Took a trip out to Burton Ohio, where I spent the first 14 years of my life, to do some photography. Raining off and on so did not get too much done. On the way just outside the village I stopped at Sunrise Farm. They sell mostly flowers but also have local fruit and produce from the farm. It’s still kind of earl in the growing season so they did not have much yet, though they did have some sweet corn and I got a few ears.
As I cruised around it was sad to see so many small family farms had been either subdivided , left to fall into ruin or where the fields were still being planted but the farms themselves were no longer there. The fields having been rented out to some others to plant. Usually in corn. I had a short talk with the lady at the register at Sunrise Farms and told her that members of my family were coming up to the Geauga County Fair at the end of August. She said it has changed a lot. I said I know. I remember when the first thing you saw after entering the fair was the 4H and FFA exhibits and now they are off on to the side.
The reality is though that unless a farmer can afford the new fancy gadgetry, farming is still hard ass back breaking work. Most cannot and you will not get rich farming. Break even and feed you family maybe. Unless the elements and varmints work against you heavily. As oft times happens. From before sunrise to after sunset. And in the early days before steam and the rail roads, even more so as this essay outlines. A lot of people lost their farms during the summer of 1816.
Most of these family farms had been handed down through the generations and the kids had no aspiration to become farmers. Like our milk man whose son wanted to be an engineer and not run the dairy. His father was inconsolable and my father – a guidance counsellor – had to go over and a calm him down and tell him that children do not always want to follow in their parent’s foot steps.
A family friend lived on and worked his mother’s farm to help keep food costs down and often we would receive baskets of excess produce from them. He also had a few cows and chickens and sold the milk to the local dairy in milk cans. Many dairy farmers did this at that time.
It was common for people then to either have their own kitchen garden or purchase their fruits and vegetables from road side stands in front of the farms. Conversation often was where and who had the best corn or beans or tomatoes or apples …
Then there were those who bought small farms because of the housing shortage after WWII, did not necessarily want to farm them but found the added benefit of being able to grow their food a plus. Then sold the farm and moved on.
With the renewed interest in locally grown food, non GNO and Organic a new approach and interest in small family farms has sprung up. CSA or Community Supported Agriculture where a consumer buys a share in the farm(s) seasonal produce and receives deliveries each week of fresh produce that is in season. There can be as many as ten farms involved or as few as one. Like Geauga Family Farms in North East Ohio, which is mostly Amish farms. Or the Central Roots Farm in Ohio City, Most also have a farm produce stand as well. Some even include meats and poultry.
However if you are new to this be advised. The produce you get is not picture perfect looking produce. It may have dirt on it or even small bugs. Like one would get picking it out of the ground. Since that is where it came from. Generally though it won’t have pesticides or herbicides.
As a baby boomer I find the renewed interest mildly amusing as my family got nearly all of our fruits, vegetables and meats locally. Either from our own garden or from a stand some place. We got our meats from a local packing house. Even pork. Bought it in bulk and froze it up.
And it really does taste much better than trucked in supermarket stuff.