The face of local agriculture is changing. Sometimes subtly and other times dramatically. For example in the last couple of years two relatively large dairy herds have gone out of business, one of those just recently. Those herds will probably not be replaced. This further illustrates the decline of dairy farming in the county.
What will happen to those farms now that there aren't any cows and young animals to eat the crops that were produced? The land will probably still be growing grain. Instead of marketing that grain through the milk sold from those farms, it will be sold on the grain market.
A part of the changing face of farming has been the growth of grain farms in the area. More and larger farms going into the business of growing cash grain crops for the market. We have seen an increase of farms being sold to other farmers. With modern machinery and technology, farmers have been able to handle more acres with less labor.
This has brought about a change in marketing for these crops. Much of it is sold through local elevators such as Western Reserve Farm Cooperative, Colebrook Elevator or Deerfield Farms. Recently, we have seen an increase in the number of farmer owned storage bins. This gives them more control of their crop and how and when it is finally marketed.
Larger and more expensive equipment is more commonly seen in local fields. This allows faster harvest when conditions are right.
We have seen the planting of fields of giant miscanthus grass around the area. This interesting crop is being used to make biodegradable food containers and by gas and oil well drillers to control waste spills while drilling. Harvest for giant miscanthus is just now starting and will continue through the winter until the about 5,000 acres are out of the fields.
Our rural areas have also changed but the change is slower and more subtle. Fewer dairy farms and more grain farms bring about a different agricultural picture. There are fewer suppliers for dairy farms and some increased business for the grain farmers.
In parts of Ashtabula and Trumbull counties there has been a slow but steady increase in the Amish population. With higher land values in Geauga County, to find opportunities for farm land or building sites, the Amish community has moved more to the east and slightly south.
Since these communities tend to have other families in an area, they tend to move in groups. One new family in an area may bring several others. This allows them to have other families to socialize with or band together to form a church group or build an Amish school.
Most of the Amish moving to these areas are not farmers. They work in industry, in carpentry or have a small business of some kind.
All this changes the nature of communities. Some small, local churches have trouble getting a pastor and finding the finances to maintain facilities. There has been some consolidation of rural churches.
Change takes place and we may not be aware of what is happening. In my lifetime I have seen dramatic changes in farming and in our communities. Much of this is positive and some of it may mean a loss of families feeling a part of their community. Change will continue to take place.
Parker is an independent agricultural writer.