By: Murphy Deutsch, Emily Starlin, Breanna Sharp, Eric Moore, OSU Animal Science Undergraduate Students
Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team
This weeks Ag-note comes from OSU students Murphy Deutsch, Emily Starlin, Breanna Sharp, and Eric Moore as they discuss a topic that is unique to the small ruminant industry, niche marketing. One of the greatest benefits that small ruminants producers have here in the state of Ohio is the endless opportunity to marketing their livestock products to several different consumers. Whether you are producing breeding stock, show lambs, wool and fiber, or meat products, you will certainly be able to find your niche.
Originally posted in Farm and Dairy-
Maple syrup production at the Brown family farm, north of Fredericktown in Knox County, has been a mainstay for about as long as anyone can remember.
Brothers Dan and Kelly Brown, 63 and 64, have tapped all of their lives, the same is true of their father, the late William Brown, who built the family’s current sugarhouse in 1948.
But the history goes much deeper. In the early 1900s, several thousand people met on the Brown property for a social event called the Waterford Picnic, a carnival that drew people from all over.
And there is evidence that some of the farm’s oldest trees have been tapped since the early 1800s.
“When we cut some of the 200-year-old trees down, we could tell they were tapped,” said Dan Brown.
The family has owned the same land since the 1840s and said it has been continuously tapped since 1948, when Will and his wife, Kate, began with just 600 taps. Today, the Browns have 1,800 taps, and come late winter, it’s just a fact of life that they’re going to find themselves working in the sugarhouse.
The Browns say making syrup is a lot like farming — once you get started, you keep going.
“It’s just what we do,” Dan Brown said. “It’s such a unique product for one thing. The history of it, the whole tradition of it. And I enjoy working in the woods.”
Kelly Brown, who manages the Owl Creek Produce Auction, said it’s fun to make a product people enjoy and want.
“Our track record tells us we make a pretty good product that consumers really like and they tell us that,” he said. “There’s terrific demand for our product.”
Syrup produced on the Brown family farm is marketed under the name Bonhomie Acres, a name Dan and Kelly’s mother, Kate, chose that stood for “gentle nature” or “good-natured man.” According to Dan Brown, it was mostly a way of giving the farm a unique name, outside of just “Brown’s maple farm.”
Bonhomie Acres maple syrup can be found in retail stores as far south as Dayton and Cincinnati, and it is sold locally and also at the farm at 7001 Quaker Road.
The Browns sell between 2,500-3,000 gallons of syrup a year, and it all begins the same way.
In late spring, when the winter freeze begins to break, the sap in the maple trees begins to flow. The freeze-thaw cycle that is typical of February-March keeps the sap flowing, and makes for the most ideal window for collection.
The Browns rely on some of the old-fashioned metal buckets, and they also rely on many miles of plastic tubing that drain near the sugarhouse. They tap about 45 acres of local woodland and rent an additional 90 acres that drains into collection tanks, which has to be trucked to the sugarhouse.
In addition to gravity and the natural flow of the sap, the line system relies on a vacuum pump, which, lowers the pressure outside of the tree and helps stimulate the flow of sap. The trees are unharmed and provide decades of service — some that have lived 200 years.
Inside the sugarhouse, the Browns rely on a 3-by-12-foot oil-fired evaporator, which removes the water from the sap, resulting in maple syrup. The syrup is first stored in barrels, and throughout the year, Dan repackages the syrup into retail containers with the farm’s name on the front.
Dan Brown, who is also president of Ohio Maple Producers Association, said the demand for maple products is strong, because it’s a healthy sweetener, and maple has a unique, natural flavor.
He said Ohio is fortunate when it comes to maple, because producers can reach major population centers in less than an hour, while an operation in Vermont or Canada might have to drive several hours to reach a significant market area.
“To make syrup in Ohio, it’s the best of both worlds,” Dan Brown said. “We have a population with a very large disposable income and if you make a good product, there’s no reason you can’t market it right here in Ohio.”
As president, Brown tries to advocate for the industry and ensure Ohio maple producers have a seat at the table when it comes to important production issues and policies. His father, William Brown, helped run the Malabar Farm maple syrup days for about 30 years, where the family worked to show school children how syrup is made.
Although the farm no longer does tours at its own location, the Browns are supporters of the educational component, and they support the growth of the maple industry across Ohio.
Dan’s wife, Kathie, and Kelly’s wife, Marcia, also help with the operation, along with Dan’s son, Dane, and Kelly’s son, Ross.
During the off-season, the Browns do some crop farming and other activities, but their main focus is maple syrup production.
The past couple years have been difficult for maple producers, due to unseasonably warm temperatures and a lack of normal weather patterns.
The Browns say climate change is definitely impacting what they do, but they’re adjusting.
“I’m sure we’re in a climate change, but we’re not in a weather-changed-forever,” Kelly Brown said. “You go through this stuff. Every once in a while you have a bad year and that’s all there is to it.”
But the Browns aren’t ready to call 2018 a bad year just yet. If they have to work late at night, or late into March, that’s what they’ll do.
“Three good weeks in March and we could make a lot of syrup,” Kelly said.
Even 10 days would make a big improvement, Dan said.
The Browns are hoping that March will be a bumper month, as it has been in the past. And according to the National Weather Service, which shows a lot of up-and-down temperature swings, the Browns might be in for a good month of maple syrup.
Originally posted in Farm and Dairy, February 1, 2018
Author: Chris Kick
SALEM, Ohio — The recently enacted federal food safety law, known as the Food Safety Modernization Act, includes new requirements for maple syrup producers.
The rules differ, depending on the size of operation and how you sell your syrup, and there is still some ambiguity on exactly what a producer must do.
In Ohio and Pennsylvania, maple syrup production is regulated at the state level, and is considered a low-risk food because of its contents and simple method of preparation.
Ohio producers who gather and boil 75 percent or more of their own sap are considered exempt from state inspection, but may be subject to the new federal rule.
Dan Milo, food safety supervisor at the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said his understanding is that producers who wholesale more than they retail need to register with the Food and Drug Administration.
Milo said the online registration is free. If the producer does not have a computer, they can contact their local OSU Extension office for assistance.
Milo said few Ohio operations would likely be large enough to register, but if they are, they would be subject to FDA inspection. His office conducts the state inspections, and also contracts with FDA to provide federal inspections, with the goal of bringing producers into compliance, he said, rather than fined.
In Pennsylvania, Lydia Johnson, who directs the Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services, said Pennsylvania maple syrup producers are required to register with the state, unless the production is done for personal use or close friends and family.
State registration costs $35 and assures the producer adheres to guidelines such as a good physical structure for producing syrup, proper equipment and utensils, rodent control, sanitation and other basic considerations of producing a safe product.
Johnson said she’s telling Pennsylvania producers to register with the FDA, but to seek an exemption from the Preventive Control’s Rule, which allows “small” and “very small” businesses to be exempt, if the syrup production is done on their own farm.
Producers who are granted an exemption would still need to comply with FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices, according to an info sheet provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Maple syrup producers who do not meet this size and on-farm production requirement would likely need to comply with at least some form of the Preventive Controls Rule, according to the department.
Ohio and Pennsylvania are both working with state Extension programs to educate producers on what they need to do.
Gary Graham, maple syrup specialist with Ohio State University Extension, said producers typically have a narrow window of time to register, between October and December, and registration is only open in even years, including this year (2018) and again in 2020.
He’s telling Ohio producers to follow the wholesale versus retail rule, and that if they wholesale more than they retail, they need to register.
Graham said registration has been difficult for some Amish and Mennonite producers, who often do not have a computer or a phone. He said the FDA is accepting hard copy registrations this year, but that in 2020, everything must be done electronically, unless a waiver is requested.
Graham has worked with Milo to give presentations on the new requirements, and the two have also teamed up to publish a 76-page document called A Brief Summary of the Regulations of Maple Syrup Production in Ohio.
The publication is available on the OSU Extension Holmes County website: https://holmes.osu.edu/maple, where you will also find registration forms.
If a producer is still unsure about what to do, or if they are required to register, Graham said they should contact FDA or visit the FDA food safety website: www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/.
By: Carol Hamilton an Extension Educator (Delaware County)
Each time you enter a supermarket, you are faced with nearly 40,000 products to choose from. Each product brightly colored, strategically placed and wordsmithed perfectly to convince you not to leave the store without it. So, how as consumers can we decipher all the information food packages provide and use it to make better purchasing decisions for our families? We have to learn the food label lingo. First, it is important to recognize that all food products have five standard components regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
All food products have five standard components regulated by the FDA.
- Product Identity (product name that accurately describes the package contents)
- Net Content (product quantity or weight)
- Nutrition facts
- Ingredients/ allergen statement
- Signature Line (including company name and address of the manufacturer or distributor)
But most packages contain a slew of additional information that highlights anything from farm practices, to health benefits, to social and economic practices. There are three possible origins of food label claims and statements, 1) government agencies like the USDA and FDA; 2) third-party organizations like American Grassfed®, Non-GMO Project Verified, Fair Trade Certified, and Certified Angus Beef®; and 3) food manufacturers or producers.
Government issued labels were created to: ensure fair competition among producers, provide consumers with basic product information, and most importantly to reduce health and safety risks. Government labels always have the agency from which the standards originate listed, for example USDA organic or Dolphin Safe, United States Department of Commerce. Government standards and record of companies holding their certifications can be accessed online or by contacting the respective agency.
Third-party labels were created to enhance the intelligibility and credibility of certain food attributes through the use of standards, verification, certification, and enforcement. Each organization is responsible for determining their own set of standards that producers must follow to use their trademarked seal. Third-party labels can vary from very strict standards that require yearly audits to very loose standards that are more like a subscription with no verification process. I encourage consumers to do additional research on labels they think align with their values to ensure they match.
Lastly, producers and manufacturers create a number of food label claims and statements to entice consumers. A few of the more current statements include: natural, 100% pure, all, made with real fruit, made with whole grains, lightly-sweetened, a good source of fiber, local, and strengthens your immune system. Be wary of these statements because they are unregulated and defined entirely by the manufacturer.
To learn more, visit my website Understanding Food Labels. Here you will find hundreds of food labels, videos and educational resources that can be used in Extension program efforts.
 Food Marketing Institute. (2017, November 13). Supermarket Facts. Retrieved 2017, from https://www.fmi.org/our-research/supermarket-facts
 Golan, E., Kuchler, F., & Mitchell, L. (2000). Economics of Food Labeling. Washington: Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/41203/18885_aer793.pdf?v=41063
 Silverglade, B., & Heller, I. R. (2010). Food Labeling Chaos. Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest. Retrieved from https://cspinet.org/sites/default/files/attachment/food_labeling_chaos_report.pdf
2018 Knox County Beekeepers Association Beekeeping Classes
Beginners Beekeeping Class 1 Beginner Beekeeping Class 2
Date: February 10, 2018 Date: February 24, 2018
Cost: $45 per person Cost: $45 per person
*Lunch will be provided *Lunch will be provided
*Book included: “First Lessons in Beekeeping” *KCBA Advanced Manual included
*Free membership to Knox County Beekeepers Association
*Free one-year membership to the Ohio State Beekeepers Association
Classes Location: Hunter Hall, 211 South Main St., Mt. Vernon, OH 43050
Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Hunter Hall and The location of the Happy Bean Coffee Shop
PLEASE REGISTER BY: February 5, 2018 to Jeff Gabric: 515-450-1359
Students are free but must register.
Beginners Beekeeping Class ONE Beginner Beekeeping Class TWO
February 10th, 2018 February 24th, 2018
8:00 to 9:00 Registration Coffee and Donuts Registration Coffee And Donuts
9:00 – 9:15 So You Want to Become a Beekeeper? Hive Inspections
9:15 – 9:45 What You Need to Get Started Hive Management
9:45 – 10:00 Hive Parts and Accessories Over-Wintering Bees
10:00 -10:15 Break Break
10:15 -10:45 Where to Get Bees Honey Bee Biology
10:45 -11:00 How to Install Bees Dealing with Varroa Mites and SHB
11:00 -11:30 How to Begin Working with Bees Re-queening a Colony
11:30 -12:30 Lunch Lunch
12:30 -12:45 Choosing a Location. Making Increases and Nucs
12:45 -1:00 Sources of Bees Swarm Prevention
1:00 – 1:30 Honey Bee Biology Honey Production
1:30 – 1:45 Break Break
1:45- 2:45 Now What? Putting it all Together Laying Workers and Merging
2:45 – 3:00 Round-table discussion Feeding Bees
SEE US AT: www.knoxbees.com
Southern Ohio Specialty Crop Conference, February 6, 2017
This is an excellent conference for specialty crop growers. We have held a grower school in Southwest Ohio for over 30 years, but a few years ago we changed the location and expanded the course offering. There are 25 different class options to choose from and private pesticide re-certification credits are available for core, 3 and 5. Fertilizer re-certification credits are also available. The conference web page is http://go.osu.edu/swohfvsc. The cost is $50 and includes a continental breakfast, a buffet lunch and a USB memory stick with all of the available conference handouts. Registration closes February 4th.
Garth Ruff, OSU Extension Educator, Henry County
I have always been curious about what goes through a person’s mind while shopping at the grocery store. In the past couple of weeks, I have read several articles regarding consumer surveys, gauging consumer wants and purchasing habits when at the grocery store. I shared one such article in my weekly online newsletter titled, Informed Consumers Won’t Pay More For ‘Natural’. In this experiment researchers at Arizona State University polled 663 beef eaters about their willingness to pay for steak labeled with different attributes: one of which being natural. Half of the participants were provided with the definition of natural and half were not.
In summary, those who were provided the definition of ‘natural’ were not willing to pay the extra price per pound for the natural label alone. However, those consumers who were not informed on the definition were willing to pay a premium for the product. This leads me to ask the following question: Are you an informed consumer?
In case it wasn’t clear, and often times it’s not; USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service considers all fresh meat “natural.” However, beef that carries a “natural” label cannot contain any artificial flavors, coloring, chemical preservatives or other artificial ingredients. Additionally, natural products must not be more than “minimally processed.” Ground beef falls under the minimally processed umbrella, so it can be labeled natural.
Label claims on food can be very confusing to consumers, and adding unnecessary information would only add to that confusion. Some additional label claims include; free range, pasture raised, antibiotic free, partially produced with genetic engineering and a whole list of others. While some of these statements accurately describe a product, they may also be misleading.
Research tends to show that many consumers are not always informed with regards to claims on food labels. Another study from Oklahoma State University polled 1,000 consumers, of which 8 of 10 supported mandatory labeling of DNA on food products. This one leaves me scratching my head. I understand that most consumers probably receive little gain from understanding genetics and DNA, but I would sure hope that they understand that the vast majority of food comes from living organisms. Somewhere along the lines it appears those folks removed from science and agriculture have forgotten that very simple, but important concept.
Ilya Somin, in an editorial for the Washington Post, purposed the following label in the event that the government mandated a DNA label claim.
WARNING: This product contains deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The Surgeon General has determined that DNA is linked to a variety of diseases in both animals and humans. In some configurations, it is a risk factor for cancer and heart disease. Pregnant women are at very high risk of passing on DNA to their children.
While I share this suggested label in good humor, it just goes to show the value of unbiased scientific research, which happens to be one of the guiding principles of the Extension system. Take some time while shopping this holiday season to research some of the food labels of the various products that you purchase and become and informed consumer. There is a wealth of information on a food label, from nutrition, production practices, and marketing. If you ever have a question regarding food labeling or food safety, give us a shout.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture, Division of Food Safety is announcing a Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Training on February 20, 2018 to be held at the OSU Extension and Research Station (aka Vegetable Crops Branch or North Central Ag Research Station) office building meeting room, 1165 County Road 43, Fremont, OH 43420. The training will be one day, 8:30AM-4:30PM (with an hour lunch, not provided).
The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) is a collaboration between Cornell University, FDA, and USDA to prepare fresh produce growers to meet the regulatory requirements included in the United States Food and Drug Administration’s proposed Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule.
There is no cost for the training or training manual. Class size is limited to 30 and first priority will be given to growers that must comply with the Produce Safety Rules (§ 112 Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption). Regulation exempt growers are also welcome to apply for the training. The regulations are being phased in from 2015 to 2024.
The PSA Grower Training Course is one way to satisfy the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule requirement outlined in § 112.22(c) which states ‘At least one supervisor or responsible party for your farm must have successfully completed food safety training at least equivalent to that received under standardized curriculum recognized as adequate by the Food and Drug Administration.’
Here are the key points to know about the training:
For more information, contact
Matt Fout (614-600-4272)
Produce Safety Manager, Division of Food Safety
Ohio Department of Agriculture