Ride in a hot air balloon. Go whale-watching. Learn how to waltz. Solve Rubik’s Cube. See Stonehenge. They’re all possibilities for a bucket list of unique things people dream of accomplishing.
I checked off one of my own recently: Experiencing the Farm Science Review.
The Farm Science Review takes place for three days each September at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center, located at the intersection of U.S. 40 and S.R. 38, two miles north of London, Ohio. This year marked the 54th annual Review and the 34th to take place at the center. Over 125,000 people attended the Review this year.
The property was once owned by Molly Brown Caren, a St. Joseph Academy schoolmate of my grandmother’s who grew up on her father’s fruit farm just north of Worthington. Molly attended Trinity College in Washington, DC for two years, then returned to Columbus and graduated from The Ohio State University in 1935. After her parents died, she inherited the fruit farm and managed it for the next 25 years, living there with her husband, attorney John Caren. Ohio State agriculture professors took their students to Molly’s farm so that they could observe pest control, soil improvement and other innovative farming practices that her father had learned from extension agents.
In 1979, Molly decided to trade her fruit farm for a Madison County livestock farm. She enrolled in livestock management courses at Ohio State as part of Program 60, an initiative encouraging older adults to return to the classroom. In 1982, Molly sold almost 1,000 acres of another one of her family’s farms in Madison County to Ohio State as the new site of the Farm Science Review.
Hosted by Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, the Review provides farmers, gardeners and agricultural enthusiasts with an opportunity to see new equipment, learn about new developments in agriculture, and to enjoy spending time with friends they haven’t seen in a while. It’s a huge area to navigate, and cleverly named streets lead to the most fascinating things.
My dad and I first made tracks to 910 Wheat Street, the Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives building.
Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, the statewide service organization and power supplier for the electric co-ops serving Ohio, has been providing electricity to Ohio’s rural communities since 1941. During my days as an Oxford homeowner, I became a fan of the Butler Rural Electric Cooperative.
We posed for the cover of Country Living, the Cooperatives’ magazine that not only relays industry news, but also publishes terrific recipes, fascinating destinations throughout Ohio, and an informative calendar of events happening around the Buckeye State. Digital issues of Country Living are available here.
We registered to win a leaf blower, then snacked on popcorn as we watched children ride an energy bike, pedaling fast to create energy to power various household appliances. We took home stickers, temporary tattoos and a coloring book featuring CFL Charlie, a compact fluorescent light bulb, and LED Lucy, a light emitting diode light bulb. We played Co-Op Jeopardy, winning deluxe yardsticks when we correctly answered the $400 question, “Where do you go for updates on co-op business?,” by answering “The annual meeting!”
But what we had really come to see was one of the four daily microwave cooking demonstrations given by home economist Patricia Miller and Sherry Bickel. For their 27th annual appearance at the Review, the pair whipped up Mexican dip, smoked sausage and apples, macaroni and cheese with cauliflower, and pumpkin spice cake, as granola bread baked in a bread machine. We left with a complimentary cookbook featuring all the recipes they demonstrated.
Totally stuffed from our tasting plate, we began exploring the rest of the Review. There’s no shortage of things to do.
Harvesting, strip-tilling, planting and tillage demonstrations take place each day. Hundreds of demonstration plots illustrate the research that OSU Extension’s Agronomic Crops Team conducts with sod, corn hybrids, popcorn, and soybeans. Attendees can talk with agronomists about weed control, cover crops, nutrient management and soil quality.
Over 600 exhibitors showed off the latest in all-terrain vehicles, combines, harvesters, and construction and earth-moving equipment; alternative energy; animal care products; crop consulting; dairy products and equipment; drills, planters and seeders; feed; fencing; fertilizer; forage and hay equipment; generators; grain bins, dryers and handling equipment; agricultural chemicals; horticultural and landscape equipment; irrigation equipment; lawn and garden equipment; lumber, forestry and sawmill equipment; scale and weigh wagons; snow handling equipment; sprayers and storage tanks; tillage equipment; livestock and cargo trailers; tractors and trucks. We marveled at how huge farming machinery can be; some looked like they were straight from a Star Wars set.
Almost 200 educational sessions covered chainsaw safety and maintenance; how drones can provide aerial imagery to illustrate heat stress on crops; new techniques in corn harvesting, field drainage installation, the latest in grain handling automation, growing fruit crops in containers, keeping bees, vermicomposting and more. “Ride and Drive” activities provided attendees with the chance to learn how to drive equipment in challenging field and road conditions.
Local 4-H clubs offered engaging educational activities for young and old alike who support 4-H’s commitment to clearer thinking, greater loyalty, larger service and better living.
Milk delivery wagons, a clover huller, a reaper, garden tractors, and a wooden plow were displayed as examples of farm machinery, garden equipment and kitchen utensils made between 1800 and 1930.
There was no chance of going hungry at the Review. Members of the Buckeye Dairy Club served milkshakes, while students from the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Saddle and Sirloin, an animal science club, grilled pork chops and other locally-sourced meats. Community-based groups like the Kiwanis Club of Hilliard prepared chicken and noodles, corn muffins and bean and ham soup. The OSU Agricultural Education Society served Schmidt’s Bahama Mama sausages, bratwurst, hot dogs, German potato salad, sauerkraut and cream puffs.
The Utzinger Memorial Garden is the Review’s charming gem. This lovely place tended by Madison County Master Gardeners featured displays of fairy gardens,
straw bale gardening,
and thriving vegetable gardens planted with Malabar climbing spinach, melons and purple hyacinth beans.Some Master Gardener volunteers were on hand to answer gardening questions. Others demonstrated visitors how easy it is to prepare grilled fruits and vegetables, serving samples of grilled bananas, watermelon, pears, peaches, pineapple, romaine lettuce and asparagus. In the garden’s gazebo, we learned about diabetes gardening from Shari Gallup and Lori Swihart of the OSU Extension in Newark. The pair shared facts about stevia, a plant with naturally sweet leaves that is 200 times sweeter in the same concentration as sugar, gave us hints on starting and caring for a garden plot planted with “Health Kick” tomatoes, an excellent source of Vitamin C with 50 percent more of the cancer-fighting antioxidant Lycopene; as well as basil, broccoli, spearmint, dandelion greens and garlic, all of which lower glucose and are helpful in controlling blood sugar levels. You can watch Shari and Lori’s “Garden to Plate” videos and recipes, including those for salsa, cucumber dill dip, pesto, green beans and more, here.We boarded a tractor-pulled wagon and took a short ride across Interstate 70 to the Gwynne Conservation Area.Here, we boarded another tram and saw plantings of Indian grass, Big Bluestem and other prairie grasses, a pond where wood ducks live, grafted nut and black walnut trees cared for by the Ohio Nut Growers Association, bat boxes, plantations of black walnuts, pines and hardwood trees, an elm restoration area, a pawpaw patch and The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Cabin, which features a deck and stairs made from 50,000 recycled milk jugs. Back at the Review’s main exhibit area, we stopped by the building hosted by Ohio Farmer, a newspaper that covers the latest in crops, machinery and technology, conservation, farm management and livestock. Early versions of the newspaper included The Ohio Cultivator (1845) and The Ohio Farmer (1851); the two merged in 1861 and the paper became known as Ohio Farmer.
“Brown Diaries Reveal History,” an article I wrote for the November 2008 issue of Ohio Farmer, introduced readers to Waldo Brown, associate editor of Ohio Farmer from 1877 to 1897 who grew flowers, fruits and vegetables at his East View Farm outside Oxford. Seven of his diaries at Miami University Libraries’ Walter Havighurst Special Collections provide insights into farming practices from 1857 through 1917. Hoping that other farmers might benefit from getting together to discuss common challenges, Brown organized farmers’ clubs in local communities, lectured for the Ohio Farmers’ Institute, operated a mail-order seed business, contributed more than 1,000 articles to publications, edited the first farm page for the Cincinnati Enquirer from 1872 to 1877, and was agricultural editor of the Cincinnati Gazette until his death in 1907. He wrote several books on farming, including Success in Farming: A Series of Practical Talks with Farmers (1881) and Experiments in Farming (1905).
The 55th Annual Farm Science Review will take place September 19-21, 2017.