LONDON, Ohio — If you want a quick, dependable way of traveling to the Farm Science Review each year, flying may still be your best choice.
Depending on where you live, driving to and from the review can mean several hours of road time, traffic and possibly even a few detours along the way. But thanks to the ongoing work of the Ohio Flying Farmers, in cooperation with the Madison County Airport and the Ohio State University staff who organize the review — flying remains a popular option.
Bob Lyme, president of the Flying Farmers, said the number of people and planes landing at the review has decreased over the years. But on a good day (when the weather cooperates) they still welcome as many as 70 planes a day.
Lyme, 75, nolonger flies. But he’s one of several volunteers who helps welcome planes and their passengers once they land.
The airport is about a half mile from the show. After landing, passengers and pilots are given a shuttle ride to a hospitality booth near the parking lot of the show, where they can enjoy doughnuts, hot chocolate and coffee. From there, they’re taken to the review grounds, and when it’s over, they get a ride back to their planes.
The benefits of flying are many: convenience, less hassle, less time and it’s fun.
“A lot of these fellows have their own farm strips, so they step out to the plane and fly it here,” Lyme said.
But even those who don’t own a plane or a landing strip can still arrange to fly, if they contact their local airport or a local farmer who plans on flying to the review.
Lyme said farm companies, in particular, are noticing the benefits of flying to the show, sometimes from several states away. And with larger, commercial-based planes, they can load more people and supplies, and make additional trips when necessary.
An official for the Madison County Airport said most flights come from Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania. However, Lyme said some also fly from Illinois, Michigan and the Carolinas.
“They have a fantastic hobby that they participate in and this is just another outlet for them to exercise that hobby,” said Chuck Gamble, manager of the Farm Science Review.
Flying also gives farmers a bird’s-eye view of crop conditions across the state — albeit from a distance.
They can review the “growing conditions that they’re flying over,” Gamble said, while on their way to the state’s largest farm show.
Some planes — especially of the commercial caliber — will actually make multiple trips to and from the review each year, Lyme said.
It’s convenient. Bob Reno, of Enon Valley, Pa., figures he’s flown to the review just about every year it’s been held. The 72-year-old retired dairy farmer still flies down, and said he’s done so all these years because it takes less time, and it’s convenient.
To drive there from his place would take about three-and-a-half, to four hours. Flying cuts the time to less than half.
“In one-and-a-half hours we could go down and enjoy the show and be back in time to milk,” he said.
Lyme said farmers who live 100 or more miles from the review should definitely consider the benefits of flying, especially over driving a large farm pickup. He’s used his plane to haul chickens, pigs and even truck parts — all because it’s quicker and easier.
As he sees it, “airplanes are a useful tool. … A lot of people just think of airplanes as a toy but there are a lot of people out there using them as another tool in their ag enterprise.”
The Flying Farmers donate their time to help with the flight program, with financial support from the Farm Science Review. There is no fee to land or for the transportation to the show.
He admits to not getting to see much of the review himself, since most of his time is devoted to helping pilots park, and making sure their trip to and from the show is smooth and enjoyable. If he’s lucky, he and some of the other volunteers might make a pass through the grounds every-other year, after the crowd has left and just before the grounds closes for the night.
His real focus is helping pilots and passengers.
“It’s a job that somebody has to do and I have the time that I can devote to it.”