Monday, August 31, 2009

Begin Farming Ohio Website Launched to Assist Beginning Farmers

Contact: Sharon D. Sachs, Spokesperson
Phone: 800-372-6092, ext. 3 or 614-885-3042

Columbus, Ohio (Aug 27, 2009)

For the first time Ohio's new and beginning farmers have an entire website dedicated to their unique information needs and designed to make it easier for them to find the services and resources they seek. The website URL is

The website represents the collaborative efforts of the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy; Ohio Department of Agriculture, Sustainable Agriculture; Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA); the Organic Food and Farming Education & Research Program of the OSU Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center; and the Ohio State University Extension. These entities, working together as Begin Farming Ohio, aim to build Ohio's capacity to provide, expand, enhance, and sustain services to beginning farmers.

The new website was developed with an affiliated partner, Innovative Farmers of Ohio (IFO). IFO allocated funds awarded by the national outreach office of the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program to enhance the website development process. IFO provided case studies and resource referral information first published in 2008, one output of Wisdom in the Land, a mentor-based pilot program for beginning farmers in central Ohio that IFO operated from 2006-2008.

The website will also provide listings of events of special interest to Ohio's beginning farmers, and facilitate searches for educational and funding resources to assist beginning farmers with challenges related to production, marketing, and business management.

"In order to help sustain the future of agriculture, it is important to support beginning farmers," said Ohio Agriculture Director Robert Boggs. "The department is excited to be part of this collaborative effort, which will assist these farmers with less than 10 years experience."

The USDA 2007 Census of Agriculture reports that 21% of U.S. family farms were beginning farms, and in contrast to established farms, beginning farms were more likely to be small farms.

About Begin Farming Ohio
Begin Farming Ohio was formed in 2008 as a collaboration of higher education, state government, and the non-profit sector to better serve Ohio's beginning farmers. Each of the five founder organizations provides education, training, and other services to farmers and has an employee pool of professionals who are experts in both sustainable agriculture production and farm business management. Additional affiliated partners provide resources that complement the services of the collaborators. See for a complete list of collaborators and affiliates.

Production of Disease and Mite Resistant Queen Honey Bees in Rochester, Illinois

Jacobson pouring liquid nitrogen which is used to test bees for hygienic/disease resistant behavior. – Photo by JP Goguen

In Rochester, IL, Stu Jacobson is attempting to increase interest and understanding among beekeepers in Illinois, eastern Missouri, and southern Wisconsin.

Jacobson has been working with bees for decades. He kept bees in Cape Cod, Massachusetts where he lived from 1970 to 1991. He started beekeeping in central Illinois in 1993. He has a PhD in biology and he did his Post Doc work studying the African bees when they first arrived in Venezuela in 1978.

In 2006, Jacobson submitted a proposal to increase understanding and adoption of disease and mite resistant lines among beekeepers in Illinois, eastern Missouri, and southern Wisconsin and was awarded $4,409 from the North Central Region Sustainable Research and Education Program’s (NCR-SARE) Farmer Rancher Grant Program.

“The project was designed to address the dual problems of a lack of adoption of disease and mite resistant or tolerant lines of bees and an over-reliance on queens from Sunbelt states,” explained Jacobson. “Use of these lines will lessen the industry’s dependence on harsh chemical and antibiotics, which can contaminate honey and cause reproductive problems for the bees, and should be at the core of strategies to address Colony Collapse Disorder.”

A major thrust of the project was comprised of educational presentations to beekeepers on disease and mite resistant lines of bees. During 2007-2008 nine presentations were made to 288 persons. Venues included the Bluegrass Beekeeping School, which draws beekeepers from Indiana and Ohio; the Kankakee Valley, IL Beekeepers Association; an introductory class of the Lincoln Land Beekeepers’ Association; the summer meeting of the Illinois State Beekeepers’ Association; at a State Line Beekeepers Association meeting; and at the Eastern Apicultural Society meeting, among others.

The 2008 Illinois State Beekeepers’ Association (ISBA) and the fall Stateline Beekeepers Association (Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin) meetings served as catalysts for the formation of an Illinois Queen Project (IQP). This initiative’s purpose is to promote the Illinois production of disease and mite resistant queens as well as small colonies adapted to the state’s climate and conditions.

The second part of the project was to produce disease and mite resistant, Minnesota Hygienic queens and to sell them to local beekeepers.

Two operations were involved in this project, a mixed grain farm of 250 acres in Loami, IL, and a 2.6 acre homestead near Rochester, IL. The Loami site has 15 honey bee colonies and sells honey and honey soap; the Rochester site has 50 honey bee colonies in three bee yards and sells honey and since the SARE project began, some queens and small honey bee colonies.

Sustainable beekeeping practices were carried out for the past 4-5 years at both sites; either no treatments or only “soft,” botanically-based ones were used for varroa mites in a given year. Antibiotics were not used for at least 7 years at either site.

For the project, Jacobson used standard “cell grafting” methods to raise queens. The cells were introduced individually into small colonies called mating nuclei, from which the virgin queens take mating flights and remain until they begin laying eggs, at which point they are sold or placed into larger colonies.

During 2007, marketing of the queens occurred first through the annual summer meeting of the local beekeeping association, with about 30 persons attending. Marketing also occurred via calls to beekeepers in the area. During 2008, marketing also occurred during an introductory beekeeping class.

Steven Staley assisted by producing queen bees at his farm for the project; Richard Ramsey, past president of the Illinois State Beekeepers’ Association, provided ongoing advice on marketing and related matters. David Burns, a queen bee producer and beekeeping equipment supplier, and Phil Raines, a commercial beekeeper in Illinois and Wisconsin, made important contributions to the project.

Jacobson believes that bees play a vital role in the sustainability of agricultural systems. “About 1/3 of every bite of food we eat requires insect pollination,” said Jacobson. “Honey bees are he most important pollinators for virtually all fruits and many vegetable crops; these foods high in antioxidants, fiber, etc. Native pollinators are unlikely to regain sufficient importance as long as agriculture relies on large monocultures, insecticides, herbicides, and clean cultivation.”

Since completion of this project, Jacobson has commenced a new SARE project focusing on the Illinois Queen Initiative (formerly Illinois Queen Project). Activities for the new project have included a session on state queen projects and formation of an informal association of queen producers at the Heartland Apicultural Society meeting held in Ohio in July.

Read more about Jacobson’s project online at, or contact the NCR-SARE office for more information at