Northeast Ohio Small Farm Conference to be held on March 25 in Massillon

by Rory Lewandowski, Wayne County Extension Educator

The 2017 Northeast Ohio “Living Your Small Farm Dream” small farm conference will be held on Saturday, March 25 at the RG Drage Career Center in Massillon located at 2800 Richville Dr. SW Massillon, 44646.  The conference is a program of the OSU Extension Small Farm Program and will provide farm owners and landowners with the opportunity to learn more about skills useful on a small farm, how to make their small farms work better, expand their operations, or gather ideas on how to utilize rural acreage.

Participants will choose from more than 25 different sessions offered over 4 breakout sessions during the day.  General topic tracks include horticulture production, livestock and aquaculture, small farm management, natural resources, marketing and selling.  Presenters include OSU Extension specialists and educators as well as USDA agency personnel, and area farmer entrepreneurs.  The trade show represents industries, businesses, services and organizations that provide products or services utilized on a small farm or rural property.

A sampling of some of the topics that will be covered at the conference includes:

  • Chainsaw Safety, Maintenance and Operation
  • Raising sheep and goats
  • Grass-fed Beef Production
  • Fruit tree pruning
  • Hobby Maple Syrup Production
  • Fruit Tree and Small Fruit Disease Management and Prevention
  • Micro Greens Production
  • Vegetable Production and Season Extension with Tunnels
  • Using and calibrating hand held sprayers on the farm
  • Growing Shitake mushrooms
  • Selling eggs, poultry, produce and cottage foods
  • Marketing Meat Goats
  • Renting and Leasing Farmland
  • Renewable Energy
  • Small Farm Tax Issues
  • Aquaculture Opportunities
  • Vegetable Disease Diagnostics

The Chainsaw Safety, Maintenance and Operation topic as well as the Vegetable Production and Season Extension with Tunnels are both super sessions that extend over two break-out session time periods.  The vegetable production and season extension with tunnels session will actually start at the OARDC high tunnels in Wooster and then move to the RG Drage Center for the in-door portion of the session.  Participants may elect to do only the Wooster part, only the RG Drage Center part or both parts of this topic.

The conference begins with registration at 8:00 am, and an opening general session at 9:00 am.  The conference concludes at approximately 3:45 pm following the final breakout session.  Registration cost is $60 per person, which includes lunch and morning refreshments.  The registration deadline is March 17.  For those who are interested in attending both the Women in Agriculture conference ( at the same location on March 24 plus the small farm conference on March 25 there is a discounted registration fee of $100 to attend both conferences.  Student discounts are also available.

A conference brochure and registration form along with descriptions of all the breakout sessions as well as on-line registration is available on the OSU Extension Small Farm Program web site at: .  Questions can also be directed to the Wayne County Extension office at 330-264-8722.


Employers Must Use New 1-9 Form Beginning January 22, 2017

by Peggy Hall

Beginning January 22, 2017, employers must use a new version of Form I-9 for employment eligibility verification of new hires.  The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) revised Form I-9  last November and gave employers a short grace period for making the conversion to the new form, dated 11/14/16.  The new form is available on the USCIS website at

Employers will  notice several improvements to the new I-9:

  • The instructions are now separate from the form and include specific guidance on each section.
  • The form is much more computer-friendly, with drop-down lists, calendars, on screen prompts and instructions for each field, a “start over” button and easy access to full instructions.
  • The employer may now list more than one preparer and translator who assisted in completion of the form.
  • In the first section, the employer must list only “other last names used” rather than “other names used.”
  • A new “additional information” box provides space for the employer to note important information for the employer’s purposes such as additional documents presented, employee termination dates or form retention dates.

Employers must complete a Form I-9 to verify the identity and employment authorization of every individual hired for employment.  For more information, see our previous post on Form I-9, and visit the USCIS’s “I-9 Central” at


Join the Ohio Women in Agriculture Learning Network

by: Gigi Neal, OSU Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources- Clermont County

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, 30% of operators are women on the national level. In Ohio, 28% of operators are female: 31,413 women of 113,624 total operators. Ohio’s largest concentration of female farm operators is in its 10 eastern counties, which boast more than 500 women farm operators per county.

The goal of the Ohio Women in Agriculture Learning Network (OWIALN) is to help women in agriculture improve their quality of life by providing them with resources to make better business decisions, while maintaining a balance with family and personal obligations.

This national initiative is developing a new portal for education, technical assistance and support of women farmers, ranchers and producers. The OWIALN shares the same goals and collaborates on programs with the eXtension Women in Agriculture Community of Practice at

Join us for educational workshops, eNewsletters, webinars and more. To join the Ohio Women in Agriculture Learning Network, contact coordinators Gigi Neal at 513-732-7070 or or Heather Neikirk at 330-830-7700 or Visit our website at or like us at Ohio Women in Agriculture Learning Network on Facebook.





Annie’s Project Programs

by: Gigi Neal, OSU Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources- Clermont County

Do you have a calendar that is color-coded because of all the functions that happen within your family? Then do you look at it and wonder, “How in the world am I going to manage all these items plus manage a farm?” Juggling work and home seems to be a natural state for many women, but when you add working or managing the family farm – whew! How do you make all the decisions for production, stewardship and family?

Just imagine if you had the tools to assist you and your partner in making farming decisions to help build a more successful enterprise, while balancing your life. Annie’s Project is the answer for all women wanting to strengthen their role in the agricultural business. Annie’s Project emphasizes empowering farm women to become better stewards of the land and business partners in the agricultural world through decision making and building networks.

Annie’s National Network Initiative for Educational Success (Annie’s) is a six week course founded on Risk Management Education for Farm and Ranch Women through production, financial, market, human resources and legal risks. These sessions foster problem solving, record keeping and decision-making skills in farm women. Many of the women develop a lasting camaraderie with the other class participants through conversation and discussion, which further enhances learning.

OSU Extension will offer the original Annie’s Project program, which focuses on five areas of risk facing today’s farm businesses. These program series are scheduled across Ohio:

  • Lucas and Henry County area at The Anderson’s Activity Building in Maumee on Monday evenings from Feb. 9 to March 16, 2015. Contact Beth Scheckelhoff at 419-592-0806 or or Amy Stone at 419-213-4254 or
  • Paulding County area at the Youth Leadership Center in Paulding on Monday evenings from March 16 to April 20, 2015. Contact Sarah Noggle at 419-399-8225 or
  • Washington County currently has a program in progress and is having a very successful event that concludes Feb. 9.

Future program series are being planned and additional information may be found at under Ohio Women in Agriculture Learning Network programs and events. For more information regarding Annie’s Project, contact Gigi Neal at 513-732-7070 or or Christine Kendle at 330-339-2337 or Visit Annie’s Project National Website at

To join the Ohio Women in Agriculture Learning Network, contact Gigi Neal at 513-732-7070 or or Heather Neikirk at 330-830-7700 or Visit our website at or like Ohio Women in Agriculture Learning Network on Facebook.





2015 Ohio Vineyard Custom Rate Survey Being Conducted

by David Marrison, OSU Extension

OSU Extension is asking for your assistance in securing up-to-date information about the fee to perform tasks in Ohio vineyards.  Many vineyards across Ohio hire machinery operations and other vineyard related work to be completed by others. This is often due to lack of proper equipment, lack of time or lack of expertise for a particular operation.  Many vineyards do not own equipment for every possible job they may encounter and may, instead of purchasing the equipment needed, seek out someone with the proper tools necessary to complete the job. To date, no survey has been conducted to analyze custom rates for vineyard work in Ohio. We are asking for your assistance in responding to this inaugural Ohio Vineyard Custom Rate Survey.

Please respond even if you only have a few rates to report.  Please report for what you have paid to hire work or what you charge if you perform custom work. Custom Rates should include all ownership costs of implement & tractor (if needed), operator labor, fuel and lube.  All data will be reported as averages/range in the final report. Thank you for your participation in this survey.  More information can be received by calling OSU Extension-Ashtabula County at 440-576-9008 or by emailing

Click here to access the Ohio Vineyard Custom Survey- 2015

OSU Extension Joins Effort to Revise Agricultural Labor Camp Rules

By:  Francisco A. Espinoza

In fall of 2013, Extension, through the Ag & Hort Labor Education Program, joined the Ohio Department of Health’s Agricultural Labor Camp Rules Review Committee.  The Committee membership eventually had representatives from Farm Bureau, ODJFS, ODH, ABLE Legal Services, county health departments, and agricultural employers from across the state.  Winter and spring Committee meetings were held, and suggested revisions were finalized by summer.  The following is a summary by Nolan Stevens, J.D., Public Policy Officer for the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs. To read more click here.

Outlook on Hispanic Labor

By: Francisco A. Espinoza

An Opening Word

Both producers and labor look for a good season and good profits.  If everyone feels rewarded, successful, and happy at the end of the season, most likely their outlook for the coming year is also going to be positive. Growers will plant again and workers will head north, returning for another profitable season.  But there is no guarantee.  Every year brings potential for good and bad. And there are some indicators for the 2014 season.

Traditional Choice of State

Hispanic farm labor decides where to work for the season not much differently than anyone else seeking employment.  Chief considerations revolve around earning potential, work conditions, and community amenities providing for good housing, family needs, and local services.  Of course, details differentiate between a local Ohio resident and a migrating family, but here are some factors Hispanic labor utilizes in choosing which state they will travel to each season:

  1. Potential for profits:  Simple. Workers look for states where they can make money.
  2. Crop Calendar:  States/employers that offer an extended season of work, either through a single employer or several across the state, will attract workers, who do not want to spend their profits and time on traveling expenses and inconveniences.
  3. Historical contact:  Labor will return as long as their experiences with employer/state/region have been positive.  If so, no surprise that families sometimes have returned for generations.
  4. Good work environment and conditions: These include issues of safety and division of work.
  5. Familiar crops and work:  Workers will choose what they do best, and most profitably. Some even specialize, perhaps looking only to pickles as the best economic choice.

Spring Trip to Florida

March 2014, staff from Ohio’s Teaching & Mentoring Communities (TMC), providers of Migrant Head Start, traveled to Florida to meet with a Head Start agency serving farmworker families, some of which work seasonally in Ohio.  TMC wanted to address the decreasing numbers of children and families participating in Ohio Migrant Head Start, looking toward the coming 2014 season.  Their contact with migrant families revealed some indicators of concern for traveling north.

 Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), unsurprisingly, was of chief concern.  A high percentage of labor is reported as undocumented and, therefore, unauthorized to work.  The risk of apprehension and deportation while traveling, or even while working up north, causes labor to hesitate in deciding.  States with proven enforcement, like Alabama and Georgia, are seen as barriers to travel.  Workers would like to have Florida issue some form of license ID that would allow them to drive north legally. Also basic to worker consideration is the cost of travel, such as gasoline prices. Overall, lack of CIR is the greatest concern for Hispanic migrant labor.

Implications for Ohio

Early planting of specialty crops and some greenhouse activity calls for labor. With spring conditions finally opening up the season, recruitment of farm labor intensifies.  Though it is still too early to make a definitive determination of labor availability, planting season has arrived.  With it will come some serious questions for producers.  Is the farm labor contractor (FLC) having success recruiting workers. Will emphasis be on hiring more local/seasonal labor to mix with the migrant workforce.  If there is a decrease in Florida workers, is a return to recruiting Texas workers called for. Were there enough workers for planting, and will there be enough for harvesting.  The end of May and certainly mid-June should provide a clear picture of labor availability for the 2014 season.

A Closing Word

The mid-term Congressional elections can greatly affect CIR and the availability of labor.  Will there be any movement for reform, or will it be kicked down the road.

Disciplining Farm Employees

by: Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, ANR

A farm manager recently discussed with me concerns he was having with an employee and wanted suggestions for disciplining his employee.  Following is an article written by Dr. Bernie Erven, Professor Emeritus and OSU Extension Specialist, that describes ways to effectively discipline employees.

Discipline is an unpleasant responsibility. Doing it poorly only compounds the unpleasantness. Doing it well, on the other hand, reduces employer frustration, increases employee morale, makes the firing of an employee rare, and reduces the threat of legal action by disgruntled former employees.

Effective discipline can be made a management strength. Building a reputation as a fair but tough disciplinarian is a goal with many long-run benefits.

Three guidelines:

1. Take effective preventive action to promote employee self-discipline and to minimize the frequency of disciplinary action.

2. Use effective disciplinary techniques including the hot stove rule and progressive discipline.

3. Reward supervisors and employees for their efforts to minimize disciplinary action.

Using Effective Disciplinary Techniques

The preventive actions will assure that most of your employees will require little more than their own self-discipline. No matter how effective your preventive actions may be, however, you will sometimes need to discipline.

You may follow the general guidelines in the hot stove rule, use progressive discipline, or even resort to an often short-sighted approach – firing.

Hot Stove Rule

The rule is actually an analogy based on a person touching a hot stove. The analogy provides four discipline basics that are applicable to many situations.

Think about deciding to touch or not touch a hot stove. How does the hot stove influence your decision? The hot stove rule suggests four ways in which the hot stove is like good discipline:

1. Warning
The stove provides a warning. One can feel the heat and know that touching will burn. (Employees need to know their employer’s rules. The rules provide a warning.)

2. Consistent
The stove is consistent. One need not guess whether the hot stove will burn; it always burns. (Employees need to know that the rules will be enforced every time they are broken. Discipline will not be a surprise.)

3. Immediate
The stove burns immediately. No time is lost between the touch and the burn. (Employees should know that the discipline will come soon after each offense. Saving up discipline problems until the next performance review or until the supervisor is less busy means the discipline will be less effective.)

4. Impersonal
The stove is impersonal. The stove burns its owner in the same way it burns someone who encounters it by accident. (Good discipline treats each violator in the same way. The best employee, a family employee, and a problem employee receive the same fair treatment.)

Progressive Discipline

The intent of discipline is to change what a problem employee is or is not doing. A problem that occurs over and over is more difficult to deal with than a single-event problem.

For example, it is more difficult to deal with an employee who regularly refuses to use safety equipment than to deal with an employee who received a speeding ticket with a business truck for the first time in five years.

Changing problem behaviors that are repeated is akin to eliminating bad habits.  Changing a bad habit is difficult. One warning from a supervisor is unlikely to have much impact. Progressive discipline is designed to stick with the employee until there is no longer a problem.

Progressive discipline incorporates four steps, each more severe than the previous step:

1. Verbal warning

2. Written reprimand

3. Suspension

4. Discharge

Communication is the key to progressive discipline.

The communication’s primary objective is to help “save” a problem employee by letting him know there is a problem, what needs to be done to take care of the problem and by when it has to be done.

The secondary objective is to help build a defensible case for firing the problem employee.

Lack of communication sends an unintended message to the problem employee – your performance is okay even if you know that it really isn’t. Ignoring a problem rarely brings a satisfactory solution. Lack of communication assures that there will be neither a commitment by the employee to improve nor a plan on how the employee intends to improve.

The communication associated with discipline can be emotional for both the employer and employee. The employer should get all the facts before the discipline, communicate in private, stay calm, document what was said and resume normal relations with the employee after the discipline.

The steps in progressive discipline and their timing vary from employer to employer. Most, however, follow a basic pattern.To illustrate, an employer has a rule that all employees are to call in when they are going to have an unexpected absence from work. Not calling in four times in a 24 month period leads to automatic discharge. Each employee is allowed one freebee, an absence without calling in, every 24 months.

The first offense after the freebee triggers progressive discipline. Given this rule, progressive discipline might be applied as follows:

Verbal Warning
Terry, an employee, was absent without calling in. He had already used his freebee. Bob, Terry’s supervisor, talked with Terry his first morning back on the job. Bob confirmed that Terry had been absent and had not called in. He then explained the rule and asked Terry if he had any questions about the rule. Terry said the rule was clear. Bob reminded Terry that if he went 24 months without a repeat of the problem, his personnel file would be purged of any record of this first offense. Bob wrote a summary of the conversation for Terry’s personnel file.

Written warning
Seven months later, Terry again failed to call in. Bob gave him a written reprimand the following day. The written reprimand again explained the rule, reminded Terry that this was his second offense and explained the consequences of third and fourth violations of the rule during the next 17 months. Bob again asked if Terry had any questions about the rule.

He asked Terry to sign a statement saying that he had received the written reprimand. Bob reminded Terry that if he went 24 months without a repeat of the problem, his personnel file would be purged of any record of the two offenses.

Fourteen months later, Terry again failed to call in. Bob prepared a letter for Terry explaining that he was suspended from work without pay the following day for having had three offenses of the rule after his freebee. Again, Bob explained the rule and gave Terry opportunity to ask questions.

The letter made explicit that another offense within the next three months would cause automatic discharge. Bob again had Terry sign that he had received the letter and explained how he could have his file purged. Terry then went 24 months with no repeat of the problem and his file was purged of Bob’s written material about the three offenses after the freebee.

The employer’s intent is to never use progressive discipline but to stand ready to use it effectively when an employee’s behavior requires action. Once the progressive discipline process starts, the employer’s hope is that the employee will make further steps unnecessary because the problem has been corrected.

Discipline without punishment is an alternative to traditional progressive discipline. Progressive discipline without punishment makes change the employee’s responsibility and coaching the employer’s responsibility.

The oral warning in the first step makes clear to the employee that he has a responsibility to change his behavior.

The second step repeats the first step except the warning is in writing.

The third step includes a one day decision-making leave with pay. The employee is asked to decide whether he or she chooses to remain with the business and follow the rules or resign.

The fourth step is automatic discharge.

 If you have questions related to this topic or other farm employee management issues, please contact me.

 (Source: Dr. Bernie Erven, Professor Emeritus & Extension Specialist, The OhioStateUniversity)



OSU Extension to Host Annie’s Project in Marysville, Ohio in January

By: Amanda Douridas, Extension Educator

Women in agriculture who are interested in taking a more active role in farm operations may sign up for Annie’s Project, a multi-part risk-management course offered by Ohio State University Extension. The workshop is being sponsored by OSU Extension offices in Champaign, Delaware and Union counties. The six-week workshop will be held at the Union County Extension Office beginning January 15, 2014 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and running consecutive Wednesdays through February 19th.

Annie’s Project is designed to strengthen women’s role in modern farm enterprises. The project’s namesake was a woman who grew up in a small rural community and spent her adult life learning how to be an involved, successful business partner with her husband. Annie’s daughter, Ruth Hambleton, became an Extension educator in Illinois and developed the program in 2000 in honor of her mother’s life experience. It is currently offered in 22 states. Annie’s Project focuses on five broad aspects of risk management typical in the agricultural setting: human, financial, marketing, production and legal.

OSU Extension began offering Annie’s Project in 2007, touching hundreds of lives since and inspiring women to become more active in agricultural roles. It has received wide support not only from participants, but agricultural lenders, agribusinesses, ag service providers and agricultural organizations, which have provided information, class instructors and sponsorship for the workshops.

Cost for the workshop is $80 per person (reduced from the state fee of $95 through local support). Seating is limited, so early registration is encouraged. To register or for more information contact the Union County Extension Office at 937-644-8117.

Northeast Ohio Dairy Survey– cows coming or going in the future?

by David Marrison, Extension Educator

Milk and cheese production have been major agricultural businesses in northeast Ohio for many years. During the past decade, there has been great contraction in the number of dairy farms in the region. Looking to the future, there are many difficult issues facing continued and expanded milk production. These include generational transition, federal milk pricing, input costs, workforce, waste management, and state regulations.

In effort to understand better how these issues are playing out in northeast Ohio, a group of organizations worked together to develop a survey for dairy farms. These organizations included: OSU Extension, Geauga Growth Partnership, TeamNEO, Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County, Portage Development Board and the Youngstown-Warren Chamber of Commerce. The goal of the survey was to learn more about the concerns and attitudes of dairy farmers in Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Portage and Trumbull counties. It is a given that milk and feed prices are a concern of all dairy farms, so this survey attempted to look beyond the scope of these two issues.

Forty-three percent of the 189 dairy farms surveyed replied to questions about their plans, prospects and challenges. Some of the notable survey results included data that showed that over 78% of the local dairy farms plan to continue to operate during the next five years in spite of the many challenges facing dairy operations. Almost 35% percent plan on increasing their herd size during the next five years adding an additional 818 cows in the region.

The survey coalition was interested in learning more about what was limiting local dairy farms from expanding besides milk prices and input costs such as feed and fuel. The top three reasons cited include: land available to grow crops (60.8%), inadequate labor or unavailable labor (31.4%), and access to financing (29.4%).

Participants were asked about the facility improvements they plan on investing in over the next five years with the top three responses being: adding housing for heifers (55.0%), increasing cow comfort (51.7%), and improving their manure handling systems (35.0%). The top three management areas which improvement will be sought by managers over the next five years are: feed management (57.9%), genetic improvement (50.9%), and milking herd health management (45.6%).

Each farm was also asked to respond to general issues affecting their farm. Respondents were asked to rank the importance of related topics to dairy farms and then provide qualitative feedback on their greatest success in dairy farming, their greatest concern for the future of dairy farming in Northeast Ohio, and to provide advice on how to maintain or increase regional milk production. These responses can be found in the survey summary, which can be found at:

The results will be of great help to OSU Extension and our partners as we plan educational programs and implement strategic programs to enhance the northeast Ohio dairy industry in Ashtabula, Geauga, Portage, Lake, and Trumbull Counties.