Country Living Field Day is a small farm ‘idea smorgasbord’

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CARROLLTON, Ohio – The last Saturday of every September, four adjoining farms in northern Carroll County open their gates to visitors and thousands take them up on the invitation.

It’s the Farm Science Review for smaller farms, better known as the Country Living Field Day.

The 10th annual Country Living Field Day is Sept. 27 at Kenwood Farms, two miles south of Augusta, Ohio, on Andora Road. Admission is free and the event runs from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The field day drew 4,700 people last year from across Ohio, and from 11 states and Canada.

The lure? The whole event – commercial exhibits, educational displays, demonstrations and seminars – is geared toward the small farm.

Main presenters. This year’s keynote speakers include: Herman Beck Chenoweth, pastured poultry farmer and author; Jim Gerrish, livestock producer and grazing consultant from Missouri; and Eric Gibson of California, author of Sell What You Sow and The New Farmers Market.

Gerrish will offer his look at grazing at 10:30 a.m.; Beck Chenoweth will speak at 12:30 p.m. and Gibson’s keynote presentation begins at 2 p.m.

Saw a need. The event started out as a conversation, recalls Carroll County Extension Agent Mike Hogan.

Farming neighbors Gordon and Sue Evans and Bob and Polly Givens expressed frustration to Hogan that it seemed like everything at Ohio State’s three-day Farm Science Review farm show near Columbus was geared toward larger row crop producers. Little seemed to apply to “hill country” or to smaller farmers.

“We need something that caters to smaller farmers,” they said.

And it wasn’t quite that simple, but the Country Living Field Day was born.

Kicked off in 1994. “I wasn’t convinced people would come out for the whole day,” Hogan admitted. “I thought I’d be home by 2 or 3 in the afternoon in time to watch a football game.”

Then, a couple from Indiana called to ask about a grazing session and Hogan had his first glimpse at the hunger for information that was out there.

That first field day, in 1994, drew 900 people. “They just kept coming up the driveway,” Hogan said.

Farm setting. It’s not easy to stage a major event like this on a farm, the extension agent admits, but that’s part of the unique educational component – people get to see things as they would be in the “real world.”

There are grazing seminars out in a field; pond management sessions down by a pond; and woodlot management tips offered, of course, out in a woods.

There’s even a vineyard that will be used this year for a session on grape production.

If you go, be prepared for the elements, because the show will go on, regardless of the weather. One year, Hogan was sure a nonstop downpour would shut down the field day, but 800 people showed up.

Diversification. The event’s focus hasn’t changed. It’s still designed to give people information on options and ideas for improving profitability on small farms. You can call it “alternative agriculture,” but it’s an idea-thon.

The list of this year’s seminars or informational exhibits includes: nuts, aquaculture, cut flowers, garlic, ginseng, peach production, fee access hunting, pastured poultry and pastured pork, meat goats, and popcorn – and that’s just a start.

“People are looking for different things,” Hogan said, “and in Ohio, we have to differentiate ourselves somehow.”

. Sprawl, boon or bane Ohio used to be called the eastern edge of the Corn Belt, but it now looks more like the western edge of the Population Belt, Hogan said.

“We can complain, but the trick is to make customers out of those people,” he added.

While many of the visitors to the Country Living Field Day are part-timers or retirees, Hogan says they get their share of full-time commercial growers or farmers, too. And that’s something the organizing committee works hard at because several committee members are full-time farmers, too.

This year, for example, a session will take a look at GPS technology and its application for small farmers.

Workshops, demonstrations. Six 90-minute workshops will be offered during the Country Living Field Day: grape production, 10 a.m.; managed grazing, 11 a.m.; pasture-raised poultry, 11 a.m.; managing a woodlot, 2 p.m.; growing herbs, 2 p.m. and aquaculture, 3:30 p.m.

Visitors can also pick from a smorgasbord of 30-minute sessions throughout the day.

A mock farm accident rescue demonstration involving an ATV mishap will be held at 1 p.m. The demonstration is appropriate for both children and adults.

There will also be a working dog demonstration at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.; sheep shearing at noon and 3 p.m.; tree felling at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.; vertical tillage at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. and pond seining at noon.

Horse-drawn equipment demonstrations will also be ongoing during the field day.

It works. The idea smorgasbord is bearing fruit, Hogan says, as visitors return each year with their stories.

But bringing in a seminar on yellow perch doesn’t mean it’s for everyone, he cautions.

“The best thing we can do is talk people out of things,” Hogan said, in a strange contradiction.

“You can’t sell them a bed of roses,” he explains. “You sell the idea of alternatives and how to evaluate alternatives, because it might be different on each farm.”

“It’s a whole set of management skills and a way of thinking,” Hogan said.

Children’s activities. The field day includes a safety roundup for children from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and a supervised children’s activity area throughout the day. The first 900 children to complete the safety roundup will receive a free T-shirt from Progressive Farmer magazine.

Families can also have a free photograph taken with Brutus Buckeye, the Ohio State University mascot.

Kenwood Farms is located on Andora Road, which is off of state Route 9 north of Carrollton.

Get the details

OSU Extension Carroll County office

http://carroll.osu.edu/countryliving.htm

330-627-4310

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