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Today's Young Ohio Farmers Are Chemists, Economists And Sometimes Geneticists, Too

Adam Frantz and Mia Grimes.
Adam Frantz and Mia Grimes.

When she was in high school, Mia Grimes couldn’t imagine being disconnected from her family’s Turkey Ridge Farm in Clark County. Now Mia is 31 and the mother of two, and she’s managing over three thousand acres of corn and soybeans in the Miami Valley. During what’s now been a second rocky year in local agriculture, Mia and husband Adam Frantz talked with WYSO Clark County reporter Tom Stafford.

MIA GRIMES: “I think every year, every farmer is taking a risk.”

TOM STAFFORD: Mia Grimes graduated from Ohio State with a degree in agribusiness and applied economics. And like every good agri-business person, she manages her risk with an array of knowledge.

MIA GRIMES: It’s better, I think, if you know a little about a lot, cause there’s things you have to do. You have to be an equipment operator, a chemist, an agronomist, an accountant, an HR specialist, a mechanic.

ADAM FRANTZ: And we’re working on web sites and handling inventory and ….

MIA GRIMES: Yeah, and you’re getting into cattle genetics …

TOM STAFFORD: Her husband Adam Frantz, has a degree in agronomy from Wilmington College. Married for six years, Mia and Adam live with their two young daughters in a home at Briar Patch Farm in Champaign County. They crossed paths when, on his first job out of college, Adam paid a call on Mia’s late father.

ADAM FRANTZ: Burley Grimes, Jr., was one of my first customers And that’s how I actually met the farmer’s daughter.

TOM STAFFORD: He now works full time as a seed company rep while she runs the grain business. Together they are growing Honey Creek Beef, a farm-to-customer black angus operation. They’re minimizing their risk by reinvesting their profits.

ADAM FRANTZ: Yeah, we’ve borrowed a little bit, but we’ve tried to build the animal portion of our business with cash.

TOM STAFFORD: $30- to $40,000 of it has gone to removing trees and making repairs to a 19th century barn of massive timbers joined by tiny wooden pins. The investment is also part of their dedication to land, which has been in the extended family for almost 90 years. And to the larger tradition of farming itself. Adam explained while Mia drove their pickup truck.

ADAM FRANTZ: For generations before us and for generations after us, someone else is going to show up and have to do this same exact work: Chase the cows, make the crops, protect the land.

TOM STAFFORD: The barn, he said,

ADAM FRANTZ: It was built in probably in the 1830s by guys that got up, went to work and did the job. You know, it’s a commitment that you have to make to yourself every single morning when you get up.

TOM STAFFORD: Doing that has meant different things to different generations. If the barn represents the past, the present is represented by the two massive 60,000-bushel storage bins they built two years ago.

ADAM FRANTZ: It’s just interesting the way that the business has changed. Where her dad made a lot of money hauling it directly to town and he had enough manpower and time to get all the work done that he was doing. Frankly, we couldn’t survive if we had to do that right now.

TOM STAFFORD: The ability to store and market their grain when prices are high is critical to the bottom line. And with 3,200 acres of crops to handle at the harvest, on-farm bins are a logistical necessity.

ADAM FRANTZ: We can’t afford to have our trucks all sitting in line in town. They need to get back to the field so we can get that crop harvested.

TOM STAFFORD: Data collection is also vital. Computerized systems on their machinery track fertilization and planting rates at every spot in every field. This allows Mia and Adam to manage input costs and maximize yields. Meanwhile, crop research has transformed their decision-making.

ADAM FRANTZ: So, we’ve really benefited from the genomic mapping in corn. We’ve improved the yields and we’ve been able to identify hybrids that work really, really well on individual fields, or a certain type of soil or a certain type of environment. And it’s kind of interesting that the cattle world -- the cow world -- is maybe about 20 years behind that.

TOM STAFFORD: But the progress made in corn and beef genomics are already combining to rewrite the future.

ADAM FRANTZ: And so you can make selections in the genetics that’ll actually translate all the way to the quality of the steak that’s on the plate.

TOM STAFFORD: All this makes it hard to imagine what Turkey Ridge and Briar Patch farms will look like, even a few years from now. Mia and Adam can’t imagine not being there to see it. Reporting for WYSO from Briar Patch Farm, I’m Tom Stafford.