I’m not traveling as I’d hoped this summer, but the time is flying by. A few weekends ago, I took advantage of an invitation from OEFFA (Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association) to spend the day at Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware. If you haven’t been, you need to go. If you have, you probably need to go back.
Stratford was instrumental in my development as a farmer. I first learned about it when our older kids attended farm camp there, about 15 years ago. Despite its increasing popularity, the littlest was able to follow more recently. The drive up from Columbus isn’t short, about 30 minutes, but pleasant. About as close to “a quick trip to the country” as you can get in Central Ohio without getting on the interstate. It used to be more quaint, but development has really changed to landscape between here and there over the past decade. In a way, all that building makes Stratford more special – 236 acres set aside to preserve nature and teach children (and their teachers and families) where food and fiber come from.
When you arrive, you enter through Stratford State Nature Preserve: 60-some-odd acres of woodland set aside to do what it will. Cruising through the narrow, winding road, you feel hugged by the trees, and your blood pressure drops. After a few minutes, you emerge on the farm fields under a big open sky. Depending on the year and the season might be planted with hay, sunflowers, and other tall large field crops.
Walking around, you’ll meet the flock of chickens who live amidst the apple trees, pass through the high tunnel (the first I’d ever seen and still one of the prettiest) tasting greens, and pet sheep, llamas, pigs, and other mammalian livestock. Also on display are an edible rain garden, straw bale building, and. In the winter, the sugar shack is humming, converting countless gallons of sap into maple syrup.
The purpose of my visit this summer was to tour the farm with Jeff Dickinson, Farmscaper at Stratford since its founding in 1990, and learn about the Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA) – a marker bill designed to get Congress thinking more about the connections between farming and climate and help participants digest the lessons we learned through some creative activities leading up to contacting our legislators asking them to support the ARA.
“The Agriculture Resilience Act will expand resources for sustainable farmers working hard to build healthy soils and fight climate change, building on six key focus areas: increasing investment in agricultural research, improving soil health, supporting the transition to pasture-based livestock, ensuring farmland preservation and viability, promoting on-farm renewable energy production, and reducing food waste.” (OEFFA, April 22, 2022)
I learned a lot during the legislative briefing and participated in good conversations that got me energized to make some phone calls, send postcards to my representatives, and educate others about how sustainable farming can help mitigate climate change. I’ll post again with more specifics there. In the meantime, read up on the bill through the link above and consider picking an issue that resonates with you. Contact your legislator, talk to your neighbors about it, and write to your local newspaper editors.