Today’s portraits of progress


Inside today’s Farm and Dairy is the first week of our 2001 Progress Edition: Portraits of Progress. Part II will be a supplement to next week’s paper.

This year’s progress edition is different than any of our previous efforts – we’ve always profiled dairy farms in this progress edition in the past because the issue started as a “June Dairy Month” special section and has just taken off from there. This year, our progress editions will profile all types of farms: beef, dairy, farm market, fruit, sheep and horse.

In 1840, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “…what most astonished me in the United States is not so much the marvelous grandeur of some undertakings as the innumerable multitude of small ones.”

His words ring true when you think about this region’s agriculture – home to innumerable, individually-owned and operated, family farms. Individually, these farms are not imposing. But collectively, they are an economic powerhouse, a community stabilizer, a social foundation. Each farm is, to me, a portrait worth painting, a story worth telling.

The region’s agriculture has many wonderfully crafted portraits of progress – and we feature several in these two progress issues. These top producers track and crunch the numbers, but aren’t afraid to change, to dare to be different, to take risk.

Ohio farmers (and the same could be said of their counterparts in certain areas of surrounding states) are wrestling with a new reality: Last year, according to OSU ag economist Allan Lines, “the average price of farmland in Ohio exceeded that of Illinois, exhibiting a new foundation for land values: nonfarm rather than farm valuation.”

“The ever-increasing demand for nonfarm use of farmland – homes, parks, industry, retail sales, and/or office space – has and will continue to price much of Ohio’s rural landscape beyond agriculture’s ability to retain it in farm-production activities,” Lines writes.

“Within memory, the nation and world said to most of the states east and northeast of Ohio, at least in a general sense, ‘We don’t need you as a major food producer.’ Ohio struggles with the message.”

Those are very powerful, and very scary, words.

The portraits of today’s successful farmers are different than those of their predecessors. The portraits of tomorrow’s successful farmers will be different still. Working more hours and farming more acres are no longer solutions.

Legendary college basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Not all change is progress, but all progress starts with change.”

(Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 1-800-837-3419 or at

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