Know Ohio: Ohio's Agriculture

BOY, IS ANYONE ELSE HUNGRY? IT’S GETTING CLOSE TO LUNCH TIME…AND, THANKFULLY, I’VE GOT LOTS OF DELICIOUS OPTIONS! BUT DO YOU EVER THINK ABOUT YOUR FOOD – I MEAN REEEAALLY THINK ABOUT IT. ALMOST EVERYTHING WE EAT WAS GROWN FOR US BY A FARMER! AND IT’S NOT JUST OUR FOOD --- SOMETIMES FARMERS HAD A HAND IN THE CLOTHES ON OUR BACK AND THE FUEL IN OUR TANKS!

MAYBE SOME OF YOU LIVE ON – OR NEAR – A FARM! THAT WOULDN’T BE TOO SURPRISING, BECAUSE GUESS WHAT OHIO’S NUMBER ONE INDUSTRY IS? I HOPE YOU GUESSED FARMING – BECAUSE IT’S FARMING. BUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT FARMING AS AN INDUSTRY, WE TEND TO CALL IT AGRICULTURE. THAT’S JUST A FANCY WORD FOR ALL THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF FARMING – FROM RAISING ANIMALS TO GROWING CROPS. BUT FARMING IS ALSO ONE OF OHIO’S OLDEST PROFESSIONS.

BEFORE OHIO EVEN OFFICIALLY EXISTED – THE PEOPLE WHO LIVED HERE MADE THEIR LIVING FARMING. OHIO’S NATIVE AMERICANS GREW CORN, BEANS, AND ALL KINDS OF VEGGIES, LIKE SQUASH, SWEET POTATOES, AND CABBAGE! AND THE FIRST EUROPEAN SETTLERS IN OHIO ALSO TOOK UP THE TRADE!

BEFORE THE 1800’S, THERE WAS NO KROGER OR GIANT EAGLE -- IF YOU WANTED TO EAT SOMETHING – YOU HAD TO GROW IT YOURSELF AND THAT’S EXACTLY HOW THE FIRST OHIOANS FED THEIR FAMILIES. THEY RAISED WHEAT, CORN, AND OTHER GRAIN CROPS. BY 1849, OHIO PRODUCED MORE CORN THAN ANY OTHER STATE, AND THAT’S STILL ONE OF OUR TOP CROPS TODAY!

BUT OUR NUMBER ONE CROP IS THE SOYBEAN! SOYBEANS AND CORN ARE NUMBER 1 AND 2 BECAUSE THEY’RE SO VERSATILE. EVEN IF YOU DON’T SEE THESE GUYS ON YOUR DINNER PLATES, THEY CAN BE USED TO FEED ANIMALS, OR USED TO MAKE BIOFUEL, SWEETENERS, AND COOKING OILS. AND WE’RE COMING UP WITH NEW WAYS TO USE THEM EVERY DAY – LIKE IN PLASTICS AND BUILDING MATERIALS. OF COURSE, HERE IN OHIO WE ALSO HAVE PLENTY OF DAIRY FARMS, HOG FARMS, AND CHICKEN FARMS TOO!

IF YOU’VE DRIVEN AROUND OUR STATE, CHANCES ARE YOU’VE SEEN ONE OF THESE FARMS IN ACTION. BUT, SADLY, THE NUMBER OF FARMS IN OUR STATE IS ON THE DECLINE. BY THE EARLY 1900’S, A MOST OHIOANS WERE LIVING IN URBAN AREAS. AND TODAY, FARMERS, AS A GROUP, ARE GETTING OLDER AND OLDER – MOST FARM OWNERS IN OHIO ARE OVER 65 YEARS OLD. AND YOUNGER GENERATIONS AREN’T EMBRACING THIS WAY OF LIFE -- THAT’S BAD NEWS FOR US, BECAUSE, WITHOUT FARMS, WE HAVE NO LOCAL FOOD SOURCE!

BECAUSE THIS WAY OF LIFE IS SLOWLY FADING, THE OHIO DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE STARTING HONORING FARMS THAT HAVE CONTINUED TO OPERATE. THE CENTURY FARM PROGRAM IS MEANT TO RECOGNIZE THE MANY CONTRIBUTIONS OF FAMILY FARMS THAT HAVE BEEN AROUND FOR OVER 100 YEARS! IN 100 YEARS YOU CAN GROW A LOT OF FOOD.

AND WE CAN DO OUR PART TOO. A GREAT WAY TO SUPPORT OHIO FARMERS IS TO HEAD TO A FARMER’S MARKET. THERE, YOU CAN MEET THE FARMERS THAT GROW YOUR FRUITS AND VEGGIES – AND BUY FOOD DIRECTLY FROM THEM! MY FAVORITE THING TO BUY FROM MY LOCAL FARMER’S MARKET IS OHIO’S OFFICIAL STATE FRUIT: THE TOMATO!

SOMETIMES IT’S FUN FOR CITY FOLK LIKE ME TO TALK TO FARMERS AT FARMER’S MARKETS AND MAYBE GET SOME TIPS FOR MY OWN SAD, SUFFERING GARDEN. IT’S A GOOD THING OHIOANS TODAY DON’T NEED TO GROW THEIR OWN FOOD LIKE THEY HUNDREDS OF YEARS AGO! WITH MY BLACK THUMB OF DEATH, I’D PROBABLY STARVE. SPEAKING OF…LUNCH TIME!

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