Agriculture

BGSU dining service growing its own produce with new hydroponics system

By DAVID DUPONT  BG Independent News When students returned to campus in the chill of winter — so cold classes were canceled for two days — they still could get a taste fresh greens harvested on campus. Over Winter Session, a five-tower hydroponic growing system  was installed in Bowling Green State University’s Oaks Dining Center. Lettuce grown in the dead of winter was livening up the menu in the vegan-friendly Shoots station in the Oaks. Mike Paulus, director of dining services, planted the seed for the project last October. It serves a double function, he said. The sustainable system teaches students about being socially responsible, and it helps keep the cost down for dining services — the cost of the system is expected to be recouped by savings on food costs. Paige Wagner, campus dietician and teaching kitchen coordinator, said once the idea was suggested, she and Dave Beaverson, facilities director, researched systems and came back with a plan of action. The five towers were installed over Winter Session. Within a couple weeks, Wagner was harvesting lettuce, about 30 cups worth. She said she expects to get 30 harvests over the course of the semester. That’s a conservative estimate. Lettuce is the first to come in, but there are herbs in the works as well as peppers and cherry tomatoes.  Produce grows twice as fast as usual in the system. She said they are also looking at investing in a vining system to grow full size tomatoes, an in-demand ingredient.  “That’s something we’ll invest in once we see how all this goes,” she said.… Lettuce was the first, Wagner said, because “it’s the easiest one to grow and the hardest one to kill.” The system has no soil. A sponge keeps the plants’ roots moist, and that means the system consumes only a tenth of the water traditional farming does.  With a 10-gallon tank for each tower, that means no regular watering, just a top-off now and then. Wagner said she does have to regularly check the pH level of the system to make sure it stays in the slightly acidic range, 5.5-6, that the plants prefer. Wagner documents the plants’ growth and how much they’re yielding as well as how much fertilizer is added. The hardest part, she said, was the trial and error involved in getting the new system up and running, figuring out what grows well and how to place the plants under the lights. The system uses no herbicides or pesticides, and about 60 percent less fertilizer. Wagner said she hopes…

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‘Ag-Venture’ farm tours harvest knowledge for visitors

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Farming is more than a profession for Fred Vetter. “The dirt you’re standing on – my grandpa bought in 1912,” Vetter said as he looked over his Mercer Road farm north of Bowling Green on Saturday afternoon. Vetter’s farm was one of seven stops on the Wood County “Ag-Venture” self-driving farm tours on Saturday. Like others on the tour route, Vetter wanted local residents to see farms as more than just some fields along country roads. “Everybody drives down the road and they see us,” he said. But most Wood County residents know little of what it takes to farm the land. “We need to educate people,” Vetter said. “That we’re trying to be good stewards.” The “ag-venture” tours took visitors to traditional farms, like the Vetters, Moser Farms on Hull Prairie Road, and Black Swamp Ag on Portage Road. It also led visitors to more unconventional farms like Schooner Farms on Otsego Pike, and to agri-businesses like Pioneer Seed, Luckey Farmers and Hirzel Canning. This was the first time for a county-wide tour to be organized, said Julie Lause, of the Wood Soil & Water Conservation District, which was one of the sponsors. “Agriculture in Wood County is the top business and people don’t realize how extensive agriculture can be,” she said. “They don’t realize what it takes to create the products we eat.” For soybean, wheat and corn farming it takes equipment that can costs more than many homes. Vetter’s 2003 combine cost about $140,000. Nowadays, with all the tech gadgets, a combine can cost as much as $500,000. It’s standard for equipment to have self-steering GPS, and tires taller than many of those visiting the farms. Fields have to have drainage – especially on this land that was once swamp. And drones help identify problem areas of disease or pests before they spread too far. “It takes a lot of money to farm,” said Vetter, whose sons Shane and Garett, have joined him in agriculture. Even when the best seed is purchased, planted on time, and fertilized – the outcome is still in the hands of Mother Nature. Long periods of rainy or dry weather, at the wrong times, can greatly impact the harvest. Aphids can devour otherwise healthy plants. “You can work as hard as you can,” Shane Vetter said. “Mother Nature is in charge, no matter what.” And then on top of everything else, there’s politics. “The tariffs are touching us,” Fred Vetter said of his soybeans and corn crops. “I’m not…


Wood County may wade into storm water program

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Draining the Great Black Swamp came at great expense. Keeping it drained has also proven to be quite costly. Wood County Engineer John Musteric believes the bills for handling storm water can be divided more fairly in the county. So he has asked the county commissioners to approve a $50,000 study to examine the feasibility of setting up a storm water district in Wood County. “We’ve been after the commissioners to investigate this,” Musteric said. “I believe it’s a more fair way.” The feasibility study would show how much the county is spending to keep storm water at bay through ditch maintenance, removing debris in rivers, storm sewer repairs, catch basin repairs and manholes. “I think it’s going to be an eye-opener,” Musteric said. Depending on the findings, the study could result in the creation of a storm water district in the unincorporated areas of the county that would charge fees to landowners to support. “It has been proven in court that county commissioners can do this,” Musteric said. Many other areas in Ohio already have storm water districts in place, with monthly fees ranging from $3.47 in Toledo, and $4.06 in Lucas County to $3.50 in Elmore, and $8 in Oak Harbor. The assessments to landowners are based on the amount of “impervious property” on the parcel. In other words, how much space is covered with rooftops or pavement that doesn’t allow water to soak into the ground. Local farmers, Musteric said, will only be charged the minimum rate, since even if they have large areas of impervious property, it is balanced out with even larger areas of open ground. “I think the farmers will embrace it,” the county engineer said. The county auditor’s office would handle the assessments, Musteric said. The fees would likely be billed on property taxes as special assessments. By setting up a district funded by landowner fees, the county will be able to set money aside for storm water expenses. Currently, ditch improvements that aren’t under a maintenance plan along county roads are paid for with county road and bridge funding. So by creating a system of funding for storm water issues, the engineer’s office can use more of its road and bridge funding for the work it was intended for, Musteric said. The storm water district would not have to cover the entire county. It may be that only those landowners in the northern portion of Wood County will be assessed, since the storm water issues are greater where more…


Local farm tours to plant seeds of knowledge

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Agriculture is big business in Wood County. And while local residents are surrounded by rich farmland, many may still be unaware of locally grown foods served at their kitchen tables and those shipped round the world. To help spread that information, the first Wood County Ag-Venture self-driving farm tour is being held on Sept. 15, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Seven local farms and agricultural companies are opening up their barns and businesses for local residents to tour. “Agriculture is our number one workforce, so we want people to understand what we do and how important it is,” said Lesley Riker. “A lot of people don’t know where their food comes from.” The tours are open to the public, and every stop will have activities for children. This is the first time for a county-wide tour to be organized, said Julie Lause, of the Wood Soil & Water Conservation District, which is one of the sponsors. “We were inspired by some of our neighboring counties,” Lause said. “Agriculture in Wood County is the top business and people don’t realize how extensive agriculture can be,” she said. “They don’t realize what it takes to create the products we eat.” Some of the stops on the tour ship their products internationally. “They want to tell our story,” Lause said of the farms on the tour. “They really want people to know what goes on behind the scenes.” Also sponsoring the Ag-Venture tour is the Wood County Economic Development Commission. “It’s a great opportunity for tourism in the county, and making people aware of ag-businesses in the county,” said Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the economic development commission. There are more than 1,000 farms in Wood County. Here’s how they rank with the rest of Ohio’s counties: 1st in value of grain sold. 5th for soybean crops planted. 6th in total value of agricultural products sold. 8th in total value of vegetables sold. 13th in total value of greenhouse sales. 17th in total value of aquaculture sales. 181st in the U.S. for total grain value. Following is a description of each agricultural site on the tour. Luckey Farmers, 11330 Avenue Road, Perrysburg Luckey Farmers is a grain marketing and farm supply cooperative that serves about 2,000 members with grain marketing, plant food, seed feed, general farm supplies and petroleum products. The seed and feed lines feature Luckey Farmers own brand of products called Gro-Mor. The current facilities consist of seven grain locations, eight agronomy facilities, a feed manufacturing plant,…


Kids beef up their skills raising livestock for county fair

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Months of wrangling hefty cows, getting up for early morning swine feedings, and coaxing obstinate goats may pay off this week for kids showing their livestock at the Wood County Fair this week. As adults were setting up carnival rides and food stands Sunday in the front of the Wood County Fairgrounds, kids were getting their livestock ready to show. Kassie Fintel, 17, has been building a relationship with Tot, an 800-pound beef feeder, since February to prepare him for the fair. Basically, it comes down to teaching some manners to Tot (whose twin is of course named Tater). “It’s so much work,” said Fintel, who goes to Bowling Green High School. “It’s countless hours every summer.” In addition to the feeding and cleaning of stalls, Fintel spent quite a bit of time walking Tot. “We have to walk them or they won’t be broken for the fair,” she said as she nudged Tot into position. During judging, Tot will be asked to show that he can raise his feet when tapped with a stick, set his feet square, stand quietly in the ring, and walk without running. “Basically, manners,” Fintel said. At that moment, Tot decided to ignore Fintel and instead chew on a ribbon tacked to the fair pen. “I love his personality,” Fintel said. “He’s such a little dog basically. He doesn’t realize how big he is.” Fintel also shows her quarter horse, Tuck, at the fair. That is less of a challenge since she and Tuck have been partners for years. “My horse has been trained, and we know what we’re doing,” Fintel said. At the barn next door, goats were being weighed in for the week. Though many of the animals showed reluctance to comply with their owners’ wishes, the goats clearly won the prize for being the most ornery. Mason Roe, 11, of Weston, was waiting with his goats, Trixie and Scarlett – neither who were particular about the spellings of their names. “They’re funny,” Roe said. “They walk and jump.” Like the other kids at the fair, Roe has spent months feeding, cleaning, shaving and walking his goats. He found that the pair had a fondness for eating corn. However, since goats bloat up with too much corn, he usually feeds Trixie and Scarlett specialty feed and hay. His goats weighed in at 102 and 80 pounds – making that training component so very important. “I hope they don’t fight with me,” while being shown, Roe said. In the rabbit…


Migrant workers thanked for laboring in local fields

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Local migrant workers came in from the pickle fields Sunday so local residents could assure them their toiling in the fields is appreciated. Nearly 90 migrant workers and their children were treated to food, given clothing, and exchanged stories with members of First Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green. The annual event, at a Wood County farm, is a time for sharing a meal and stories. “People were really appreciative of everything,” said Beatriz Maya, who translated for those workers speaking Spanish. “Many pointed out that they don’t feel welcome where they work,” Maya said. “It’s extremely important for them to see that in spite of the national rhetoric, the local communities are very appreciative of farm workers. It’s so important for the families to feel appreciated.” Members of the church brought many boxes of clothing for the men, women and children, plus shoes, towels and sheets. “They were waiting when we got there,” church member Debbie Zappitelli said. “They were so excited to pick up the items.” Members of the Brown Bag Food Project also attended, bringing food for each family. And Wood County District Public Library provided books for the children and adults. Church members brought games, soccer balls, cornhole sets, and a giant parachute. “It was like they had an evening to play,” Zappitelli said. The number of migrants attending this year was estimated at 90. “The families all came together,” she said. “The need was twice the need of prior years.” Long tables were set up for migrant families and church members to join in a meal of donated pizza and doughnuts. “They were so gracious, so grateful,” Zappitelli said. “We wanted to thank them for the harvest and all the hard work they do.” The migrant workers came from the U.S, Mexico and Guatemala. Many will leave Wood County soon to head to Michigan where they will pick apples, then back south to harvest tomatoes, grapefruit and oranges. After the meal, some of the migrant workers told their stories. Maya interpreted for those who did not speak English. “Everyone who spoke said no one had done anything like this for them,” Zappitelli said. She was particularly touched by an older gentleman who dressed up for the event, and talked about his life. “It was good to do, because they don’t feel welcome. They don’t feel comfortable here,” she said. “In the current climate this is even more important. I can’t imagine living and working hard toil in a country that doesn’t want you.”…


Wood County Fair making history with $2.2M building

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The history of the Wood County Fair has been recorded since its debut in 1851. In years to come, the history of the 2018 fair will undoubtedly note the disappearance of the old livestock barns and show arena – replaced with a shiny new $2.2 million building. “It feels good that we’re to the point of completion,” said Steve Speck, president of the Wood County Fair Foundation. “There have been countless hours put in by the foundation to work on the details.” Speck presented a program on the new fair exhibition building Thursday to the Bowling Green Kiwanis. But first, retired 4-H agent Dick Martin set the scene with a bit of fair history. The first Wood County Fair was held in a grove of trees north of Wooster Street, between Church and Grove streets. After 1851, the Wood County Fair jumped around from Bowling Green, to Perrysburg, to Portage, to Tontogany, and back again many times. In fact, for a series of years it was held in two towns because of warring fair factions. The county fair was, for many, the event of the year. It attracted families in their best clothing for food, music and competitions. Some records show that the Wood County Fair had the second highest attendance of any county fairs in the state. In 1882, the area currently used as Bowling Green City Park was purchased for the fair. Among the first buildings constructed were Needle Hall, Veterans Building, the Depot, and Girl Scout Building – which was formerly called the Women’s Christian Temperance Building, Martin said. The county fair often represented the times. In 1854, a cholera outbreak drastically cut attendance, in 1896 a group of “hoochie-coochie” dance girls stirred up trouble, and in 1962 ostrich races were held. In 1883, fairgoers could purchase side tickets to watch the hanging of Carl Bach, who murdered his wife with a corn knife. In the late 1920, the H.J. Heinz Co. put on pressure to change the fair date so it didn’t conflict with tomato harvest, because the company couldn’t find enough employees to show up at work to bottle the ketchup during the fair. “The fair was pretty big stuff,” Martin said. During its heyday, the county fair was said to have set a record attendance of 21,000 in one day. But when the economy tanked in the 1920s, the fair suffered. A tax levy was put on the ballot to support the fair – but it was voted down 5 to…