The Urban Farm at Southeast Ohio Regional Kitchen

I am starting a project at the Southeast Regional Kitchen here in Hocking County that has the potential to impact many people in the Buckeye Hills region in a positive way.  The Southeast Ohio Regional Kitchen is a part of HAPCAP(Hocking, Athens, Perry Community Action) and is also part of the Southeast Ohio Regional Food Bank.   This Food Bank is the distribution hub for Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Morgan, Perry, Vinton and Washington counties.

In the ten county service area 1 in 6 individuals are considered food insecure including 1 in 4 children.  Our aim in this project to try to improve on those numbers.  In Hocking county we have many trees, but few food producing farms.  My project is to partner with the SEO Regional Kitchen to start an urban farm on unused land on their grounds to grow our own food.   My farming partner will be Sam Gress, Food Services Coordinator at the Kitchen.  We will start by providing food for seniors in Hocking county using their federal Senior Farmer’s Market vouchers and then expand the farm.

To start the farm, we need to start growing something.   Sam and I put in a perennial herb garden last week which once we finish our paperwork with the state, makes us farmers.  We started with a weedy overgrown ornamental bed:

Phase I: Perennial herb garden

photo 3


Cleared out the weeds and amended with compost

composted herb bed2


And then planted three flats of donated perennial herbs which can be sold or added to the commodity distributions or in the cooking/processing for meals on wheels. (Thanks to Rick Webb, Webb Perennials, Logan OH for the herbs and Athens-Hocking Recycling center Athens, OH for the mulch)


herb bed1


Phase II of the project will be started in fall of 2016 and will be the addition to six raised beds to start vegetable production.

Phase III of the project tentatively scheduled for 2018 is the addition of more raised beds and a possible hoop house/high tunnel for seed propagation and season extension.

We hope to expand distribution to other counties in the future.  The Buckeye Hills counties that are served by the SEO Regional Kitchen are Athens, Hocking, Meigs, Morgan, Perry and Washington.

Oak Leaf Itch Mite

A couple weeks ago a story was circulating on social media about oak mites in the Cleveland area. Reports indicated that people were being bitten by the mites and that the bites could cause startling skin reactions. It sparked quite a bit of discussion and concern in social circles, giving me the inspiration to write about the tiny critters.

The oak leaf itch mite (pictured below), Pyemotes herfsi, is a mite that primarily feeds on midge flies. Midge flies create galls (also pictured below) on the margins of oak leaves, where their larvae feed and grow. The mites colonize the galls and feed on the larvae. This feeding pattern makes the oak mite preferential to oak trees, particularly pin oaks and red oaks. The mites are so tiny that they cannot be seen by the naked eye. The interaction between oak mites and humans occurs when a person comes near an infested oak tree. The mites may fall from the tree’s canopy or be blown from the tree by the wind, inadvertently landing on a passerby. Then mites may accidently bite the person. Humans are not a host for these mites. They will not colonize in homes or cars or on pets.

The oak mite’s bite can produce an itchy, swollen, and red rash that may be accompanied by small raised bumps. The bites themselves do not leave lasting damage, but itching the irritating rash could lead to a secondary bacterial infection. Therefore, calamine lotions and hydrocortisone creams are often recommended to reduce inflammation and itching.

The mites are most active in late summer and into the fall. Most people encounter them while raking leaves. Controlling the mite population is difficult and rarely accomplished, because the mites find protection within the leaf galls created by the midge flies. The best way to avoid the mites is to limit time near infested trees, launder clothes, and shower promptly after working near the tree.

There have been reports of the oak leaf itch mites in the Southeastern Ohio region, but there is no need to panic. They mite populations will begin to die off with the first frost. In addition, the midge flies and the mites rarely have a detrimental impact on the overall health of oak trees in the landscape.OakItchMiteUSDA_2016