DARKE COUNTY — The Darke County Chamber of Commerce held its annual Agribusiness event via Zoom on Friday, March 19. The program included guest speakers Dr. Cathann Kress, VP and Dean of the College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences at OSU, and Dr. Tracy Kitchel, Professor of Agriscience Education and Chair of the Department of Agriculture Communication, Education, and Leadership at OSU.
A majority of the event was reserved for the guest speakers, who touched on topics ranging from getting young people involved in agriculture, to how researchers and farmers are driving technological innovation in the agriculture industry. They also provided a brief history and future outlook of OSU’s involvement in Ohio agriculture.
Dr. Kress informed that OSU’s Department of Food, Agriculture, and Biological Engineering is beginning to farm approximately 100 acres in Darke County, with the intent to develop a stronger presence in western Ohio, and share research and build stronger relationships with local farmers and agriculture business specialists. Kress also spoke to the excitement surrounding drone use to identify weed species and make necessary herbicide applications.
According to Kress, OSU’s eField on-farm research program has over 218 trials, 107 partner farms, and 55 industry partners. The goal of this program is to advance agriculture production through the use of field-scale research, and connect OSU researcher’s with local farmers to inform of industry research developments and quickly acclimate farms to shifting trends.
Dr. Kress, as a College Dean and Professor, spoke extensively about OSU’s work to incorporate agriculture courses in curriculum across all colleges, with the goal of properly educating young people on the importance of the agriculture industry to food security and the food supply chain. Both speakers touched on the disconnect among many young people about where food comes from and how it’s processed. Kress and Kitchel believe some form of agriculture education, regardless of chosen academic discipline, is a central component to sustaining a high quality of life in the U.S.
“We have fewer and fewer young people who actually have experience first-hand with agriculture at all,” said Kress. “I find then that it creates a lot of mythologies around where their food comes from, or how we produce food, or why we do the things we do in our field of work. So, we have a much greater obligation and responsibility to educate a broader audience, and OSU is making strides to do so.”
Kress said that the goal is to use Waterman, OSU’s 261-acre farm in the heart of Columbus, to educate, eventually, all OSU undergraduate students so they are able to better understand agriculture and the food system.
Following Kress’ presentation, the Chamber presented their annual Agriculture Advocacy and Achievement awards. The Darke County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) was the recipient of this year’s Agriculture Advocacy award for their continued dedication to Darke County farms by insuring local, state, and federal pollution abatement standards are being followed, among many other activities.
The Agriculture Achievement award was presented to Winner’s Meats for their continued and active involvement in the agriculture production chain. Since it’s founding in 1928, Winner’s has been a central component to the Darke County agriculture industry for four, family-owned generations, and continues to make strides in the production of high quality meats. Winner’s grocery store is located at 45 W. Main Street in Osgood.
For more information about the event, or Chamber happenings in general, contact Darke Co. Chamber President Peggy Emerson at 937-548-2102.