HARTFORD - Motorists willing to weather not-so-ideal weather Sunday got an early look at fall in full bloom in eastern Trumbull County and along the way, learned a thing or two about one type of non-traditional farming at Hartford Greenhouses or took a tractor ride through the sprawling evergreen fields at Storeyland Christmas Tree Farm.
Sunday's 2013 Trumbull County Farm Foliage Tour attracted people from all parts locally to Hartford and Burghill, where the foliage is beginning to turn, and to see some agriculture, too.
The drive-it-yourself tour had five suggested stops, including Carl and Debbie Yeager's tree farm in Burghill. Here, about once every half-hour, a tractor tugging along a trailer that had bales of hay for seating emerged from deep in the field, where guests were treated to a tree-digging demonstration.
''That is our main event, showing people what we do because we're not cutting down Christmas trees,'' said owner Debbie Yeager, who with her husband Carl, has run the farm since 1991. The first seedlings at the state Route 7 farm were planted in the early 1950s.
The demo showed visitors how a tree is removed from the ground and bagged for sale at the 170-acre evergreen-only farm.
''Beautiful'' was Hartford resident Martha Flint's feeling of the farm after finishing the tour, which she was on with her husband Lawrence Flint.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Ron Selak Jr.
From left, Wayne Musolf of Warren; Michael Musolf of Girard, Kylie Musolf, 4; Noah Conci, 5; Jodi Conci of Toronto, Ohio; Gracie Conci, 4; and Janice Musolf of Warren, wait for a tour of Storeyland Christmas Tree Farm, state Route 7 in Burghill, to start Sunday. The evergreen farm was among five recommended stops in the Hartford and Burghill area on the 2013 Trumbull County Farm Foliage Tour.
''It was a nice tree-digging demonstration, too,'' Lawrence Flint said. ''It's really a professional operation.''
''We're really glad we came,'' Martha Flint said.
About two miles down state Route 7, visitors crowded the showroom at Hartford Orchards on state Route 305, which had available for sale several varieties of apples, jams and jellies, honey and antiques and collectibles. Steve Schrader, manager, also set up a hay ride for visitors to the 72-acre farm where peaches are grown on about 15 acres and about 15 varieties of apples, on 35 to 40 acres.
Schrader said the tour drove business up by one-quarter to one-third.
Another stop on state Route 7 was Hartford Greenhouse, where summer annual flowers, vegetable plants, herbs and perennials are grown. The greenhouse also has a variety of fall and winter plants, including mums and poinsettias.
There too is an aquaponics system, designed by owner Phil Wilhelm's daughter, Sarah, 23, for her senior project in 2012 at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa.
The non-traditional, but fast growing type of farming, aquaponics - the cultivation of fish and vegetation in a closed ecosystem - works like this: Edible fish like Tilapia are raised in a tank and their nutrient rich waste is cycled through a system of plants, which accept the nutrients. The water is returned to the tank cleaned.
Sarah Wilhelm said her half-filled 350 gallon tank contains about 13 fish, most of which are Coy with a few Tilapia. Now, she's growing lettuce, because it's easy to care for and isn't temperature sensitive.
''If it gets real cold at night, it doesn't mind,'' Wilhelm said. She's also growing spider plants, a common house plant.
Greg Crissman of McDonald chewed Sarah Wilhelm's ear for several minutes about the system, leaving intrigued to the point where he's considering building a similar system.
Visitors to the greenhouse, a family business for nearly three decades, also could learn about how poinsettias are grown and ''the process of getting them color up by the first of December,'' Phil Wilhelm said.
Other stops on the tour were Hartford Center, which had information booths by agriculture agencies and a tractor display by the Antique Tractor Club and the Hartford United Methodist Church, where lunch was available.