marry into it, or screw somebody out of it,” said Guy, adding that a lot has changed since growing up on his family farm in the 1970s and ‘80s.

“I think people have to make that full circle, and then they just want to be connected back with the land,” said Sandy. “You can get so far out in that digital world.”

Family of farmers

Guy grew up farming with his parents, raising livestock and a lot of hay. At the age of fourteen, Guy’s father moved onto a farm owned by a couple who didn’t have any children. Guy’s father eventually inherited the farm. Guy’s father was in the Navy during the Korean war, stationed on the Mississippi, Great Lakes and Arkansas, where he met Guy’s mother, who was not a farmer.

“I always wanted to farm,” said Guy, adding that there were a lot more people farming when he was growing up compared to today. But on the brink of the 1980s Farm Crisis, his parents had other plans for him.

“My parents didn’t want me to farm. At that time there wasn’t any money in it and [his parents] were getting out of [farming] at the time,” said Guy. “They were were getting out of it about the same time I wasn’t getting in it.”

His parents sold the family farm in 1980, one year after Guy rented his first farm in 1979. With his brother, Guy rented 100 acres, eventually acquiring another 150 acres. Guy and his brother grew corn, beans, wheat, hay and tobacco. “I grew up with [farming] and liked all aspects of it. I liked being around animals and being outside and the hard work. And I like being around other farmers,” said Guy. “And still do.”

Although Sandy’s parents weren’t farmers, she spent a lot of time on a farm. Sandy’s father celebrated his 80th birthday Jan. 21.

“I wasn’t within the day-to-day operations [of a farm], but I was within the farm lifestyle,” said Sandy, referring to her grandfather’s farm. He grew corn, beans, wheat, and hay. Sandy’s great-grandfather was a rural mail carrier with a horse. However, her great-great-grandfather was a farmer.“Kind of skipped generations,” added Guy.

Sandy’s grandmother on her father’s side came from a long line of farmers. However, Sandy’s mother’s parents were factory workers.

“I enjoyed being out in the open, out in the field, running and being with the rest of the family,” said Sandy, referring to her many cousins.

When Sandy met Guy in 1980, adapting to a full-time farming life was an easy transition, she said.

“When Sandy first met me, we were raising tobacco. She was a good help. Everybody said, ‘You better marry that girl,’” Guy said and both he and Sandy laughed.

OEFFA and upcoming events

Guy and Sandy are certified organic through The Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association (OEFFA). Six months out of the year they meet with members of their OEFFA chapter once per month, where they network, share ideas, plan, place bulk seed orders and sometimes host speakers. Their chapter is made up of about 30 different farmers, with whom they met at the beginning of February.

Guy and Sandy’s daughter, Nellie, is a flower farmer and florist and operates That Girl’s Flowers on the family farm. She will be speaking at the OEFFA Conference 2019, Saturday, Feb. 16. Her topic is “Selling Cut Flowers to Grocery Stores and Starting a Flower CSA.”

The Ashmores attend the OEFFA Conference every year. This is the first time Nellie has spoken at the conference.

Guy and Sandy will be presenting at the Small Farm Conference in Piketon, March 30, tentatively about the organic certification process. In August, the Ashmores are planning a field day with the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Ohio. Nellie will also speak at this event.

February and March they will launch their summer Community Supported Agriculture. Sandy also plans to “freshen up” the website.

Next month: Seed orders and OEFFA Conference.
Growing up with a family of farmers

By Amanda Rockhold

ODA Director Dorothy Pelanda to host meet and greets across Ohio

First Posted: 2:28 pm - February 6th, 2019 - Views

Ohio Department of Agriculture news release

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REYNOLDSBURG – Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Director Dorothy Pelanda will host a series of informal meet and greet events across Ohio. The meetings will present the opportunity for Director Pelanda to introduce herself, share information regarding her background and listen to thoughts and ideas from members of Ohio’s food and agriculture industry.

The meet and greets will be hosted in conjunction with local soil and water conservation districts. The events are open to the public and members of the media are welcome to attend on the following dates:

February 11

9:30 a.m. – Ross County Service Center, 475 Western Ave., Chillicothe, OH 45601

11:30 a.m. – Jackson County OSU Extension, 17 Standpipe Road, Jackson, OH 45640

2:30 p.m. – Athens Public Library, 30 Home St., Athens, OH 45701

February 15

10:00 a.m. – Wilmington College Kelly Center, 1870 Quaker Way, Wilmington, OH 45177

1:00 p.m. – Springview Government Center, 3130 East Main St., Springfield, OH 45505

February 22

10:30 a.m. – Union County Ag Center – Buckeye Meeting Room, 18000 St. Rt. 4 N, Suite B, Marysville, OH 43040

2:00 p.m. – UVCC-Adult Technology Center, 8901 Looney Rd., Room 600, Piqua, OH 45356

March 1

10:00 a.m. – Gottfried Nature Center, 9783 County Highway 330, Upper Sandusky, OH 43351

March 4

1:00 p.m. – Eaton First Church of God, 601 E. Lexington Rd., Eaton, OH 45320

3:30 p.m. – Central Service Building, 220 W. Livingston St., Celina, OH 45822

Additional meetings are scheduled and those dates and locations will be released once they become available. Those with questions can contact the ODA Office of Communications at 614-752-9817.

Ohio Department of Agriculture news release