Agriculture has been a major component of Clinton County’s economy with deep roots of farming planted firmly in the lives of the locals. Agriculture in some way or another affects local residents either through the food eaten as consumers, as farmers and growers, or in job creation.
Agriculture remains the top industry in Clinton County. Nationally, more than 16 million Americans have jobs because of agriculture, and America’s farmers keep growing more jobs.
Locally, agricultural businesses have contributed to job creation in the surrounding area in either new technology, bringing in new businesses to the community or with unconventional ideas the look beyond the fields of Clinton County to tap global markets.
- Center for Innovative Food Technolgies (CIFT) – Supporting the growth of food processing and agribusiness
- Buckley Brothers – Keeping local farmers moving
- Sabina Farmers Exchange – Feeding the world from Clinton County
- Stokes Berry Farm – Bringing agriculture to the cutting edge of cancer research
- Branstrator Farm – Nearly 200 year of family farming
- Clinton County Farmers’ Market – Connecting local growers with local shoppers
The Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) has provided technical innovations and solutions to the food processing, agribusiness, and agricultural sectors since 1995. These services have been designed to enhance the economic performance of the food processing and agricultural sectors and create new jobs within the industry.
Wilmington College and CIFT entered into a partnership in 2010 as one of seven Edison Centers for the state of Ohio. Originally established in Toledo, CIFT operates as a satellite office on the Wilmington College campus.
CIFT and Wilmington College are a great fit. As Wilmington College pursued a food development incubator with the Ohio Department of Development, CIFT came on board to help create and expand food processing businesses and/or agricultural businesses in the area. Wilmington College is the only private college in Ohio which has a four-year agriculture degree program. It is one of only two institutions of higher learning in Ohio to offer a degree in agriculture. The other is The Ohio State University.
CIFT’s ultimate goal is to create jobs in Wilmington and the county. They plan to do this in three ways:
- By working with new businesses in non-traditional ways to get up and running and assisting them to grow and expand mainly with new technologies.
- Operating as a food incubator — food incubators are offshoots of business incubators programs that are designed to support the successful development of entrepreneurial companies through an array of business support resources and services with food incubators concentrating solely on food processing and agribusinesses.
- By traditional economic development such as new projects as inthe case of Tolliver Fields in Wilmington.
Tolliver Fields is a 282-acre tract of land between Davids Drive and State Route 134 South. It is a projected zoning-friendly industry park for food-processing and baking industries. Because of the agriculture connection in Clinton County and the unique arrangement of the park — it sits on two electric grids and has access to the abundant supply of water offered by the City of Wilmington — CIFT has worked to help bring new businesses to locate at the park.
As Ohio officials began to concentrate on luring food processing businesses because of the amount of agriculture produced and the importance of agriculture to the state, CIFT came to Clinton County to help develop one of three new Ohio industrial parks. Working with Ady International and Austin Consulting, CIFT worked to locate areas that would best fit the needs of this type of industry. Seeing the economic need and then the huge advantages of the electric grid and water abundance, CIFT has been integral component of the development of possible new businesses as well a future job creation.
Rob Jaehing, CIFT program coordinator in Clinton County, believes that the potential for Tolliver Fields is significant.
“If this site is developed to its potential that could mean possibly between 1,200 to 2,200 new jobs created in Clinton County. With this potential, the food world is now focusing on Wilmington. The advantages to the Tolliver Park are significant to job creation. With the port authority it is possible to export food like cattle and import food for other countries. National food distributors are looking to Clinton County as a prime site for new distribution sites. Wilmington is also very unique in transportation. From Wilmington a business can reach over 60 percent of the United States population in less than one day. Because of this there is a large interest from West Coast distributors looking to cut cost in transportation and as a result of that aspect they are looking to Wilmington to enhance their own businesses.” [divider_top]
At the turn of the 20th Century, George and Parker Buckley owned and operated a wheat buying station in the village of Kingman until 1904 when they moved the business to 320 E. Main St. in Wilmington after they purchased an elevator at that current location. The elevator, which was built in 1899 can still be seen across the city and still stands today as a reminder of a business that has survived not only through the ups and downs or a volatile economy, but also weathered the true test of time. Buckley Bros. once consisted of buying and shipping wheat by rail or trading wheat for bran, middlings, and/or flour as well as providing large animal feed supplies to customers with horses. Today, Buckley Bros. Inc. continues serving the local area with their agriculture products as one of the longest running family owned and operated businesses in the area.
At the original Wilmington location, Buckley Bros. Inc. provides a unique service to accommodate the customer who needs fast and friendly service. The drive-thru allows customers to never leave their car for those occasions when there just isn’t enough time in the day. The drive-thru is conveniently stocked with pet food, livestock and horse feed, bird seed, water softer salt, and grass seed. Apart from pet and ivestock feeds, Buckley Bros. Inc. assists area farmers with a competitive grain market. With two grain facilities in Wilmington that now has a combined storage capability of over 630, 000 bushels and another elevator located just outside of the city that provides an additional 65,000 bushels, Buckley Bros. Inc. grain merchants offer marketing strategies and a fleet of semi trucks to accommodate customers with moving grain at harvest time and throughout the year.
Currently, Buckley Bros. Inc. employs 35 and operates six retail stores in Wilmington, Washington Court House, Circleville, Monroe, Morrow and The Plains. It also has more than 33 independent distributors which sell their Betr-Bilt feeds at their own locations. They offer constant support to the local community and surrounding areas through contracting local grain haulers, fuel suppliers, millwrights, and by supporting the local horse industry and 4-H breeding operations.
“Locally,” Fricke said, “we employ over 35 people in our six retail stores. How we contribute further to local job creation is that through contracting grain haulers, hiring millwrights to maintain the feed mills and grain elevators, using fuel suppliers, as well as being a resource for 4-H and the local horse industry when you combine all these different areas it has a scaffolding effect that trickles down to supporting the local economy and creating jobs for others.” [divider_top]
Established in 1896, the Sabina Farmers Exchange began with the DeWine family, ancestors of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. At the same location since its founding at 292 N. Howard St., Sabina, and three families later, the Exchange is now owned and operated by John and Connie Surber who purchased the business in 1999 after John began working there in 1997.
The business has drastically changed in the past 12 years. Originally a grain, feed and fertilizer company, today the company has grown and developed into now being under the umbrella of Premier Solutions a group of companies and services with the motto of “helping the farmer feed the world.”
“When we bought the company,” said John Surber, “we served three counties. Today, 12 years later, we serve the globe. Our services and products end up in Mexico, Canada, China, Vietnam, Turkey, Russia and Poland just to name a few.”
Moving from a smaller operation to a company that reaches around the world, Sabina Farmers Exchange helps enhance local farmers by moving agricultural products around the world. “What we do is provide services and products for farmers,” John Surber said. “Products we produce today for example are the raising of breeding pigs that are shipped throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. We buy soybeans off farmers to ship to the Pacific Rim, China and other countries. We utilize the byproducts of the ethanol plant in Fayette County and ship to the Pacific Rim. Since we took over we have doubled our employee count due to growing new markets.” [divider_top]
Stokes Berry Farm is the largest black raspberry grower east of the Mississippi, with over 40 acres of black raspberries as well as additional acreage that grows red, purple, and yellow raspberries along with strawberries. The farm is owned by Dale and Jane Stokes along with son, Mark, and Mark’s wife, Stephanie.
Located at 2822 Center Road outside of Wilmington off State Route 73, the Stokes fruit farm was first established in 1962 with the planting of two acres of black raspberries and later in 1975 strawberries. Today, the entire farm encompasses more than 230 acres used not only for raspberries and strawberries but also rye, wheat, soybeans and field corn. In the early 1960s Dale Stokes wanted to make a few extra dollars and with an agricultural as well as an educational background decided to begin planting black raspberries mainly because of his knowledge of black raspberries being cultured in Europe for medicinal properties. He saw that in this area a lot of red raspberries were being grown and black raspberries weren’t and felt his opportunities would be with the black. As time went by he decided to add strawberries to his fruit farm. Later in 1986, Stokes began reading of the work of Dr. Gary Stoner who was doing important cancer research with the medical properties of the black raspberry. Stokes decided to contact Stoner at Ohio State University.
“I contacted Dr. Stoner offering my black raspberries for his research. We began working together and formed a professional relationship. Basically we provide the berries and he does the research,” said Stokes.
Stokes credits Joseph Haines, Dave Hobson, as well as the Clinton County Republican Party for making possible the funds for this very important research.
“This research has the possibility to save so many lives and will prove to be one of the greatest things the federal government has done. So many people will benefit from this research,” Stokes said.
Stokes employs close to 25 seasonal workers to currently help harvest the fruit. With the cancer research going on now with the black raspberry, the demand for the fruit has skyrocketed.
“Oregon is the largest grower for the black raspberry,” said Stokes. “They are also involved with the research going on the fruit. Because the demand is so great to start making black raspberries supplements and drinks, the Oregon farms can’t keep up with the demand and are looking to us to help supplement the demand. Right now, not enough black raspberries are being grown in the United States. The Oregon farms are looking to other farms to supply 20 million more plants to produce the black raspberry. With the demand so high that could mean for my farm adding an additional 20 to 30 workers to help harvest the berry.” Dale Stokes Raspberry Farm, LLC, as it is now known, offers consumers a superior product as well as well the local economy by providing jobs to the residents.
“From the agricultural perspective here in Clinton County, there is a tremendous potential if people are willing to work together. We have wonderful soils here, a great location, two colleges that are leading in agricultural education. The opportunities exist but it’s the people who make the opportunities successful. This is where our work lies ahead of us here in this county,” said Stokes.[divider_top]
With the ending of the Revolutionary War, General George Washington began to allot land in the Ohio Valley to war veterans to help with payment for their service. At this time, Stephan Mason was given close to 1,000 acres in what is now known as Clinton County/Clarksville area. In 1823, Andrew Branstrator purchased approximately 400 acres of the allotment near what is now the Clinton-Massie School.
Through the years the farm has remained in control of Andrew’s descendants until today with the current owner being Jon Branstrator.
Located at 885 N. George Road near Clarksville, Branstrator Farm is one of the most unique farms in the county by offering area residents a diverse selection of fruit and vegetables to consume as well as entertainment events to attend such as the Strawberry and Asparagus Festival in the summer and the Harvest Festival in the fall.
Jon Branstrator has a unique story of his own. Living on the family farm Jon began developing his work ethic with the help of his father. He had perfect attendance at school until he was 14 when his father fell sick with pneumonia and he became responsible for planting over 200 acres of farmland by himself. While at home on the farm, he developed a love for listening to broadcasts from different parts of the world and as he grew he took it upon himself to learn as much about geography as possible which played a major part in his life. Scientist Jacques Cousteau became an important role model for Jon who inspired him to become naturalist. In the late 1980s he moved to Central America where he spent the next ten years traveling back and forth to Ohio.
While in Central America, Jon worked primarily in agriculture, developing his skills in seed production and being exposed to harsh weather. When he returned to Ohio, he worked at building ropes course and construction projects. Sixteen years ago, Jon returned to the family farm. The land degradation that he was exposed in Central America inspired him to become more environmentally conscious and he decided to begin to transition the family farm from a grain monoculture operation to one of a mixed fruit and vegetable farm in which he used methods such as crop rotation that help maintain a healthy ecosystem. With all of his knowledge and experiences in agriculture, Jon began applying his skills to making a one of a kind farm that would not compete with his neighbors for production but offer the community a diverse supply of agriculture and events that would not only help with the economy but also by pulling the community together.
Jon Branstrator and Branstrator Farm have a rich family history and is an essential part of the community especially when considering that his farm has been established in the county for almost 200 years. Jon, with his positive attitude, the farm with its diverse selection of fruits and vegetables, and the farm’s job creation is a much needed asset to the community of Clinton County. [divider_top]
Close to 14 years ago, Tony Nye, Clinton County OSU Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources, along with Rick Stanforth, Clinton County commissioner at the time, united to see if there would be an interest locally in the organization of a local farmers’ market. Nye and Stanforth called for a community meeting to determine interest in the idea.
Clinton County Farmers’ Market consists of individual vendors, mostly farmers, who set up booths outdoors to sell produce, fruits and some non-edible products such as homemade soaps, hand-crafted jewelry and other artisan products. The Clinton County Farmers’ Market adds value to Wilmington because farmers sell directly to consumers, minimizing profit loss and eliminating the need for the middle man. Consumers can buy directly from the farmer or artisan and have the opportunity to purchase organic fruits and vegetables and may enjoy fresh, seasonally-grown food that was produced close to where consumers live. Farmers’ Markets allow money to remain in the local area and the Clinton County community.
“There has been some speculation that with the success we currently are having with the market that me may expand and add to it therefore giving more opportunities to more farmers to join in when we see the need develop,” he said. “Our market is currently open to not only Clinton County farmers and artisans but also to framers and artisans in the counties that surround Clinton, such as Highland, Green, Fayette, Warren, Clermont and Brown.”
The market not only provides the community with options to buy home-grown healthy food but also helps with the local economy by the adding of jobs through product demand. As a result of the Farmers’ Market, local farmers have the opportunity to produce more therefore adding to job creation as well as providing farming families with the venue to add to their existing income during these tough economic times. Due to the economic situation in the area, the market has implemented a new “EBT” program which is a card that holds a monthly food allowance. Once the allowance is deposited into the cardholder’s account from the state, it may be used much like a debit card from a bank to purchase food from participating vendors.[divider_top]