Agriculture

‘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…

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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…


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…


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…


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…


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…


After years of resistance, EPA says Lake Erie ‘impaired’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Since the green algae scare in 2014 that resulted in the Toledo area being warned to not drink the water, the Ohio EPA has insisted that Lake Erie would not benefit from being declared “impaired.” But this afternoon, the EPA released a report stating the lake’s status should be changed to “impaired.” The battle has been between the state – which didn’t want the region to suffer economically from being named “impaired” – and environmentalists, who said the lake would improve only if the source of the harmful algae is identified – and the farming community that didn’t want all the blame for the algae, and didn’t want more regulation of their practices. In Thursday’s announcement, the EPA is proposing the open waters of Lake Erie’s Western Basin be designated as impaired for recreation and drinking water. This includes the area of the lake from the Michigan-Ohio state line to the lighthouse in Marblehead. The shoreline areas of the western basin and drinking water intakes had already been designated as impaired. This first assessment of Lake Erie included input from Bowling Green State University, Ohio State University Sea Grant College Program, University of Toledo, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. EPA. The report identifies a science-based process for assessing impairment from harmful algae of the western basin open waters. “While designating the open waters of the Western Basin as impaired does not provide, as some suggest, a magic bullet to improve the lake, the state remains committed to our obligations under the Clean Water Act and to examine emerging science and practices that we can put in place to help improve it,” Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler stated in the report released today. The news was welcomed by area environmentalists, who have insisted for years that Lake Erie would only get worse if the sources of the harmful algae aren’t identified and limited. The “impaired” status will require such studies. While the farming community has made progress in self-monitoring and reducing phosphorus runoff that contributes to the algae, it hasn’t been enough, environmentalists said. One of those applauding the designation is Mike Ferner, coordinator of the Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie. “This decision that took massive public insistence and a federal court suit is way…