Agriculture

Farmers, bar owners, beer drinkers gather to toast BG Beer Works’ all-local brew

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News W.C. Fields made its debut in Bowling Green Monday night. No, a cynical comic zombie W.C. Fields didn’t lumber into town. W.C. Fields is the latest brew from Bowling Green Beer Works, and the name stands for Wood County fields, because that’s where the grain and the hops needed to produce the pilsner originated. Farmers, business proprietors, politicians, and those with a taste for craft beer assembled at the brew pub Monday to celebrate the new beer. Justin Marx, the owner of Bowling Green Beer Works, said the beer was a labor of love made from hops and barley grown locally and brewed by Roger Shope into a traditional German pilsner, the “granddaddy” of American beers. The celebration wasn’t just for its crisp taste with just a hint of those local hops, but for the doors the brew opens for local farmers. Some had come in from the hop yard at the Ag Incubator where hops had been harvested that day. Brad Bergefurd, of the Ohio State Extension Service, said that hops provide another crop for small farmers without the large acreage needed to have a viable corn and soybean operation. Hops are labor intensive, he said. Zack Zientek, who works at the Ag Incubator, testified to that.  He checks the hop vines six times a day. But the price they fetch, Bergefurd said, is higher than corn and soybeans. Hops used to grow in Ohio, he said, until Prohibition killed the demand. Now the Extension Service is exploring bringing hops back to service the burgeoning craft brewing business. He said when and another…

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Creation Care Celebration to be held on Sunday

The Black Swamp Green Team’s second Creation Care Celebration will take place Sunday, April 23 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm at Peace Lutheran Church, 1201 Martindale Rd at W. Wooster in Bowling Green. The event celebrates local efforts, organizations and leaders practicing good stewardship by increasing awareness and practices for sustainable renewable energy use and healthy living. Lunch will be included, as will music by the Peace Band. Keynote presentation and panel will be on the topic of sustainable and regenerative agriculture by Don Schooner of Schooner Farms, Alan Sundermeier from the Ohio State University Extension Office, and Paul Herringshaw of Bowling Green. There will be recognitions, displays, and electric car test drives. A tour of Schooner Farms will immediately follow the event at 3:30 pm. The Black Swamp Green Team is a collaboration of faith communities, advocacy groups, non-profit entities, and individuals engaged in promoting and practicing good creation care among itself and its constituents so as to: implement energy efficiency; the use of renewable energy; the production and delivery of local renewable energy; and, thereby, improve its overall stewardship of creation.


Velasquez finds his fight for immigrant laborers to be more urgent than ever

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Toledo area has anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 undocumented immigrants. But every week, more are rounded up and shipped out from the Toledo airport, according to farm labor leader Baldemar Velasquez. “Every Tuesday morning, there are more men and women in shackles being boarded onto planes,” Velasquez said Sunday afternoon. Many are being sent back to Mexico through expedited deportations, without being allowed to see an attorney and without being given their due process, he said. “I don’t know how they are getting away with that,” Velasquez said about ICE and border patrol. “One-hundred years from now, people will look back at us like they do the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850,” when the law required escaped slaves to be returned to their owners, he said. “The fact that we are accommodating such a practice is un-American.” Velasquez grew up as a migrant farm laborer, born in Texas and traveling from field to field in the Midwest. Based on those experiences he went on to create the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, in response to the poor treatment of farm workers. That organization, celebrating its 50th anniversary, still works to achieve justice for migrant workers. Velasquez, who spoke Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Church north of Bowling Green, grew up dirt poor, with a work ethic stronger than most of his white classmates, and with stamina that just didn’t quit. “You always have to finish the job,” he said. “You start that row, you’ve got to finish it. You start that field, you’ve got to finish it. When you’re a farm worker, it…


‘Right to Repair’ would be good for consumers

(Submitted by Michael Oberdick, president of iOutlet in Bowling Green. Oberdick has testified in Nebraska and lobbied in Tennessee for ‘right to repair’ bills. He was elected to the Board for Right to Repair and started an effort in Ohio to get a bill on the table in 2018. He is working with farm bureaus in Northwest Ohio, since this affects them.) As an average appreciator of your iPhone, iPad, or MacBook, you may or may not have heard about this little thing called ‘Right to Repair’. Basically, repair shops both large and small are working together to pass legislation that would win local repair shops like mine access to parts, service manuals, and diagnostic tools from electronics manufacturers at a fair price. This sounds good for me, and it is, but it’s really, really good for you. Let me tell you why. But before I do that, let me clarify something: this isn’t just for Apple devices, or even just electronic gadgets. According to the Repair Association, there is good to be had in the industries of agriculture, automotive, consumer electronics, information technology, medical, appliances, equipment resellers, and industrial equipment. Many of you know that I’m homegrown in the farmlands of Northwest Ohio. Here in Northwest Ohio, we do lots of farming, and we use lots of John Deere to do it. But, let’s say something goes wrong with my combine or my tractor. Today’s John Deere is so sophisticated that you can’t figure out what’s wrong without special equipment. And your average farmer doesn’t have access to this equipment. Instead, he has to call out a technician to…


Farmers warned they need to do more to stop algae

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A hundred or so farmers listened to the grim reality last week that they need to do more to prevent algal blooms in Lake Erie. A panel discussion hosted by the Ohio Farmers Union at Otsego High School stressed that while some farmers are voluntarily reducing the phosphorus that creates the harmful algae, their efforts are not likely to be enough to meet the federal goal of a 40 percent reduction. And that means if farmers don’t make the necessary reductions on their own, they may be forced to do so. “We know that farmers need to do more,” said Joe Logan, president of the Ohio Farmers Union. “Farmers need to stand up. They always have before, and I believe they will again.” The alternative is that the Environmental Protection Agency will get involved and set stricter requirements. “If we don’t achieve that, there will be additional regulation,” Logan said. “Farmers need to up their game in terms of the environmental repercussions.” Jeffery Reutter, retired director of the Ohio State Stone Lab, said the 40 percent reduction is only possible if extensive changes are made, and if problem fields are identified. But he also predicted that one-third of farmers are not likely to take needed action without “more aggressive encouragement.” When asked by moderator Jack Lessenberry about the best ways to reduce phosphorus in Lake Erie, the panel had varied answers. Meindert Vandenhengel, who owns a 5,000-head hog farm in Van Wert County, said the only problem is distribution of manure. There is plenty of farmland to handle all the manure, it…


Ag advocate urges farmers to open up to consumers

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Emily Buck, an educator, communicator and farmer, was on friendlier ground recently when she addressed the Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum than she was about a month before in Washington D.C. The proof was right there on the menu. The local group was munching on an egg and cheese dish and tiny sausages. When Buck was a member of the panel at a conference sponsored by Food Tank, lunch was hummus and mushroom burgers. Food Tank, a group that advocates for sustainable agriculture, is not a friend of conventional farming, Buck said.  She even called it “scary” at one point. But she felt she needed to be there. She didn’t hide who she was. She and her husband, John Buck, raise corn, soybeans, and some wheat on about 1,000 acres in Marion County. She also maintains a sheep herd. And the corn and soybeans are grown from genetically modified seed. “This is not a friendly group by any means,” she said. “But I put myself out there because we needed someone from our side be part of the conversation. “There are people making decisions who have never set foot on a farm. They don’t understand why GMOs are allowing me to use less herbicides, letting me have better water quality.” People who care about sustainability are worried about air, soil, water, and habitat. “We have to find a way to talk to people who are concerned about these things in the right way,” Buck said. The associate professor at Ohio State urged farmers to get out of their comfort zones to engage the consumers…


Large farms must meet strict regs, ODA official says

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Commissioners often hear about problems with CAFOs – concentrated animal feeding operations.  So last week, they met with the person in charge of keeping track of those large farms and the manure produced by them. Kevin Elder, chief of the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting, gave the county commissioners an overview of CAFOs in Ohio, including the regulations and the numbers in the state. Wood County has three dairy cow CAFOs and one chicken CAFO. Dairy cattle statistics for Ohio show the greatest number of operations with dairy cows as 39,000 farms in 1950. Those farms had more than 1.1 million dairy cows. “That was back when my grandpa taught me how to milk cows,” Elder said. And that was back when it was common for most farms to have their own dairy cows, Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. “Everybody had cows.” By 2016, the number of farms with dairy cows had dropped to 2,671, and the number of dairy cows in Ohio had decreased to 266,000. Wayne County leads the state in dairy cows, followed by Mercer and Holmes counties. Ohio ranks 11th in milk production and first in Swiss cheese production. Ohio has the most robotic milkers, Elder said, with one dairy in Wood County being robotic. Cows are also producing so much more milk than in the past, with an average per cow output in the past of 4,000 pounds a year, increasing up to 40,000 pounds a year, he said. The only livestock group that has expanded in the last…