[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ocal farmer, Jon Branstrator from Clarksville, Ohio came to speak to Corey Cockerill’s Intro to Ag Communications class on November 3 about being an innovator in agriculture.
Branstrator’s farm has been in his family since 1821. He said his father practiced “traditional” farming methods—corn and soybean rotations.
Branstrator said, “I wanted to break away from what my father did and do much more.” He now grows a wide variety of crops including: gooseberries, peaches, blackberries, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, bell peppers, and much more. He also grows 35 acres of pumpkins, squash, and gourds.
“My main goal is to grow good food for the regional area, reduce my carbon footprint, and make some money,” said Branstrator. Just this year, he installed a 30-panel photovoltaic solar-energy system on the farm that produces between 60 and 65 percent of his electricity. Branstrator placed the system close to the road to invite inquiries, which he says happens almost daily.
Branstrator told the class one of his biggest risks is finding good workers. While building up his reputation and marketing his products, he says he used to put in 100-hour weeks. Now that he has well-established markets in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas, he has transitioned to the use of hired hands. He pays his workers above minimum wage, because he knows “it’s hard work.” Branstrator also provides housing for his workers—and even went to visit the locations his workers lived before arriving to the United States, to make sure he got the environment right.
Branstrator talked about a lack of diversity in agriculture, especially in products grown. Though he says does not blame people for wanting to stick with the more traditional crops of corn, soybeans, and wheat.
“I understand why people are skeptical to break away from tradition,” he said. “Farmers need to have a Zen set of mind when thinking of growing new crops, because sometimes the risk pays off.”