Field day puts the spotlight on family

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Family Farm Field Day
Family Farm Field Day was held July 14-15 in Wilmot.

WILMOT, Ohio — The social aspects of farming were a key part of this year’s Family Farm Field Day, a two-day event held at Wholesome Valley Farm, located along the Wayne and Holmes County border.

David Miller Jr., a dairy farmer from Pleasant Valley, near Sugarcreek, talked about the importance of keeping farm life in perspective. Miller, his wife, Sharon, and their six children live on a 115-acre farm and he rents an additional 80 acres.

During his keynote speech July 15, Miller reminded farmers that God gave man dominion over the animals and the land — not the other way around. He said if a farm gets to the point that it controls its farmer, then something’s out of order.

“If they have dominion over me, then I’m out of the creation order,” he said.

Ag heritage

Through his speech, The Value of Agriculture in our Heritage, he reminded the crowd of mostly Amish that their cultural values of honesty, integrity and working hard are still relevant.

Sheep herding
Sheep herding demonstration using a herd dog.

Miller said that farmers today are less likely to do things themselves, and more likely to hire professionals. He said it’s not necessarily bad to rely on others, but he warned against losing basic life skills and relying too heavily on technology.

Raising family

In a talk called Getting your Children Involved at Home, Mark and Esta Raber gave advice for getting children involved with farm and house work. The young couple have five children, and have written the book, Making Memories with Little Helpers.

An important lesson, Esta said, is teaching children that not everything they do results in a reward.

“Rewards are good, but you don’t always get a reward for what you do,” she said.

Instead, Esta said parents should show appreciation for their children’s work, which can be a reward of its own. For an older child, she said it can be beneficial to give them their own task — such as a separate room to clean — and they can see the results of their labor when it’s done.

But Esta and her husband warned of giving children too many things to do on their own. She said that it’s good for the parents to work alongside their children, and that just handing out a list can actually make some children feel nervous or incompetent, depending on the child’s personality.

Mark Raber said he likes to reward his children with recreation, but that the primary focus is the job that needs done. He said it’s good to set daily goals with children, but to allow for some flexibility as the day unfolds.

He said it also helps to explain a task ahead of time, versus just giving an order, so the child understands why it’s being done and why it’s important.

Pork production

During a panel talk on raising pastured pork, a producer and a marketer gave their perspectives on what makes that method work, and where the industry is headed.

Aden Keim manages the farm and pasture operation at Wholesome Valley Farm, and Trevor Clatterbuck, the co-founder of Fresh Fork Market, is one of the farm’s main buyers and marketers.

Both men have the same basic goal — getting a healthy, desirable product to the consumer. However, because they work at different ends of the food spectrum, they sometimes see things differently.

Different views

For Clatterbuck, the vantage point is often eye-to-eye with the consumer, standing in front of a case of meat. If it doesn’t look appealing to the consumer, it’s not going to sell.

“At the end of the day as marketers, we’re really looking at what our customers are looking for,” Clatterbuck said.

For Keim, the vantage point is at the farm level, where he cares for the pastures and the structures the hogs live in, the breeding and nutrition. Keim half-jokingly said that Clatterbuck can be “fussy” as a buyer, but it’s for good cause, because Clatterbuck knows what the customer wants.

Pasture-raised pork won’t work for everyone, but provides an alternative to conventional indoor production and can put an outdoor setting to good use.

“I have no desire at all to try to compete with conventional, mega hog farms,” Keim said.

Unlike cattle, which are ruminants, pasture-raised hogs are usually fed some grain, but have more access to sunlight and more space to roam than they would in a confined building.

Clatterbuck said he prefers crossbreds and Berkshires, and likes a finished weight of about 350 pounds, with a dressed weight of 230-240 pounds. He said the larger hogs make for larger meat cuts with more fat — and usually look better in the package.

Clatterbuck said that demand is strong, and he has a hard time keeping up, even at $10 a pound for pork chops. 

Other topics at the event included family farm finances, sheep and poultry production, timber harvesting and various topics related to wildlife management. 

To learn more about Family Farm Field Day, including upcoming events, visit www.familyfarmfieldday.com.

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