Agriculture

Citizens honored for making a difference in Wood County

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County honored its best on Sunday – a farmer who shows his love for the land by putting agronomics ahead of economics, a teacher who pushes his students to achieve goals they never believed possible, and a volunteer who helps connect people with ancestors they never knew existed. The Wood County Commissioners continued the annual tradition of handing out the Spirit of Wood County Awards on Sunday afternoon in the courthouse atrium. The following people were recognized: Mark Drewes for Agricultural Leadership. Robert Pollex for Liberty Through Law/Human Freedom. Charles Cox for Education for Civic Responsibility. Richard Adams for Religion and Liberty. Tom Oberhouse for Industrial/Economic Development. Millie Broka for the Lyle R. Fletcher Good Citizenship Award. Michael Sibbersen for the Lyle R. Fletcher Good Citizenship Award. Ann Harris Householder for the Lyle R. Fletcher Good Citizenship Award. David Chilson for a Special Spirit of Wood County Award. Drewes, a grain farmer from the Custar area, is a recognized steward of the land who always has a tractor seat to share with people who want to learn about farming the land. “My dad preaches the term agronomics over economics,” said Drewes daughter, Darcy Krassow. Drewes is part of a multi-generational family farm partnership that has farmed in the Black Swamp area since the 1880s. Drewes’ farm model and mission encompass important conservation principles. And he shares his knowledge with others, having been a member of many national and state agricultural associations that work to find solutions to problems. He has been a strong advocate for farm issues and for the people who dedicate themselves to making their living off the land. Drewes has an open door policy at his farm – welcoming anyone to ask questions and discuss farming. He has hosted many crop tours, FFA tours, and bus tours of his farmland. When agriculture needed research on reducing the impact on the environment, Drewes offered up his farm as a research laboratory. He is unafraid of results and willing to lead by example in implementing new practices and technology to better his farm and the environment, according to the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association. Pollex, of Perrysburg, served as a Wood County probate/juvenile judge from 1984 to 1998, then as a common pleas judge until retiring in 2016. “He had an impact on generations of juveniles in Wood County,” said current Juvenile Court Judge Dave Woessner. Pollex took a winding road to the judge’s bench. After earning a degree in physics, he worked as a research physicist for Libbey-Owens-Ford. It was there that he invented a device that measures the curvature of glass as it it being heated in a furnace. At night, he went to law school. He then worked in the firm of Charles Kurfess and as a part-time prosecuting attorney. Pollex brought his science background to the bench when he took part in a national program that trained judges in the use of science and technology in the courtroom. He then took that knowledge to train other judges in handling cases involving scientific matters. “Judge Pollex earned a reputation of being a fair, open-minded and just jurist,” said Wood County Common Pleas Judge Matt Reger. “He understood that each case was important to the litigants and…

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Park district agrees to turn farmland into wetlands

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Park District will be allowing tiled farmland to revert back to wetlands – with the help of a $301,000 grant. The park district board voted last week to work with the Black Swamp Conservancy, which received the grant, to turn 10 acres of the Carter Historic Farm property into a wetlands area. The decision came despite protests by Tom Carpenter, who farms the land which Sally Loomis donated to the park district. “There was a significant amount of labor in clearing that land,” Carpenter said. But with the grant funding needing to be accepted by July 1, the park board voted to go ahead with the first phase of the wetlands project. “I know that’s not the outcome you wanted,” park board president Denny Parish said to Carpenter after the vote. “But I respect you coming.” Carpenter attended many of the park board meetings where the wetlands project was discussed. “I’m just trying to preserve the farmland that’s already there,” he said. Carpenter pointed out that the acreage being turned into wetlands will have a “very, very minimal” impact on Lake Erie, since an estimated 6 million acres drain into the lake. But the idea of turning down grant funding just didn’t sit well with the park board. “I’m sympathetic to what your position is,” Parish said to Carpenter. “But that money is going to be spent,” Parish said. “It’s either going to be spent in Wood County or it’s going to be spent somewhere else.” With the $301,000, the Black Swamp Conservancy plans to make the 10-acre field into a large “bowl” with small pools to hold water longer. Trees and shrubs will be planted, explained Melanie Coulter and Rob Crain, executive director of the conservancy. Berms along the edges of the wetlands will allow for trails that can be used for educational purposes. Crain said work will likely begin on the acreage as soon as the crops are taken off later this year. The wetlands plan will slow down water into the ditch, which leads to the Touissaint Creek, and then to the Maumee River basin. Instead of field water running straight into the ditch from tiles, it will be filtered, Coulter explained. The original plan called for two 10-acre portions to be converted into wetlands in two phases. Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger said another option could be to turn the second 10 acres into a wet prairie, which would be much less expensive. But two board members, Tom Myers and Bill Cameron, expressed a desire for the park district to fund the rest of the project, estimated at $148,000 to turn the other 10 acres into wetlands. “I hate to see projects start and then stop,” Cameron said. And Myers noted the recent passage of the park district levy, pointing out that the park board has a duty to invest in its properties. A decision on the next phase will be made at a later date. In other business, the park board gave all year-round employees a 3.5 percent raise, effective July 1. Parish said the board was reluctant to grant raises at the beginning of the year, since it had a levy on the May ballot. However, the overwhelming passage of the…


Park farmland may be allowed to revert to wetlands

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Twenty acres of farmland north of Bowling Green may be allowed to return to its former state as part of the Great Black Swamp. Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger is excited about the park acreage becoming a piece of history and a habitat for wetland wildlife. But the man who has farmed the acreage for four decades isn’t sold on the change. Tom Carpenter doesn’t need the 20 acres for his livelihood. But as a farmer, it just grates on him that well-drained land will be forced back to its wetland roots. And during an open house on the wetlands plan last week, Carpenter didn’t mince words. “Our goal is to keep it farmland,” he said. The 20 acres sit in the back property of the Carter Historic Farm. Other acreage on the farmstead will continue to be farmed. The wetlands project, as proposed by the Black Swamp Conservancy and designed by Hull and Associates, would render 20 acres of farmland unfarmable in the future. The wetlands would have several benefits, according to Melanie Coulter, of the Black Swamp Conservancy. It would filter runoff before it goes into the nearby Toussaint Creek. It would provide habitat for wetlands habitat. And it would give the public a place to view swamp-like conditions that once covered this region. The drain tiles currently in the 20 acres would be blocked to allow the land to flood, explained Jordan Rofkar, of Hull and Associates. Dirt would be moved to create low areas for water and mounds for native trees and shrubs. “The intent is to create a mixture of habitats,” Rofkar said. The small open ponds should attract turtles and frogs, along with birds like herons, ducks and woodcocks, Coulter said. The wetlands should also benefit the water quality for one of the streams that flows into the Maumee River “area of concern,” designated by the U.S. and Ohio EPA, she said. “Wetlands are known to do a lot of water filtration,” she said. For Munger, showing park visitors the historic farm’s previous state and “recreating the Great Black Swamp” is a great opportunity. The park district’s trail through the nearby wooded area may be expanded into the wetlands – possibly as a boardwalk, he said. He is hoping the bulk of the estimated $300,000 cost to transform the area into wetlands will come from grant funding. The proposal will be presented to the park district board of commissioners next for their decision to proceed or not. Carpenter hopes the park board will reconsider. He believes that Sally Loomis Carter, who gave her family’s farm to the park district, would not have wanted the farmland to return to swamp. After all, her family worked hard to drain the acreage so it could be fertile farmland “This is not something she would have wanted to do,” Carpenter said during the open house on the plans. But Munger disputed that viewpoint. Family members and former park staff who knew her, feel that Carter would have been pleased with the plan. Carpenter suggested that if the goal is to keep the waterways clean, that a buffer strip be planted along the ditch. He also quoted the Black Swamp Conservancy’s mission statement, which addresses protecting farmland. “This is…


Downtown BG Farmers Market opens May 16

From DOWNTOWN BOWLING GREEN Take some time to come out and enjoy an evening at the Farmers Market in Downtown Bowling Green.  The market starts May 16, 4-7 pm and will run through October 10th.  But don’t wait; every week brings new produce, delicious cottage foods, some handcrafted items and music too.   The new Farmers’ Market manager, Samantha Beane has organized an amazing slate of vendors and is excited to start the season.  Huntington Bank has generously allowed us to utilize the parking lot on the corner of S. Main and Clough Streets.  This a wonderful location and it gives the market room to grow.    We’ve been able to bring back the Frequent Buyer program, thanks to the support of Newlove Realty and Thayer Family Dealerships and their partner company AllState Insurance.  Each time a shopper spends $5 at a stand, they get a stamp on their card.  When the card is full the card will be turned in for $5 in Downtown Dollars.  For those not familiar with the Downtown Dollars program, more than 70 Downtown businesses accept them for goods and services.  You can get a frequent buyer card and redeem a full card at the market info booth.  Last year, about $2,000 in Downtown Dollars were awarded to shoppers.  All completed cards that are turned in will be eligible to win $100 in Downtown Dollars through a sponsorship by Banfax Pest Control, a local business serving our area for over 30 years. Live music at the market has really been enjoyed by many.  The tradition continues at The Stone’s Throw Stage from 5:30 – 7pm.   Thanks to The Stones Throw Restaurant for sponsoring the stage and to Tim Concannon for making the arrangements and all the musicians who donate their time to perform from 5:30 – 7 pm.  To start off the season, Tim Tegge & The Black Swamp Boys will be bringing some original folk music to the market! This is a pre-show to the Hump Day Review at The Stones Throw every Wednesday evening. This season we will also have some special events including the Zucchini 500 races and a fun run with the support of Bowling Green Parks and Recreation.  There will also be a bike awareness program and a kids fun night through the Bicycle Safety Commission. A full schedule of all the music and special events at the market will be available very soon on our website at bgfarmersmarket.org  The schedule will be updated as other special events are added to the season.   As special thanks to Julie Martini and Martini Creative for hosting and updating the website as a part of a sponsorship with the market. The Kiwanis Club has also provided sponsorship monies to the Downtown to make this years market possible.   We will continue to work with our farmers to provide the SNAP program for shoppers and our market is a designated pick up location for the CSA program.  To learn more about this program visit the website for Riehm Farms at FunAcres.net    This year’s vendors include Anderson’s Farm Fresh Products, Bella Cuisine, Clay Hill,The Cookie Fairy, COSTCO, Dirty  Feet Farms, English Gardener, Flatlands Coffee, Friends of the Wood County Parks, Garden View Flower Farm, Garry’s Kettle Corn, Great Lakes Custom Sharpening, In Every Season Calligraphy, Just Jammin & Stuff, Kings Berries, Kitten Pants LLC,…


Clean Lake 2020 Plan earns bipartisan support

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A perfect storm of sorts has led to the latest effort to fight for the health of Lake Erie – including weather projections of a moderate to bad year for algal blooms. So far this year, the lake has been the focus of a federal court order, U.S. EPA emphasis, Ohio EPA impairment declaration and a less than ideal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast. “All these factors created a sense of urgency that perhaps should have already been there,” State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, said. And others in the state legislature seem to agree, showing strong bipartisan support in the General Assembly as a bill and a proposed statewide bond issue was introduced Wednesday in the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives. The Clean Lake 2020 Plan, introduced by Gardner and State Rep. Steve Arndt, R-Port Clinton, includes funding of up to $36 million in 2018 for efforts to reduce algal blooms through conservation practices and other Lake Erie initiatives. Also proposed is a Clean Water Ohio Bond Issue that would appropriate $100 million per year for 10 years after statewide approval by voters. Gardner believes that even those Ohio voters at the southern end of the state will support the bond issue since it involves help for more than just Lake Erie. The Ohio River has also seen its share of algal bloom problems. But the primary focus will be on Lake Erie, since an estimated 5 million people rely on the lake for drinking water, and tens of thousands of jobs depend on the lake. “That demands that the priority be on Lake Erie,” he said. The Ohio EPA’s declaration that the open waters of Lake Erie are impaired means little if the state doesn’t act, Gardner said. “The most important thing is – what do we do about it,” he said. “It’s what we do from now.” “Almost everyone realizes there’s a lot of work to be done to help the lake,” he said. One of the biggest factors in the algal bloom issue is something state legislators can’t control – heavy rainfall events. “It just means we have to be more aggressive and spend more on the right strategies to get it done,” Gardner said. The Clean Lake 2020 Plan has not only garnered bipartisan support in the state legislature, but also support from farm, environmental and business groups. They all seem to realize that since the lake is worth millions of dollars to the state, it’s worth spending money to defend it, Gardner said. But voters’ support will also be needed to provide long-term funding to fix the lake. “We’ve been reluctant to go to the ballot before now,” he said. The Clean Lake 2020 Plan includes the following provisions: Ohio State Sea Grant/Stone Lab: Capital funds of $2.65 million for research lab space and in-lake monitoring equipment consisting of real-time buoys and water-treatment plant monitoring devices. Healthy Lake Erie Initiative: Additional investment of $10 million (on top of the $10 million in the just-passed Capital Appropriations Act) to support projects to reduce open lake disposal of dredged materials into Lake Erie by 2020, as Ohio law requires. Soil & Water Conservation Support Fund: Funding of $3.5 million to support county soil and water conservation…


Lake Erie doesn’t have a prayer without everyone taking action

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Factory farms, corporations and kids can all help address concerns about pollution in Lake Erie. That was one of the message that came out of the third Creation Care Celebration Sunday Peace Lutheran Church. Sponsored by the Black Swamp Green Team, the event encourages looking at environmental issues through a spiritual lens. That’s something that’s needed said keynote speaker Sandy Bihn, executive director of the Lake Erie Foundation, and founder of Lake Erie Waterkeeper. It is important for all faith communities to come together to protect our sources of water. The Maumee River Watershed is central to that effort. Lake Erie, especially the western basin, suffer from algae growth promoted by the phosphorus from manure and fertilizer flowing from the regions’ vast farmlands. Much of it finds its way to Lake Erie. And under the right conditions that algae can produce the deadly microcystin toxin. That toxic algal growth is what shut off the Toledo’s water supply in summer, 2014. And though $20 billion have been spent to protect the lake, those phosphorus levels have not gone down, Bihn said. She likened Lake Erie to the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Because it is so shallow, it is the first to exhibit, problems, Bihn said. However, that also means that the water in the lake is replenished within a matter of weeks, or in the case of the western basin a matter of days. However, Bihn said, once these problems begin to manifest themselves in the larger lakes, they will take much longer to remedy. Lake Erie has come back since the nadir in the 1960s. That came about because of government action to invest on better water treatment systems. States also moved to ban phosphorus in detergent. Despite the evident problems in Ohio, Bihn noted, the state lagged behind others in banning the phosphorus in laundry detergent, waiting until 1988, some 17 years after Michigan. Procter and Gamble, with headquarters in Ohio, fought the ban. However, Bihn said, two decades later when a ban on phosphorus in dishwashing liquid was proposed, the company got on board from the beginning. Now the major problem, she said, comes from agriculture. The ditches and field tiles that made the Black Swamp tillable, also mean the water’s flow to the lake is expedited. Manure contributes 27 percent of the phosphorus, and commercial fertilizer contributes 33 percent. But addressing those two sources take different approaches. Farmers must buy commercial fertilizers, so it is in their economic interest to minimize their use. Manure, however, is a waste product that needs to be disposed of, so spreading as much as possible on fields is an economic gain. Factory dairy farms and concentrated feeding operations produce a lot of manure. Now four times as much manure is used as commercial fertilizer. If those numbers were equal, she said, that could greatly reduce phosphorus levels in the lake. The point is “only put on as much as the crop needs,” Bihn said. That requires new technology for treating and using manure as well as better monitoring of the cows and pigs raised on medium and large operations. But even those who don’t own cows or pigs can do their part to address the problem, said Amanda Gamby, the newly hired sustainability…


Rumor about farm equipment fees spreads like weeds

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the weather warms and farmers start itching to get out in their fields, the Wood County Commissioners want to make one point perfectly clear – there will be no blanket fee for farm equipment on county roads. During discussions about an overweight truck program for the county, an initial annual blanket fee of $100 per vehicles was considered. However, the commissioners quickly nixed those plans, and removed any blanket fee for farm equipment from the overweight permit plan. While the word about the initial farm fee proposal spread like weeds in a soybean field, the word about the fee removal seems to have missed some people, Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said Thursday. In fact, the rumors worsened, with some farmers now believing they will have to pay $100 each time their vehicles travel county roads. The commissioners have heard that many farmers plan to show up to protest the non-existent fees at the next town meeting held by the commissioners on Monday at 5:45 p.m., in the Center Township Building. The goal of the Overweight Vehicle Permit program is to protect county roads and bridges from damage.  Overweight vehicles that travel state routes are required to obtain a permit from the Ohio Department of Transportation.  These same overweight vehicles travel state routes legally, then exit onto county and township roads with no permits or regard for the capacity of the roads or bridges. The only permit fee that could affect farmers is for vehicles that exceed 87,000 pounds – most likely semi-trucks hauling grain. “This is to protect our assets,” Wood County Engineer John Musteric said of the overweight permit program recently during a meeting with the county commissioners. “We’re spending a lot of money to improve these roads and bridges.” While many of the proposed county fees mirror amounts charged by the Ohio Department of Transportation for overweight traffic, the initial farm fees do not. The commissioners agreed that the blanket farm fees be discarded. “You don’t want to be the farm police,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said during that meeting. Grand Rapids area farmer Dan Potter said there would not be a meeting room big enough for all the unhappy farmers if the county enacted blanket fees. He explained that ODOT exempts all farm equipment driving down the road from overweight fees. No farm equipment weighs more than the maximum allowable weight of 80,000 pounds, Potter said However, some semi-loads of grain may be overweight. But there is no way for farmers to determine the weight of the loads prior to them being weighed at the grain elevator. “We know that coming out of the field it’s impossible to tell,” said Shane Johnson, of the county engineer’s office. Commissioner Craig LaHote suggested that the new overweight load program information be given to local grain elevators, so they can inform the farmers who bring in heavy loads. The goal of the program is to redirect heavy traffic away from roads and bridges that are not able to handle the loads. “This is really nothing new,” Musteric said. “All we’re trying to do is protect our assets. We know people are overloaded and they’re going across our load-limited bridges. We’re concerned, and the commissioners should be, too. It’s your…