Wayne County Farm to Become Unique 'Living Laboratory' for OARDC

October 10, 2002

WOOSTER, Ohio — Ohio State University (OSU) has announced a gift of land from longtime Wayne County, Ohio resident Patricia Miller Quinby and the estate of her late sister, Virginia Miller Reed. The 324-acre Mellinger Farm will become a source of unprecedented opportunities for agricultural research, education and conservation, as part of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) —which is the research arm of OSU’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Located eight miles northwest of OARDC’s Wooster campus, Mellinger Farm has been in operation since 1816, when Wayne County pioneer Benedict Mellinger purchased land from the United States government to raise sheep and flax for his family’s weaving business. Currently, more than half of the property is dedicated to crops, primarily corn and soybeans. Mixed hard woods cover another 120 acres, while the remaining land is occupied by buildings, pastures, a stream and road right-of-ways. Half of the farm —the portion belonging to the estate of Virginia Miller Reed— is already the property of OSU. The remaining half will be transferred to the university in stages over the next six years. "My wish is for the property to remain a farm as long as possible —to keep the green space in Wayne County, but also out of respect for all the generations who put their lives into the development of the land," said Quinby, who approached OARDC last year to negotiate the terms of the gift. "I believe that OARDC will make the best possible use of the land." According to OARDC Director Steven Slack, the farm will provide a unique facility for integrated systems research and education, enabling response to the rapid changes and challenges facing agricultural sustainability in Ohio and across the nation. "We were in need of an outdoor laboratory to bring together the research in integrated systems generated by our faculty during the last decade," Slack said. "This is a unique opportunity for us and we are indebted to Mrs. Quinby." Mellinger Farm will incorporate integrated systems of forestry, crops and livestock, emphasizing the linkages among production, environmental quality, economic feasibility and social responsibility. Research will be conducted at multiple levels —field, landscape, whole farm— with diversified enterprises. These include balancing field crop and livestock management, development of high-value food and "nutraceutical" products, creating cropping systems with the use of new species and combinations of species, composting and nutrient management studies, precision agriculture and environmental quality, and whole farm/landscape modeling. "One great thing about this project is that not only faculty and students will benefit from it," said Ben Stinner, professor of entomology and head of the Agro-ecosystems Management Program at OARDC. "Farmers, agencies dealing with either crop production or environmental protection, and many other members of the community will be involved as well." Serving as a "living laboratory" for group study courses or internships, the facility is expected to make learning more appealing for students, who are increasingly requesting involvement in whole systems management in the plant and animal sciences as part of their OSU experience. "Being so close to campus, this site will allow us to put our research directly to work in an actual farm," said Kenneth Scaife, assistant to the director for field operations at OARDC and a key player in the donation process. "Farmers sometimes wonder whether our small-plot experiments are equally effective in the real world. We now have a place to show them." Mellinger Farm can also be employed to sponsor workshops, symposia and school programs on leading-edge agricultural topics, innovative ways to harmonize agriculture with rural residential areas, and the importance of agriculture to the economic and environmental wellbeing of the community. Additional plans include certification of the property as a sustainable forest management site by SmartWood, the world’s oldest and most extensive forest certification program, according to Robert Romig, assistant director of OSU’s School of Natural Resources. Once this accreditation is obtained, OSU will join Duke University and Paul Smith College (N.Y.) as the only universities nationwide with SmartWood certification. Mellinger Farm is one of 10 properties that have joined Ohio’s agricultural conservation easement program, an innovative approach to land preservation sponsored by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) since 2000. Conservation easements are deed restrictions placed on property to protect resources such as productive agricultural land, ground and surface water, wildlife habitats, historic sites, or scenic views. Tailored to each property and to the needs of individual landowners, they authorize a qualified conservation organization or public agency to monitor and enforce such restrictions. The Killbuck Watershed Land Trust and ODA will hold the easement for Mellinger Farm, ensuring that its land is kept available for farming. "Mellinger Farm represents a unique case within our agricultural easement program," said Howard Wise, executive director of ODA’s Office of Farmland Preservation. "Not only did Mrs. Quinby sign the agreement to protect her family’s farm, but she also donated the property to Ohio State for research."

Author(s): 
Mauricio Espinoza
Source(s): 
Howard Wise