On the heels of the wettest planting season since 1895, Marion County agriculture is top of mind. While some areas have struggled, certain pockets of the county have done very well with the weather. It is this diversity which demonstrates the strength of Marion County farming.
According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, there are 615 farms In Marion County, covering in excess of 200,000 acres. The market value of agricultural products sold in Marion County tops $135 million, including livestock and crops. Not surprisingly, Marion County farms are home to cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, and chickens, and the fields are filled predominantly with corn, wheat, and soybeans; with oats and barley also make a showing. Marion County also boasts catfish aquaponics, vineyards, orchards, floriculture, Christmas tree and produce farms, llama ranches, honeybee apiaries, and specialty livestock, including rabbits, deer, and horses, which further enrich the diversity of the county’s agribusiness offerings, as does certified organic produce, which makes up a small but noticeable trend locally.
Marion has a rich history and strong ties to agriculture. From the Edward Huber’s invention of the revolving hay rake in 1893 to annual events held today – like the Marion County Fair and the Marion County Farmers’ CARE Breakfast – farming remains an important industry for our county. Just last week, the Marion County Farm Bureau and Marion Soil and Water District held their annual meeting and celebrated their centennial with a dinner, featured speaker, and voting on ag policies and trustees.
In 2017, 984 people in Marion County were employed directly in farming, according to the US Census of Agriculture, approximately 3 percent of the county’s entire workforce. And, these figures do not even take into account agribusiness in the area, such as POET Biorefining, which utilizes the county’s abundance of corn to produce ethanol fuel, farm product transportation, and fertilizer producers, of which Marion County boasts two and produced a millionaire in the late George Alber and his former Marion Plant Life Services.
Farming’s roots run even deeper in Marion. There are 29 family farms in Marion County registered with the Ohio’s Historic Family Farms Program – meaning they have been in continuous operation for more than 100 years, with lands passed down through the same family from generation to generation. These farms were among the honorees at the 2019 Celebrate Marion Gala, recognizing the major contribution of agriculture to Marion’s economy and heritage.
“We realize that there are even more Marion County farms that have existed for a century or more in addition to the Department of Agriculture’s list,” said Dean Jacob, president and CEO of Marion Community Foundation and a member of the Celebrate Marion selection committee. “We recognized them because of farming’s impact on the culture of Marion.”
The Ohio Department of Agriculture recognizes the many social, economic and historic contributions made by Ohio’s founding farm families. Ohio’s Historic Family Farms program was developed as a way to honor these families for their enduring legacy to the state. Qualified registrants receive an heirloom certificate signed by the Governor of Ohio and the Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
To qualify, a farm must consist of ten or more acres devoted to agriculture use and the same family must have ownership for a minimum of 100 consecutive years, providing documentation of the line of ownership from the first family member owning the land to the present.