Agriculture

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…


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…


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…


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…


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…


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…


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,” he said. “But we know the condition of our buildings.” The superintendent has spoken at nearly 100 public settings about the levy and building plans, including three meetings with members of the agricultural community. “With all due respect, we had conversations for 15 months before we made a decision,” Scruci said. And during that time,…


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 Wenig said one of their goals was to dispel the myths surrounding farming. “We just tried to do what we could to promote agriculture.” The liberty through law and human freedom award was presented by Bowling Green attorney Diane Huffman. She first met Van Vorhis years ago when he was a juvenile court probation officer….


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 to about $780 an acre. The tax rates went from $4 to $8 an acre, which was still quite low, so few farmers complained, Oestreich and Jones explained. “It was fueled by good yields, high crop prices and increasingly low interest rates,” Oestreich said. “It was a perfect storm of sorts.” In 2011, the values…


Best farm practices for Lake Erie Watershed to be discussed at ag breakfast

From CENTER FOR INNOVATIVE FOOD TECHNOLOGY An environmental expert with the Ohio Lake Erie Commission will discuss Maumee River watershed best management practices for agricultural producers at the Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum, Thursday, Oct. 19 from 8 – 9:30 a.m.  The event is hosted by the Center for Innovative Food Technology  at the Agricultural Incubator Foundation (AIF). Environmental specialist Dr. Sandra Kosek-Sills will share information on the Ohio Domestic Action Plan and how this will advance state level efforts toward proposed nutrient reduction targets. OLEC’s role is to preserve Lake Erie’s natural resources, to protect the quality of its waters and ecosystem, and to promote economic development of the region by ensuring the coordination of policies and programs of state government pertaining to water quality, toxic substances, and coastal resource management. Arrive early, as breakfast and informal networking will start at 8 a.m., with the program to follow.  The cost is just $10 per person when you RSVP in advance, or $12 per person at the door without RSVP (cash or check) which includes breakfast and networking opportunities. The Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum is an educational networking opportunity to provide information on current issues, trends and programs available to the agricultural community and those who support its advancement. The AIF is located at 13737 Middleton Pike (St. Rt. 582) in Bowling Green.  Walk-ins are welcome, but guests are encouraged to reserve a seat in advance by visiting ciftinnovation.org.


Scruci fields questions from farming community on bond issue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci faced a tough crowd Monday evening – members of the local farming community, looking for information on the school district’s 6-mill bond request for buildings. The bond issue could be a hard sell to farmers, since owners of large amounts of acreage will be among those most affected by the property tax on the November ballot. This was the third time the superintendent has met with members of the farming community. And each time he has not pushed for them to pass the bond issue. Instead, Scruci has suggested they ask themselves two questions. “Does this help move the community forward and is it good for kids?” Then came the tougher one. “Can you afford it?” “We know there are people in this community who can’t afford it,” Scruci said. And they have to cast their votes accordingly. That doesn’t mean they are against the school district or the students, he added. But the district cannot wait until everyone in the district can afford new schools, he said. “This community will never grow and our kids will not get what kids in every other district in our area are getting,” Scruci said. The superintendent fielded questions about why the district can’t use an income tax, which wouldn’t hurt local farmers as much. An income tax cannot be used to pay for a building project, he explained. What about an increase in sales tax, someone asked. The schools have no way to increase sales tax, Scruci said. One man said the length of the bond issue – 37 years – poses a problem for smaller farmers. “Can we sustain it, with our current income? It’s highly unlikely,” the farmer said. Another farmer questioned why BGSU students, who are temporary residents in Bowling Green with no property tax responsibilities, would be allowed to vote on the school bond issue. “College kids are allowed to vote on it? That ain’t right,” he said. “There’s a lot of problems with the way schools are funded,” Scruci said. One woman in the crowd thanked Scruci for being transparent. “I don’t feel like you’re trying to trick us,” she said. Scruci also explained why Bowling Green was not using state help on the project. The state formula for…


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 OSU professor first discussed the possibilities six years ago, there were about 30 craft brewers in the state. Now there are about 200. The Ag Incubator site is one of three hop yards in the state the other two got funding through the Us Department of Agriculture. The funding for the Wood County site was eliminated, but the Hirzel family stepped up and provided the in-kind services needed. Craig Martahus, of Haus Malts, said W.C. Fields was “taking us back in time” when beer was brewed from local ingredients. “We’re coming back to a real local product that tastes really good.” He praised the barley grown by Ron Snyder of Pemberville for making that possible….


Portage River cleanup opens floodgates to complaints

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ten years after the petition was filed, the Portage River project will finally be moving forward. But not everyone along the river is happy about how it will affect their land and their wallets. More than 80 people crowded outside the Wood County Commissioners Office on Tuesday for the final hearing on the river cleanup. Some had waited a decade for the project to be approved.  Others, however, were unhappy about paying for the project, didn’t want county workers on their land, and worried that the cleanup upstream will cause more flooding downstream. But as the hearing came to a close, the county commissioners from all three counties involved voted in favor of the river cleanup. The project is the biggest river project undertaken in Wood County in terms of area, according to Wood County Engineer John Musteric. It follows 46 miles of the south and east branches of the Portage River, covering 111 square miles of watershed in Wood, Hancock and Seneca counties, affecting about 8,200 parcels of land. While the size of the project is great, the scope is not. There will be no digging, no widening, no channelizing. The river branches will be allowed to keep their meandering paths. The work will only remove logjams and trees leaning into the river. The cleanup of the Portage River branches is intended to reduce future flooding. The estimated cost of the project – $658,914 – will be divided among the landowners, based on the benefits their properties are expected to experience. When county engineer staff walked the river routes after the petition was filed a decade ago, there were approximately 243 log jams, 4,300 dead, fallen or leaning trees. It is believed there are now many more downed trees due to ash borer beetles. As the hearing was held Tuesday, photos of blocked waterways were shown on large screens in the front of the room. “The pictures speak very loudly,” said Gary Harrison, a farmer and one of the original petitioners with Jack Stearns. When the logjams are removed, the creeks will stop rerouting themselves and stop “chewing out the banks,” he said. “We tend to do maintenance on our automobiles, we tend to do maintenance on ourselves,” Harrison said. But the trees along the river…


County flooded with calls about Portage River cleanup

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nearly 9,500 letters have been mailed out by the county to the owners of parcels that drain into the south and east branches of the Portage River. The letters are one of the final steps in a river cleanup process that has taken a decade. The Portage River project is the biggest river cleanup ever attempted by the county – covering 46 miles of waterway. The notices mailed out alert the landowners of their estimated assessments for the river cleanup and of a hearing scheduled for Aug. 22. The cleanup of the Portage River branches is intended to reduce future flooding. However, the notices have led to a flood of phone calls to the Wood County Engineer’s Office – many of them from people questioning their responsibility to help fund the project. “We’re getting a lot of calls. ‘What’s this got to do with me? My water doesn’t go there,’” Wood County Engineer John Musteric said of the typical comments from callers. Many landowners don’t realize where their water drains – they just know that it goes away after heavy rains, Musteric said. Though the river cleanup project is the longest ever undertaken in Wood County, it is less extensive than many projects in the past. There will be no digging, no widening, no channelizing. The river branches will be allowed to keep their meandering paths. The work will only remove logjams and trees leaning into the river. “This one is actually very mild,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said of the Portage River cleanup plans. But while the cleanup may be minor, the distance is massive. In addition to the miles of waterway in Wood County, the project also includes portions in Hancock and Seneca counties. That is likely the reason that it’s taken 10 years to get to this point of a final hearing on the cleanup. The project was initiated by Jack Stearns, a Bloom Township farmer who was tired of his fields flooding. He circulated a petition, which was signed by many other farmers along the river who were also weary of losing crops when the river overflowed its banks. That was in 2007. Stearns and the others waited as the project drowned due to its own mass. Meanwhile, the logjams and debris…


County fair history – hoochie-coochie girls, a hanging and much more

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Fair’s history is steeped in far more than prize steers, skillfully stitched quilts and homemade pies. Those county residents who think the fair has a bland story to tell, may not know about the cholera outbreak that drastically cut attendance in 1854, the hoochie-coochie girls who stirred up trouble in 1896, or the ostrich races in 1962. Or that in 1883, fairgoers could purchase side tickets to watch the hanging of Carl Bach, who murdered his wife with a corn knife. And few probably realize the pressure from the H.J. Heinz Co. in the late 1920s to change the fair date so it didn’t conflict with tomato harvest, because the company couldn’t find enough employees to show up at work to bottle the ketchup during the fair. According to records compiled by Dick Martin and the county genealogical society, since 1851 the Wood County Fair has jumped around from Bowling Green, to Perrysburg, to Portage, to Tontogany, and back again many times. In fact, for a series of years it was held in two towns because of warring fair factions. This year’s Wood County Fair begins Monday, and bears little resemblance to the first county fairs, except for the ability to attract people from around the county to reconnect with friends and recognize agricultural prowess in the region. The county fair was, for many, the event of the year. It attracted families in their best clothing for food, music and competitions. Some records show that the Wood County Fair had the top attendance of any county fairs in the state. Old black and white photos show lines of horses and buggies, then later lines of old automobiles, in the area that is now the Country Club golf course. The fairs have always given businesses an opportunity to advertise their products. Back in 1920, there was a booth called the “Wife Saving Station,” which boasted the latest in home plumbing equipment. The official program for the 1906 Wood County Fair included advertisements for businesses offering horseshoeing, the best men’s shoes in the city for $3.50, rooms at the Hotel Millikin for $2 a day, and a hatter who could make old hats look like new. In 1908, the papers talked of animal shows featuring trained…