Editor’s note: This is the eighth 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 sudden cold weather in October and November left Sandy and Guy Ashmore scrambling to cover their crops to protect them against the freeze. They covered most of everything and did not lose much.
Guy and Sandy of That Guy’s Family Farm in Clinton County said they were lucky with the big ice storm in November. Almost 200,000 people in the Cincinnati area and in Kentucky lost power Nov. 15.
“We feel for all the families who still have crops out,” said Guy. “For corn and beans, it’s been a struggle and the weather’s still not good.” The Ashmores did not lose power, but the storm could have posed issues with their walk-in coolers.
The cold weather also signifies the start of their winter community supported agriculture (CSA) program.
The Ashmores started their winter CSA Nov. 7. Last year they had about 40 members and are looking to have up to 50 members total. This year about 10 percent of their members are new.
On the first Wednesday of every month during the winter, members have a two-hour window to pick up their products. The Ashmores have their orders ready to go in a crate when the customers arrive. Their members are all from within twenty miles and within Warren and Clinton Counties.
The Ashmores also participate in the Deerfield Winter Farmers Market when they have enough produce leftover after they fulfill their winter CSA orders.
“It’s amazing how people show up in inclement weather,” said Guy. The winter market began in November and will last through April, every third Saturday of each month, 10 to 11 a.m. at Kingswood Park in Mason, 4188 Irwin Simpson Road 45040.
Guy and Sandy Ashmore are also selling once per month to Ohio Valley Food Connection (OVFC), an organization that connects local farmers to a network of wholesale buyers. “OVFC is trying to get more farmers to more markets,” said Guy.
Guy said they plan to become certified for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) program, Good Agriculture Practices (GAP). GAP is a voluntary audit and certification verifying that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards.
“[GAP] is relief for the buyer,” said Sandy, adding that institutional buyers want GAP certification.
Guy added that GAP is an “assurance for the buyer that we’re following good agricultural practices and someone’s overseeing it.” Last year Guy spent a day training to obtain the Food Safety Modernization Act certification.
With Christmas coming, Sandy has been designing her yearly Christmas card, which is always inspired by their farm. This year she’s going to highlight the vibrant green and red colors of this year’s harvested radishes.
She has made a Christmas card for more than 25 years and during the years has expanded into their business. They will send out around 200 cards.
“Before email it was a way to connect with our customers and the community,” said Guy.
Although Sandy said they have fewer commitments during the winter months, that doesn’t mean the work stops. They will harvest about one per week and have plenty of maintenance to do on farm equipment.
Next month Guy said they should be working on the new greenhouse, where they will plant onions at the end of this coming January. They will also begin their end-of-the-year record evaluations next month, as well as ordering seeds.
Potatoes were their worst crop of the season, they said. They admitted that they believe it was because of the high humidity and a lot of rain. However, their greens, onions and garlic turned out really well this year.
“Eggplants were a bust,” said Guy, adding that they planted more this year than they have in the past. Flea beetles hurt the crop. They will plant eggplants again next year, but not as much.
Guy and Connard, Guy and Sandy’s son, have started cutting cords of wood, which they do every year. A cord is the amount of wood that, when “racked and well stowed”, occupies a volume of 128 cubic feet.
They will cut ash, locust and oak, which they will burn throughout the winter. Connard has also finished plowing the new land he will farm next spring. He will operate about 14 acres of a neighbor’s land as organic certified.
Guy and Sandy’s daughter, Nellie, conducted a few wreath-making classes at the Mason Art Guild in December. Nellie operates That Girl’s Flowers as a full-time flower farmer and florist.
The Ashmores celebrated Thanksgiving with their family. They get their turkeys from Dogwood Farms.
Since March, significant trade issues have generated the term “trade war,” with imposed tariffs on steel, soybeans and other products between the United States, China and other countries. This has created uncertainty among agricultural markets and commodities.
Guy and Sandy said that the current trade issues regarding tariffs have not affected them directly.
“Since we don’t raise commodities, we’re not really affected,” said Guy, as opposed to a farmer in a contract for set prices.
“Prices are set on those commodities and farmers can’t change it,” added Sandy. A commodity futures contract is an agreement to buy or sell a predetermined amount of a commodity at a specific price on a specific date in the future.
“It’s not easy to step out of those systems,” said Sandy, referring to commodities future prices and the farmers who are bound to such contracts.
“That’s why it would be nice if we had more local control, like local grain mills that would make local bread, things like that so commodity farmers would have more options,” said Guy.
The farm bill not being passed has not directly affected them either because they are not raising commodities, and are able to control their prices.
“A success story close by [is] Swallow Hill Dairy,” said Sandy. The owner of Swallow Hill Dairy bottles his own milk, makes his own yogurt and sells to two cheese makers. “He’s keeping his product and he’s able to control his prices by selling to the cheese makers and direct.”
The 2014 Farm Bill expired Sept. 30 and Congress has yet to finalize a new farm bill. Some programs end with the farm bill, such as cost share programs and EQIP.
“Right now it’s a terrible time for dairy farmers,” said Guy, referring to the many that have been going out of business.
“We’re concerned about our neighbors,” said Guy.
Sandy said she would like to see more research on organics. “[Organic research] is a big deal and there’s not enough of it,” said Sandy.
Next month: More winter work and new land for next year.