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40th Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Conference Held In Dayton

Thomas Hawk
Flickr Creative Commons

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Founded on April 22 in 1970 as a civilian protest against the environmental impacts from industrial development - that spring day sparked the beginning of the environmental awareness movement - and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Earth Day has now become a global event marked by civic participation and political action. Protect Our Species is the theme for this year, which falls on Monday, April 22. 

County Lines producer Renee Wilde introduces us to people from the frontlines of Ohio’s sustainability movement - who are trying to do just that.

Credit courtesy of OEFFA

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association was founded in 1979 as a grassroots coalition of farmers, backyard gardeners, educators, researchers, and others who share a desire to build a healthy food system. This year OEFFA held its 40th Annual Conference in Dayton and I talked to some of the members:

JOHN STOCK:UNITED PLANT SAVERS: We’re a non-profit whose mission is to conserve at risk native medicinal plants.  It started with our United Plant Savers botanical sanctuary in Rutland, Ohio, which is a 379 acre beautiful piece of land that is home to many of these plants that we advocate for, we now have 115 sanctuaries across the United States and Canada. When there comes a time and place that we stop screwing things up, these sanctuaries can be poised to spread that diversity back across the landscape.

KATIE TRAUSOE: APPALACHIAN BEGINNING FOREST FARMER COALITION: I’m a board member for the Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition helping people who would like to forest farm in their woods, and that basically means growing different products, mostly food and medicine, but bringing management into it to also protect the plants. Part of what attracts a lot of people to this is that they can still have an intact canopy and forest but still be able to make some kind of income off of it.

LUKE WELCH: RURAL ACTION: I’m an Americorp with Rural Action, in the sustainable agriculture program. We’re working on starting up an incubator farm at the Chesterville Produce Auction. So we’ll have people that can get a quarter acre, and we’ll have mentors who can help them start up farming, and then we’ll also have the Chesterville Produce Auction on site, right there, so they can find a market very easily.

ANNIE PRESTON: COUNTRYSIDE: We’re a food and farming non profit in Northeastern Ohio. Our main program is a partnership with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. There are ten conservation based farms that lease their lands from the National Service and farm in our park, so we help manage that program. So we have interns that will learn on our farm and then once they have all the necessary skills they can go out to our partner farms in the Cuyahoga National Valley Park and help those farmers build their businesses.

DANIELLE: DAYTON URBAN GROWN: I’m a new Urban Farmer. I interned at Dayton Urban Grown the last couple of years, and Lisa Holme, the owner and founder, teaches classes on how to do it yourself. I don’t even think there’s a quarter of an acre in production, and it shows you that you can make a living in Dayton with just that small amount of space.

TED STUTZ: OHIO EARTH FOOD: I own Ohio Earth Food. One of the barriers for people getting into vegetable production is land. Land prices have gone through the roof. So my brother and I each had IRAs, 401Ks, that had been rolling over for years and you can now do a self-directed IRA and you can buy farmland. So we did that in Johnstown, and we bought a 29 acre plot, dividing it up into small sections to lease to people who would like to try their hand at vegetable farming.

MICHAEL ROBINSON & NATHAN RUTZ : RUST BELT RIDERS: We’re with Rust Belt Riders Composting and Tilth Soils. A lot of us have experience in the service industry, so we thought, hey we can take some of these food scraps and take them to the community garden sites to help make better soils. So when we began, we were on bicycles hauling food scraps from restaurants 300 pounds at a time, on a trailer behind a bicycle.Now we’re doing about 30,000 pounds a week in Cleveland in a box truck and a cargo van.


Renee Wilde was part of the 2013 Community Voices class, allowing her to combine a passion for storytelling and love of public radio. She started out as a volunteer at the radio station, creating the weekly WYSO Community Calendar and co-producing Women’s Voices from the Dayton Correctional Institution - winner of the 2017 PRINDI award for best long-form documentary. She also had the top two highest ranked stories on the WYSO website in one year with Why So Curious features. Renee produced WYSO’s series County Lines which takes listeners down back roads and into small towns throughout southwestern Ohio, and created Agraria’s Grounded Hope podcast exploring the past, present and future of agriculture in Ohio through a regenerative lens. Her stories have been featured on NPR, Harvest Public Media and Indiana Public Radio.