For those of you that live across the southern part of Trumbull County, it's time to take a trip "up county" to see what is in that area. Some folks "down south" may not know where Kinsman, Gustavus or Vernon are and have never been in that part of our great county.
Fall is a nice time to explore and see what your neighbors are doing. With the Fall Foliage Tour this weekend, get out and see the northeastern part of the county. One of the sights you will see is your food in the basic stages of production. This is being produced on farms large and small with most of it coming from the larger, more efficient farms.
For example, you will see large fields of corn and soybeans in various stages of maturity, much of it ready for harvest. Over the past 25 to 50 years there have been tremendous changes in farming in the county. Livestock farming, mostly dairying, has declined dramatically and crop farming increased. Milking cows is still the major source of agricultural income but crop farming is coming on rapidly.
While the smaller farms are important for the economy of the county, the majority of our food is produced on the larger farms that have the efficiency that goes with bigger operations. Many of the smaller farms are part-time or "hobby farms" that families enjoy and contribute to our food supply.
One big change that is noticeable in the county is the increase in soybean growing. Go back 40 or 50 years ago and there was hardly a soybean to be found on local farms. Very few were grown and many of them for the foliage with the entire plant dried and fed as a roughage.
This year has seen some increase in soybean acreage in the county. As you drive around Johnson, Gustavas and Kinsman you can see huge fields of soybeans. They are in various stages of maturity now with some very dry and leaves brown and falling off while a few fields are green.
Differences depend on variety of the bean and when they were planted.
Latest figures from the Ohio Agricultural Statistical Service estimate we grew 24,000 acres of soybeans last year with an average yield of nearly 44 bushels an acre for a total of 1 million bushels. Most of those are sold as a cash crop and shipped to points both east and west.
Go back 50 years and the few acres of soybeans in our area would have yielded about 20 bushel an acre. That illustrates one of the efficiencies of today's farms.
According to the Agricultural Statistical Service, last year local farmers grew more acres of soybeans than corn. Corn acreage was estimated to be 19,000 and since corn is a higher yielding crop than soybeans, yields averaged 147 bushels an acre. That equaled a total production of nearly 3 million bushels of corn.
Again, go back 50 years to yields of 60 to 75 bushels an acre to see the efficient job farmers are doing today in producing our food supply. Much of the local corn is fed to local livestock but a lot of it is sold to markets in other areas.
Back in the 1950s Trumbull County ranked high in Ohio in milk production. Now we rank 24th. One of the reasons for this is farmers found out they could tile their land, add lime and the soils were very productive. That, added to low incomes from dairy farming and the need to milk those cows at least two times a day 365 days a year, encouraged farmers to go into crop farming.
So when you make that trip around the county you will see many empty, unused barns that at one time were productive dairy farms. Change is never-ending and inevitable!
Parker is an independent agricultural writer and works with the local Farm Bureau Board.