Agriculture

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…

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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,…


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,…


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…


BG school officials hear levy is too taxing for farmers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Besides agreeing that kids need good schools, there seemed to be little common ground plowed Wednesday evening when a local farmer met with Bowling Green City School officials, teachers, parents and community leaders. After helping to send out 5,000 mailers to district voters, urging them to vote against the school levy, Richard Chamberlain was asked to attend one of the superintendent’s coffee chats Wednesday evening. Chamberlain came armed with a stack of property tax bills. Chamberlain said the 6-mill school levy is putting the bulk of the burden on farmers. School officials said they are trying to give students the schools they need to succeed – and a property tax is their only option. Superintendent Francis Scruci explained the school building project to Chamberlain, showing him the charts that he carries everywhere. Plans call for the consolidation of the three elementaries on property north of the middle school, and for renovations and an addition to the high school. “I appreciate it,” Chamberlain said. But it’s the way the project is being funded that doesn’t sit well with the farmer. “You would be more than willing to push the burden for this great project onto the few,” he said. After the meeting, Chamberlain said all he wanted was school officials to admit they were unfairly putting the millage on the backs of the farming community. But Scruci and High School Principal Jeff Dever said the district needs new schools, and the state legislature has left them with no other options for funding. “We want to improve the education for the children, and we’re doing it under Ohio law,” Dever said. “We’re just trying to improve the education of our kids.” “We owe it to the community to support our children,” a parent said. Scruci said he has not hidden the fact that the 6-mill levy for a $72 million bond issue is a lot of money. “We told people this bond is expensive,”…


Wood County honors citizens for their contributions

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The best of Wood County was honored on Sunday. Farmers who help educate city folks about agriculture. Pastors who build bridges, not walls. And a retired teacher who is still committed to learning, even if that means going to a “Godzilla” movie. Wood County commissioners Doris Herringshaw and Ted Bowlus led off the 2017 Spirit of Wood County Awards in the courthouse atrium. Following is the list of people recognized in each category: Agricultural leadership: Cathy Newlove Wenig, Gordon Wenig, Paul Herringshaw and Lesley Riker. Liberty through law/human freedom: Dan Van Vorhis. Self-government: Tim W. Brown. Education for Civic Responsibility: Mary Kuhlman. Religion and liberty: Revs. Mary Jane and Gary Saunders. Industrial/economic development: Barbara Rothrock. Lyle R. Fletcher Good Citizenship Award: Gwen Andrix and Amy Holland. “This is one of those things that Wood County does especially well,” said State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, about the recognition of community service by citizens. The agricultural leadership award was presented by Earlene Kilpatrick, executive director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce. For the last 12 years of the BG Leadership program, the Wenigs, Herringshaw and Riker have welcomed city business people on their farms. The day is a “real and powerful opportunity to educate citizens,” Kilpatrick said. “And we end up smelling like a farm at the end of the day.” “What an amazing experience for each class,” to learn about Wood County’s leading industry, she said. Initially the farm day consisted of simple drive-by tours. But now the participants visit ag co-ops, learn about soil content management and seed purchasing, and see a high-tech dairy operation and show pigs. “They educate us on the true cost of farming in the bountiful and not so bountiful seasons,” Kilpatrick said. “They aren’t afraid to answer questions honestly.” And often the city business people experience an “aha moment,” when the connection is made between their livelihoods and farming. In accepting the award, Cathy Newlove…


After years of bumper crop of taxes, farmers get some relief

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After years of watching their taxes valuations grow like weeds, local farmers are now seeing their property taxes drop. While that is good news for farmers, it’s shifted some of the tax burden to homeowners. Every six years, state mandated full reappraisals are done on all properties in the county. Updates are conducted every three years. Later this month, the Wood County Auditor’s Office will send out notices of the new valuations to local farmers. Prior to 1974, farmers were taxed based on the market value of their land – that’s how much it would sell for, explained Wood County Auditor Matt Oestreich. So 40 acres of farmland on the edge of Perrysburg would be taxed at a much higher rate than 40 acres outside of Bloomdale. That created a lot of pressure on some farmers to sell their land because they couldn’t afford the property taxes. “Farmers were being taxed off their land,” Oestreich said. So the state changed its formula, and started setting valuations based on the amount that could be produced on the acreage. In Wood County, that covers approximately 380,000 acres – with about 81 percent of the county’s total acreage used for agriculture. “The income potential is the same,” per bushel of corn in Perrysburg Township as it is in Bloom Township, said Brian Jones, the Current Agricultural Use Valuation specialist in the Wood County Auditor’s Office. Factored into the valuation are the different soils, with Wood County having about 200 different soil types. Nearly two-thirds of county farmland is Hoytville clay, which is just above average soil quality for farming, Jones said. The CAUV formula worked in favor of the farmers in 2005, when the lowest values in the history of the program were appraised. Farmland was “dirt cheap,” and farmers got the benefit of lower taxes. When the 2008 updates rolled around, the values had doubled. Agricultural land valued at $350 an acre jumped up…