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: aberlinsprings.com.
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: www.thatguysfamilyfarm.com
Next month: Preparing for spring.