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Published: Friday, 9/17/2004

Tours offer time to learn what's new on Findlay farms

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The biggest industry in Hancock County is open for tours tomorrow.

Eight Findlay area farms, which raise everything from fish to cattle to llamas, will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors can tour the operations, see demonstrations, and try out foods like bison burgers.

The day is tailored to city dwellers, said Gary Wilson, Hancock County extension agent.

"No. 1, it's for anybody, but our primary objective is to try to help people understand what's going on on the farm, to help them understand agriculture more," Mr. Wilson said.

He said that while most northwest Ohioans can trace their roots back to the farm, most are "more than three generations removed."

The free tour, which is held every four years, also is a way for Hancock County to highlight the role agriculture plays in the area's economy.

The county's 1,120 farms generate $67.8 million a year in income - $57.2 million from crops and nearly $10.6 million from livestock and other products.

Some are far more diverse than simply raising corn, soybeans, and wheat.

"None of these farms are similar. They're all different," Mr. Wilson said of the tour stops. "All of them have production expense and harvesting of one sort or another, but they're all doing different things. At each one of these stops, people will learn something new."

First and second graders from schools across the county will be touring the farms today, seeing firsthand where their milk and bacon and apples come from.

Carol and Tom Wise are opening their sheep farm to the public for the first time this year. In addition to answering questions about the purebred Hampshire sheep they raise and sell primarily for breeding stock, the Wise's 4-H club, the Barnstormers, will be offering visitors a taste of their main product.

"We will have a full-scale food tent featuring lamb sandwiches," Mrs. Wise said. "I've got them in sloppy joe, brat patties, smoked sausage, and a roast sandwich."

Food and refreshments will be available at some but not all of the stops. At the Keller "Bison-n-Bees" farm, for example, grilled bison burgers, soft drinks, and honey will be for sale.

Sponsors say the driving tour takes three to four hours if visitors plan to hit all eight farms. They suggest starting with the first or the last.

●Spahr Jersey Farm, 9731 Township Road 234, Findlay, the largest livestock farm on the tour, features more than 400 milking cows.

●Keller Bison-n-Bees, 3366 County Road 254, Arcadia, features honey bees and bison.

●Connie's Produce Farm, corner of County Roads 226 and 257, Fostoria, offers a fruit farm and market with horses too.

●Clear View Farms Ltd., 23499 County Road 7, Alvada, is a conservation farm with llamas.

●Shaferly Fish Farms, 21483 State Rt. 568, Alvada, is a commercial fish farm.

●Wise Hampshire Sheep Farm, 16099 County Road 172, Findlay, features Hampshire sheep.

●Horn's Show Pigs, 15234 State Rt. 37, Arlington, features swine.

●Sundowner Farm, 15663 Township Road 152, Mt. Blanchard, features beef cattle.

At each farm, maps will be available showing the location of each of tour stops, and each stop will be well-marked with signs.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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