FLUSHING, Ohio – What do you do with 2,000 acres of reclaimed mine land in the hills of Belmont County? Whatever you can imagine, according to Warren Garretson, co-owner of Fox Country Farms in Flushing, Ohio.
Garretson, 62, and his partner Jim Wagner, 55, have given up their fast-paced New Jersey lifestyles and are creating an outdoorsman’s paradise.
Garretson said the idea of coming to Ohio came from his partner, who had been raised in southern Ohio. Garretson was the CEO of Thermoguard Replacement Windows, and Wagner owns a construction business. Both men had been members of many different associations and organizations. At one time, Garretson sat on the board of 23 different organizations.
New challenges. Nearing retirement age, the men aren’t ready to rest on their laurels. Wagner told Garretson stories of growing up in Ohio, and the two decided to join forces and buy land in Belmont County in 1995.
The farm has started as a cow/calf operation for crossbred beef. The 225 head have the run of 26 miles of fence. The true reason Garretson and Wagner brought cattle to the farm is to raise natural beef.
“With many people concerned about eating right, including me, we would like to raise the beef naturally,” said Garretson. “We are extensively grazing the animals now and every two to five days they are moved to a new paddock.”
The animals are not given any unnatural shelter, and they are not fed hay until about December. Fox Country Farms wants to produce naturally lean beef.
Garretson said they are looking to direct marketing to move their beef. They have been on contact with many other beef producers to try to learn the ropes.
Moving to Ohio. Garretson said making the move to Ohio was made easier by area farmers and cattlemen. Garretson said they have also received information and help from the Ohio State University Extension as well.
“This is all new to me, but I’ve made some great friends who are willing to help anytime I need them or have a question about the cattle,” said Garretson. “I worked in an office for 40 years, wearing a suit and tie. I’ve never worked as hard physically as I have in the past couple of years.”
Garretson moved to the farm in 1998, but Wagner has stayed in New Jersey for now. He hopes to move to Fox Country Farms within the next couple of years.
“At 59, I have been given the opportunity to learn a whole new vocation. I’m still learning every day. This is so different because there’s no set rules,” said Garretson. “There’s no preconceived ideas about how this is supposed to be. No tradition. We have a good mix of lots of research with practical experience.
Farm experience. Garretson and Wagner would like to also eventually invite people to experience a working farm. He says to witness the birth of a calf or participating in a roundup can be very rewarding.
For the first time, Fox Country Farms hosted an intern from OSU this spring to help with calving.
“She stayed in our house and spent most of her time working on the farm as if it were her own. We enjoy being able to give young people a good experience,” said Garretson. “It was also a great experience for us.”
Multifarm. Garretson said Fox Country Farms will not only be a home to cattle; it’s going to be a multi-farm. They want to build secluded rustic cabins in different places on the farm to offer a different experience for everyone who stays there.
There are plans for treestands and blinds for hunting and photography opportunities, horse and ATV trails, contests, boating, fishing, opportunities for 4-H groups, and more.
“We want to be able to offer people everything they need, but we want to keep it rustic,” said Garretson. “We don’t want the cabins all right next to one another; we want everyone who stays here to go away with a different experience and come back to next time and again experience something new.”
Fishing holes. One of the team’s biggest projects is a fishing contest. They are currently trying to have their idea of “18 Holes of Fishing” trademarked. The farm currently boasts 16 ponds and a lake stocked with a variety of fish.
Fox Country Farms would pattern the contest after a golf course. Participants would have to move from waterhole to waterhole seeing different parts of the farm. If all goes well, the contest should be open in about three years.
“We are doing some things here that if we had been farming all of our life, we wouldn’t do it this way,” said Garretson. “We want to be good stewards of what God has given us. We want to give back to people, especially young people, then maybe we will have done something. Everything I’ve got is invested out here.”