Farm Bureau event: Friends, food

The 2018 annual meeting of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau was held recently at the newly renovated Delucia’s Banquet Room in Warren. It was an evening filled with agricultural friends and great food.

Besides taking care of our organization’s business, there was opportunity to converse with elected officials and candidates running for public office. We took time to make some special honors.

Each year, each county has the opportunity to recognize an outstanding county member at the Ohio Farm Bureau annual meeting in December. The member is selected for the work they put in to make the county Farm Bureau as great as it is. This could be someone who has done great works this past year, or someone who has done great work over a lifetime.

This year, the Member of Distinction selected from Trumbull County is Richard Houk of Newton Township. Richard and his wife Trudy farm more than 130 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat. Richard has been a Farm Bureau member since 1980, is a past trustee on the Farm Bureau board and also served as treasurer and vice president over the years, as well as Government Affairs chairmen. Richard worked hard with Paul Aaron to ensure that 4-H exhibitors at the county fair livestock sale were receiving the market price on their projects. Richard has always been very passionate about public policy and was quick to call legislators and bring to light the issues that were affecting agriculture. In addition to volunteering his time to the Farm Bureau, Richard has been active with the Trumbull SWCD Board, the Crossroads Resource Conservation and Development, the Trumbull Farmland Preservation Task Force, the Western Reserve Resource and Conservation District, and the Trumbull County Fair Board.

The second special honor is the Tom Schwartz Environmentally Friendly Farmer Award, which was first awarded in 1996 and is meant to honor former Trumbull County Farm Bureau President Tom Schwartz and to give recognition and visibility to the farmers who place high emphasis on protecting and improving our environment.

This year’s recipient is Manna Farms, owned by Dominic and Diana Marchese of Johnston Township.

In 1972, Dominic and Diana bought 131 acres of bare ground and started a dairy and grain farm. After milking cows for 18 years, the Marcheses started a beef herd. Beginning with registered shorthorn, in 1997 they introduced to the farm Piedmontese, an Italian breed famous for its “heart-healthy” meat. Beginning in 1976, Manna Farms was organic when being organic wasn’t cool. They have been a solely grass-fed operation since 1999. In 1991, Manna Farms became USDA Certified Organic. USDA Certified Organic operations must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity and using only approved substances and undergo annual inspections by USDA inspectors.

Organic certification requires that farmers and handlers document their processes and get inspected every year. Organic on-site inspections account for every component of the operation, including, but not limited to, seed sources, soil conditions, crop health, weed and pest management, water systems, inputs, contamination and commingling risks and prevention, and record-keeping.

Tracing organic products from start to finish is part of the USDA organic promise. Manna Farms currently produces certified organic blueberries, elderberries, blackberries, garlic, hay, pasture and beef. Its cattle are born and bred on the farm, with animals never having any grain, added hormones or antibiotics. Manna Farms worked closely with NRCS and SWCD to design, implement and utilize conservation practices including tiles, waterways, buffers, pasture rotation, soil testing and manure storage.

Manna Farms now consists of over 200 acres of protected farmland, signed in a conservation easement with Western Reserve Land Conservancy, preserved forever for agriculture. Dominic and Diana selected Manna as their farm name as Manna means “provided for by God daily.”

It’s members like these that make county farm bureaus across the state awesome and collectively make the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation great.

Smallsreed is a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and grew up on a family dairy farm in northeast Ohio.

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