Agriculture

Scientists continue to address harmful algae bloom in Lake Erie

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Even in an age of satellites, vintage tools have their place in protecting the environment. The research in harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie by scientists from state and government agencies and institutions of higher education is constantly evolving. A new European satellite promises to provide a steady stream of advanced analytics and should allow for the development of 3D models of harmful algae blooms. As scientists monitor the water in Lake Erie and the tributaries that feed it, they also employ a tool that dates back to the middle of the 19th century. As part as a water testing demonstration at the Stone Lab on Middle Bass Island, researchers used the Secchi disc, a basic device that’s lowered into the water to determine how clear it is. The demonstration was part of the seventh Harmful Algae Blooms forecast conference held at the lab. Rick Stumpf, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that this year’s bloom splits the difference between the smaller bloom in 2017 and the more extensive problem in 2016. The severity was rated at 6, on the open ended scale. The worst blooms, seen in 2011 and 2015, were 10 or greater. Last year was an 8. The forecast for algae blooms is based on six different predictive models, all using different methodologies. Scientists can’t say, though, what the chance is that this bloom will turn toxic like the one in 2014 that left 500,000 customers served by the Toledo system without safe water. Stumpf said that scientists are working on developing techniques to forecast the likelihood of toxicity. The blooms, he said, appear to be developing sooner as the lake warms up earlier. They tend to subside in August, but then last year re-emerged on a smaller scale in September. The earlier onset does not mean the bloom will be more severe, he said. Thomas Bridgeman, from the University of Toledo, noted, there’s also been more healthy algae growth in the lake, and  that could compete with the harmful variety. James Kelly Frey, sanitary engineer for Ottawa County, said it was important for those managing water plants to look further into the future as they consider the needs for new technology to address the problem. “We need to able to predict how soon this may subside,” he said. Chris Winslow, the director of Stone Lab, said that given the size of the watershed feeding the lake that’s hard to predict. Methods have been developed and implemented in the agricultural community to…

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Wetlands plan at park doesn’t sit well with farmer

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As a young boy, Tom Carpenter learned quickly that his neighbor, Everett Carter, liked things done a certain way. At age 12, Carpenter started mowing lawn for the aging farmer. “Can you make straight lines,” Carpenter recalled Carter asking him. “He was very, very particular. His home was immaculate,” Carpenter said. Decades later, now Carpenter is the farmer of the land once planted and harvested by Carter. And as such, he approached the Wood County Park District Board on Tuesday about its plans to turn part of the old farm into a wetlands demonstration project. The property has been in the park district’s hands for years, being donated by Everett’s daughter, Sally Loomis. The park district has maintained the farm, house and outbuildings as a historic site for visitors. Carpenter complimented the park district for its efforts. “If Sally Loomis were to pull in the property, she would be very appreciative” of the care given the buildings, and the animals being raised on the site north of Bowling Green, Carpenter said. But he’s not so sure that Loomis would appreciate 20 acres of her former farmland being turned back into wetlands. Carpenter surmised that Loomis would prefer that the acreage continue to be used as productive farmland. Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger explained the proposal to revert a portion of the farm back into wetlands would serve two purposes. One is historic. “It would restore it to what it would have been back in the day,” Munger said. The other reason is scientific. The wetlands proposal by the Black Swamp Conservancy would be a demonstration project to study how wetlands can be used to filter out nutrients from farm fields – before those nutrients reach streams and ultimately Lake Erie. Carpenter said he is aware of runoff from farmland causing water quality problems in the region. “I understand about 70 percent of what we put on farms can end up in Lake Erie,” he said. The preliminary proposal calls for the wetlands to be located with a wooded buffer on 20 acres on the far west end of the farm. The acreage involved sits along a ditch that flows into Toussaint Creek. The wetlands would be designed to create wildlife habitat. Munger said his conversations with Loomis led him to believe she would approve of the wetlands project, especially in light of the region’s water quality problems. “She did talk about restoration of some areas,” Munger said. Loomis was a believer in education about farming…


Urban agriculture helps communities blossom

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News American agri-business brags that it feeds the world. That doesn’t necessarily mean that food industry does a good job feeding its neighbors. Agriculture is Ohio’s number one industry. Ohio also ranks seventh in food insecurity, said Carrie Hamady, from the School of Health and Human Services at Bowling Green State University Hamady was moderating a panel of six local food activists brought together by BGSU’s Institute for the Study of Culture and Society at to discuss “Sustainability, Sustenance, and Stewardship” at the Wood County District Public Library. The activists from Toledo and Bowling Green covered a broad range of issues, related to food, health, and community development. “The end goal is to get healthy food into people’s hands,” said Sean Nestor, who is organizing the Urban Agriculture Alliance in Toledo. Toledo GROWS is one of the urban agriculture pioneers in Toledo.  For 23 years they’ve assisted grass roots efforts to develop community gardens, said Yvonne Dubielak. Their seeds and seedlings have helped spawn 130 community gardens. One of the beneficiaries of Toledo GROWS has been Elizabeth Harris, of Glass City Goat Gals. Once when Attorney General Mike Dewine was campaigning, he asked Harris what was needed in her neighborhood. “Goats,” she told him. Goats can survive in city lots. They keep down the weeds, provide milk, and meat, which can be sold to provide cash. Harris’ project, which includes a community garden as well as the goats, has helped turn around her neighborhood, once known as “murder alley,” into a good place to live. These gardens, she said, can help provide nutritious vegetables that are otherwise not available in a central city neighborhood. Harris said, she remembers going into a corner store, and basically all she could find were chips. The few fruits and vegetables are wilted and unappetizing. This lack of grocery options in the city led ProMedica to finance a grocery store in its neighborhood, said Kate Sommerfeld. The shop benefits the hospital’s patients, who now sometimes receive food prescriptions, as well as its employees and nearby residents. The hospital’s concern about food, Sommerfeld said, stems from the realization that many of the health problems its patients face are not medical, but social, including food insecurity. Doctors now screen patients for hunger. Lack of proper food, Harris said, results in people lacking energy and mental acuity. She has seen one woman lose 40 pounds through her involvement with the community garden. Working in the garden provide people with job skills, and “gives them ownership in their community,”…


America’s cookies rely on winter wheat grown in Ohio

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wheat grown in Ohio is a mainstay for Oreos and Chips Ahoy. Sure, other states grow the wheat that makes artisan breads and premium pastas. But Ohio’s soft red winter wheat is the type needed for pastries, cookies, saltines, cake, brownies and pretzels. Brad Moffitt, director of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association, talked about America’s crops in general and Ohio’s wheat in detail at a recent Bowling Green Kiwanis Club meeting. “We are the top soft red winter wheat state,” Moffitt said. Six main types of wheat are grown in the U.S., with the differing soil types and growing seasons determining which type grows best in which areas. Though corn and soybeans are currently more profitable, farmers realize it’s good to keep wheat in the soil rotation, Moffitt said. More than 590,000 acres in Ohio were planted in soft red winter wheat in 2016. Moffitt described himself as “a farm boy from Urbana,” growing up with crops, cattle and hogs. He then went into a career in education, before “getting back in agriculture, where I belong.” His current job consists of working on research, market development, promotion and education. Moffitt talked with the Kiwanians about agriculture remaining the largest industry in Ohio, and about America’s role in feeding the world. “Our farmers are more than capable of feeding the U.S. and the world,” he said. “We’ve done it before. We’ll do it again.” Estimates suggest that 9.7 billion people will need to be fed by the year 2050. “American farmers have met the challenge before,” he said, describing farmers as industrious and ingenious. The problem isn’t growing the food, Moffitt said. The real problem is transportation infrastructure, storage, refrigeration and processing. “We can produce the food – getting it there is another problem,” he said. The world’s demands for food have not only grown, but they also have changed. More “middle class” people means more demand for meat protein. “They want some of the things we take for granted in this country,” Moffitt said. “When you move into the middle class, you want to eat a little bit better.” More meat demand means more corn, wheat and soybean needed for livestock consumption, he added. Nearly half of the wheat grown in the U.S. ends up in 125 other countries, Moffitt said. Common destinations include Mexico, South America, northern Asia, China and Europe. “Fifty percent of the U.S. wheat crop ends up on a boat and shipped to other countries,” he said. That keeps the ports…


Bianca Garza’s photos rooted in concern about our relationship to the soil

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Photographer Bianca Garza knows in her gut that something is wrong in humanity’s relationship to their environment. She suffers from the effects. Growing up, she consumed processed and artificial food. She drank pop instead of water. Then with the encouragement of her boyfriend, Aaron Pickens, and his family, Garza started eating a “practical paleo” diet, based on foods grown sustainably. She ate traditional foods like those people ate before chronic diseases began taking their toll. Now, Garza said, she was “hiking and biking.” That is until gum surgery in 2016 threw her back, and triggered chronic fatigue syndrome. During that time of convalescence she looked at some of the photographs she’d been taking, and she saw they coalesced around a theme. Garza had captured odd juxtapositions between the natural world and artificial representations of the natural world. That breakdown, Garza believes, was manifesting itself in her own health issues. She’d worked briefly for Don Schooner at Schooner Farms, and that enhanced her appreciation for sustainable and regenerative agriculture – the belief that healthy soil produces the nutritious foods needed to nourish a healthy body. And depleted soil depletes our health. People become like the wheat stock in one of her photos, “Unyielding,” trying to break its way through cracked and dry ground. “I really believe many of our health issues come from replacing what we’re supposed to get from the earth with something artificial that no longer holds that energy.” A photo of abandoned truck trailer parked in an abandoned lot with a cornucopia decorating it cut to the core of the problem. “We have a lot of food stuff but we don’t have food with a lot of nutrition, and that’s what matters.” That image, “Abundantly Clear,” is one of a baker’s dozen photographs now on display at Art Supply Depo, 435 East Wooster, Bowling Green. The exhibit remains up until March 25. A reception with the artist will be held Saturday, March 24, from 5-7 p.m. The 2012 graduate of Bowling Green State University with a bachelor’s degree in visual communication technology with a specialization in photography, had not taken any photographs until she arrived on campus. Her intent was to major in popular culture and become a writer. But she took an intro to photography course with Jeff Hall, and he spotted a talent, and encouraged her. Craig Bell and Brad Phalin, the photographers in the BGSU Office of Marketing and Communications, also recognized that, and hired her the next semester. She continues to work as a…


Hull Prairie ditch cleaning supported – but cost details sought

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Landowners along Hull Prairie Road are in favor of the county cleaning out the ditch that runs along the road. But they have one big concern – how much will it cost them. The Wood County Commissioners held a public hearing Tuesday morning on the Hull Prairie ditch project, which covers 11.6 miles in Bowling Green, Plain Township, Middleton Township and Perrysburg Township. The project extends from south of Newton Road to north of Roachton Road. For years, clogged ditches along Hull Prairie Road only affected neighboring farmland. But now, with so many homes and housing subdivisions growing along the road, ditch drainage is necessary to keep water from creeping into basements. The estimated cost for the project is $422,000, according to Wood County Engineer John Musteric. The watershed area covers 6,749 acres, with 1,378 parcels. A preliminary cost per acre would be $62.53. However, no surveys have yet been conducted, Musteric said. Several neighbors of the ditch project attended Tuesday’s hearing to voice their support for the ditch cleaning. Carl Barnard said several of his neighbors get water in their basements with heavy rainfalls. One neighbor recently had $6,000 in damage due to flooding. “This is very critical to us,” Barnard said. Musteric agreed that the project should proceed. “Prolonging implementation now will do nothing but exacerbate drainage issues later,” he said. Better drainage will not only result in better farm yields, but also help the residential areas, Musteric said. Unless the ditch is placed under the county maintenance program, the responsibility to keep it clean is on the townships and landowners. The benefits of the project are greater than the costs, Musteric said. But the landowners would really like some more specifics on exactly what those costs might be for them individually. “This is all well and good. But the bottom line is the cost,” Joe McIntyre, of Cogan Lane, said. Until the survey is done, those costs are unknown, Musteric said. “Everybody is very curious about the costs,” said Robert Ashenfelter, of Lake Meadows Drive. The flooding problems are worsening as development occurs, according to Ashenfelter, who said the two drainage ponds in his subdivision don’t drain if the ditches are clogged. “We would like something to get rid of the water a little faster,” he said. “We’re excited to see this come to fruition.” Musteric listed the benefits of the project as: The ditch will be maintained by the county rather than the farm and residential communities. The potential for water damage will…


Dairy Council nutritionist shares the skinny on American eating trends

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A week before the day when Americans celebrate eating, Karen Bakies, of the National Dairy Council, gave a presentation highlighting facts and trends in how we consume food. And, she noted, we will consume a lot this Thanksgiving. She projected a graphic with such holiday favorites from dark turkey, green bean casserole, sausage stuffing, cranberry sauce, and, of course, pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Tally that up, she said, and you get 2,500 calories. That’s about a recommended daily intake for a day for most adults. Add in a couple glasses of wine and the inevitable seconds, and that can balloon to 4,500 calories. One meal, one day. But consuming extra calories is just a holiday tradition. Americans are battling obesity and the diabetes it too often brings on, she said. Still very few of us, she said, are eating enough fruits and vegetables, whole grains or dairy. That was the first of 10 talking and points and trends Bakies expects that as a nutrition educator she’ll be looking forward to in 2018. Bakies was the featured speaker at the November Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum hosted by the Center for Innovative Food Technology at the Agricultural Incubator Foundation. There’s nothing simple about eating. “Nutrition is more complicated than astrophysics,” Bakies said. People eat, of course, to gain the energy they need to live, but other emotional dynamics are at work. Food is seen as an experience to be photographed and shared over social media. Food is a way of curing or fending off disease. Food is about values. That’s especially true for millennials and the younger Gen Z, whose members are just now starting their college careers. They wear their food choices like a badge, Bakies said. What people consume defines who they are and what they stand for. Here’s what will shape our talk about eating. Fattening up Topping her list of talking points for 2018 is obesity and diabetes, both of which continue to rise. About a third of adults and child are classified as obese and 11.1 percent have Type 2 diabetes. Given a child’s eating habits are established early, before they are 5, intervention needs to start at a very young age, Bakies said. Children who carry excess weigh when they start kindergarten are four times more likely to be obese by eighth grade than normal-weight children. Snack time We are becoming a nation of snackers – 91 percent eat multiple snacks throughout the day, and 8 percent report never eating a regular meal, just…