SMITHFIELD, Ohio — “A challenge is the profit — trying to make one,” said Josh Fluharty who started farming in 2012.
“I’m fortunate to be able to do it, with so many going out of business.”
Josh and his wife, Crystal, don’t let the dust settle beneath their feet. From meeting each other while attending Northland College in Wisconsin, to getting married in 2008, they have moved multiple times, changed jobs and started a family.
In 2012, they moved to his family’s farm in Jefferson County, Ohio. The farm has been in the family since 1903, but hadn’t been farmed since the 1970s. Their boys, Samuel, 3, and Wyatt 11⁄2, are the seventh generation to roam the hills covering 160 acres.
They have put a lot of work into clearing the land and getting the soil ready to farm again. “There was tons of multiflora rose we had to push back, and locust trees,” Josh said.
They are also cutting down all the dead ash trees that were impacted by emerald ash borer. Huge piles of wood and logs, some 6 plus feet in diameter, line the driveway.
“It is a shame — all these old trees, some I’m sure were here in 1903,” Josh said.
When Josh quit his landscaping job to farm full time, he knew they might hit some rough patches.
Moving to the old farmhouse, which uses water gathered from a cistern, is just one of their challenges. Timing the rainfall with doing laundry tops Crystal’s list of challenges, but on the farm, Josh notes doing all the work as a one-man team is the biggest challenge.
“There is so much I want to do, but only so many hours in the day,” he said.
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“And I think a challenge is finding the niche for what we are trying to do,” he added. “Getting the CSA to take off around here has been hard. We have had a lot of interest but no local bites.”
A CSA, or community supported agriculture, allows participants to have access to locally grown produce by purchasing a “share” of vegetables from a farmer. It has taken off in some areas, but the Fluhartys haven’t found the right audience yet, he said.
Last year, which was a very wet year, he had hundreds of tomato plants die and trouble with insects destroying their strawberries. Since then, he’s been working on field drainage and natural insect deterrents.
To help reach his production goals, they put up a 32-by-96 foot hoop house in December. It is the first in Jefferson County to be built through a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services grant.
The produce is raised organically, but the farm isn’t certified because the paperwork and requirements are so crazy, Crystal said. They decided to farm organically without the certification. They don’t spray for weeds, but use heavy mulching with straw and hay to keep them at bay.
Josh is looking forward to being at full production this year and seeing what the profit will be. Though he plans to start many of his plants in the house, he will move some of them into the hoop house before planting in the field. Others he will grow in the hoop house to accelerate their growth and lengthen their growing season.
He plans to plant 2 acres this year, with more than 1,000 tomatoes, 800 pepper plants, potatoes, carrots, etc. Fluharty also sells many types of greens.
“He adds herbs to the mix to make them extra tasty — that is something he has done that the customers really like,” said Crystal, who teaches high school at Buckeye Local and helps as much as she can.
“Spring gets crazy. Some days, I come home and he goes out and we don’t see him until past dark,” she said. They talked about a hobby farm when dating, she said. “I wasn’t expecting a big farm, but I’m glad we are doing it. The boys love it.”
They attend three farmers markets — Weirton Farmers’ Market and Garden Park in West Virginia and the Steubenville Farmers Market.
The farm added 40 chicks Feb. 26. The goal is for them to be laying by June to sell eggs at the farmers markets. He made a mobile coop from an old wagon frame, allowing the chickens to feast on pasture.
This is his fourth year going to farmers markets. “It takes a couple years to gain the reputation,” he said, and they are getting there. “The ultimate goal would be to sell to restaurants. With a restaurant, I’d know the order, deliver and be done,” Josh said.
This year, they are working to build fence and run water lines, and once that is complete, they will start with raising Angus beef. They bought a house and moved again last summer. The house is 10 minutes from the farm and closer to the school for Crystal.
His parents, Marsha and Charles Fluharty, Ph.D., are planning to move back this spring after his father’s retirement from the University of Iowa. And Josh and Crystal are looking forward to the added help on the farm and with the children.
“I’m in love with the farm; it has always been so special.” Josh recalls working ground, gardening and riding in combines as a child. Even though he is farming alone, he is thankful he has many sounding boards.
“I have so many resources — SWCD, USDA, neighbors, farmers around here, Mom’s master gardener skills,” he said.
“I’m proud to say I’m a farmer. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”
Get to know the Fluhartys
Who: Josh, 39, and Crystal, 35, Fluharty met as students at Northland College, Wisconsin. Crystal is now a high school teacher and Josh is farming full time while they raise their two young boys.
Where: The Foster Fluharty Farm is in Smithfield, Ohio, Jefferson County.
When: Josh quit his landscaping job in 2012 to move back to his family’s farm purchased in 1903. The land hadn’t been farmed since the 1970s.
What: They are raising fruits, vegetables, chickens, goats and hope to start beef this summer
How: They sell produce, eggs and meat through three farmers markets and a CSA.
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