BELPRE, Ohio -- When the recession forced Lynn Wiblin into unemployment from her manufacturing job earlier this year, she turned to the land to get back on her feet. Following in the footsteps of generations of family farming, she has turned 15 acres in Washington County into a vegetable farm that not only will provide for her and her family, but also help support the local economy.
To get started, Wiblin looked to a new Web site (http://beginfarmingohio.org) to contact fellow farmers and search for information on production and marketing.
"The Web site has been an invaluable resource tool," she said.
Beginfarmingohio.org is supported by an alliance of five agricultural organizations: Ohio State University Extension, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Cuyahoga Countryside Conservancy, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and the Organic Food and Farming Education and Research Program.
The resource tool is designed to guide people of all ages through the process of launching a farming career – whether it's a young person with no farming experience, someone making a mid-career change into agriculture, or a retiree interested in a small farm operation. The Web site provides links to news, resources, farmer profiles and contact information.
"The neat thing about this Web site is that it contains virtually all of the resources available to new farmers in Ohio, in one place," said Mike Hogan, an OSU Extension educator in agriculture and natural resources.
The Web site and the resources it provides leads farmers to OSU Extension – many for the very first time.
"I've met many new farmers who learn about the myriad of resources available at their local Extension office who then say, "Wow, I never knew you guys existed!" said Hogan.
Wiblin uses the Web site, along with the advice of regional OSU Extension educators, to help develop her farm operation.
"I bought the land in 2004 thinking that I'd farm a little on the side and when I retired in 20 years or so, I would become a ‘serious' farmer. Then the economy took its nosedive and I found my retirement project fast-forwarded," said Wiblin. "Many of my resources have come through the Web site, including agricultural conferences, training activities and small business development opportunities."
Through several grants from OSU South Centers Small Business Development Center and the Community Action/Workforce Investment Act, Wiblin was able to purchase supplies and equipment to help get her new farming career off the ground. She grows vegetables and herbs, such as garlic, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, peppers, broccoli and sweet potatoes.
"It gives me great pride and satisfaction knowing that I can and will produce good, quality products to not only feed myself and my family, but also provide for the local markets and contribute to my local economy," said Wiblin.
In addition to growing vegetables, Wiblin also uses part of her farm to grow garden plants for the greenhouse industry. This past fall, she produced over 1,600 mums, which she sold to landscapers, garden centers and buyers at farmers' markets.
Wiblin is no stranger to farming. Her great-grandparents owned apple orchards in West Virginia, her grandparents raised beef and dairy cattle, and her father maintained a Christmas tree farm as a retirement project.
Still, she admits that the work is long and hard, and is grateful for the support she has received from area farmers and organizations such as OSU Extension.
"Growing up in 4-H, Extension has always been a great influence on me," said Wiblin. "There are a lot of opportunities through Extension, especially through the collaborations with other groups to provide hands-on experience and training to accompany academic knowledge."