Agriculture center assists farmers, others

Tribune Chronicle / Renee Fox Ed Agler, volunteer director of the Trumbull County Agriculture and Family Education Center in Cortland, explains how the center helps local farmers cooperate with the many federal regulations imposed on the industry.

CORTLAND — The Trumbull County Agriculture and Family Education Center helps support the county’s biggest industry — agriculture — but also provides residents with a plethora of other services.

The center, which grew to include an outdoor classroom this week, houses several agencies, making it a central station for anyone looking for agricultural advice of many kinds, said Ed Agler, the unpaid, volunteer director of the center.

Many people don’t realize how much of the local economy relies on agriculture, Agler said, but Trumbull County has more of the farming industry than any other, including health care and manufacturing.

The new outdoor classroom provides a permanent place to teach classes that educate the public about everything from 4-H to soil health at the 520 W. Main St. space in Cortland.

Services and some materials were donated to the project, keeping costs down.

“This was a great day for the agricultural center and future classes and organizations to come will be able to use the outdoor pavilion and classroom,” said Dan Polivka, county commissioner.

The classroom will host the Oct. 4 Junior Envirothon, a competition for students in grades 6 through 8 measuring their success fielding questions about soils, forestry, wildlife, aquatics and this year, hazardous waste, said Amy Reeher, district administrator of the Trumbull Soil and Water Conservation District.

Because of the amount of federal regulations that come with the industry — more than in nearly any other industry — the center’s contacts can be instrumental for farmers, Agler said.

At the Farm Services Agency, federal employees post the fixed prices to buy and sell regulated crops, and farmers turn in their spring planting plans, report their crop yields and apply for federal programs to improve and expand their operations.

The Ohio State University Extension Office is housed in the center, where people can submit pictures and samples of strange bugs and their effects on vegetation to get an identification and advice on how to eradicate pests, Agler said.

The Soil and Water Conservation District ensures new projects follow guidelines for storm water drainage, flood prevention, land protection, erosion prevention, land use planning and educational programs.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources also provide services there. Local universities can host classes at the center, and local agencies hold large meetings.

But outside of the regular duties of the agencies housed in the center, Agler takes it upon himself to go above and beyond to help people, said Mauro Cantalamessa, county commissioner.

Agler acts as a conduit between government agencies and Amish farmers when the county has projects on or near their land, and both sides trust him, Cantalamessa said.

Agler has personally helped the public with anything related to agriculture, from identifying weeds, procuring hard-to-find seeds and using a plow or raising chickens, he said.

Agler helped one man in Newton Falls who bought a plow without knowing what the equipment was called or how to use it.

By the time Agler left the man’s property, he was “out there plowing, happy as a clam. Or in our case, as happy as an ear of corn,” Agler said.

Corn and soybeans are the county’s most prolific crops, Agler said.