SALEM, Ohio – Ohio’s largest proposed dairy, a 4,500-cow operation, is set to begin construction in western Ohio within the next two months.
The state department of agriculture cleared the way April 11, approving the farm’s final permits.
The farm, Van Deurzen Dairy LLC, will be located in Hardin County, near Alger, Ohio.
Construction will take at least 10 months, said Cecilia Conway, spokesperson for the farm’s developer, Vreba-Hoff Dairy Development. The farm expects to add about 100-300 cows per month and will not be at full capacity until spring 2007.
Public’s say. But this farm, like many others going up in western Ohio, faces intense public scrutiny.
More than 25 people voiced their concerns by sending comments to the Ohio Department of Agriculture during its mandated public comment period last December.
Most responses zeroed in on odor, manure and water concerns.
In its responses, the department emphasized the Livestock Environmental Permitting Program’s
goal is to protect water, minimize odor and reduce insect nuisances. It said inspectors will investigate any complaints.
It also noted, however, some odor should be expected in agricultural areas.
Other concerned citizens criticized the proposed farm solely because of its size.
“TOO BIG!,” one person wrote. “There is not much else that really needs to be said about this proposed corporate neighbor moving into our rural community.”
The department responded by writing, “State laws acknowledge agricultural uses and that livestock production, regardless of size, is agriculture.
“There is no size limit on farms in Ohio.”
These final permits can be appealed within 30 days to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission.
Prime spot. The owner, Walter Van Deurzen, is from the Netherlands, Conway said. His family will remain there with their dairy, hog and poultry operation when he moves to Ohio.
Van Deurzen chose this 160-acre location in Hardin County because it’s isolated, Conway said.
The county is 93 percent farmland, and agriculture is the area’s largest industry, said Ohio State University Extension educator Ken Lafontaine.
The town of Alger, with a population under 900, is one of the least populated areas in the county, he said.
Even with the county’s rural landscape, things have changed over the last 15 years, Lafontaine said.
Small “traditional” dairy, cow/calf and hog farms have been replaced by large contract hog confinement facilities, he said.
The county’s first large dairy, an 800-head operation in Kenton, began milking this year, despite residents’ continued arguments to the department of agriculture about potential groundwater contamination, he said.
Even with the livestock, Lafontaine said soybean and corn are still king of the county.
These crops are another reason Van Deurzen selected this location for his farm, Conway said. A grain producer was interested in partnering with a large dairy and Van Deurzen came around at the right time.
He also has contracted 6,307 acres of cropland for manure application, according to his manure management plan.
Future. Van Deurzen, who is in his 20s, is hoping to build a dairy that can sustain future generations, Conway said.
“[He’s] a farmer at heart and just wants to milk cows,” she said, adding it’s not important to him to be the largest farm in Ohio.
“[He’s] just putting his dream together.”
(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 23 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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