March 9, 2018 at 10:00 am

Local Farmers Talk about Small-Scale, Sustainable Agriculture


Food studies graphic, with outlines of eggplant, tomato, corn, etc.

The Food Studies theme hosted a “Know Your Farmer” panel on March 8 in partnership with the Athens Chapter of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association.

The panel included members of the local food system, all with a unique background and farming expertise:

  • Charles Buchanan, Leading Creek Farm
  • Ed Perkins, Sassafras Farm
  • Paul Harper, Woodland Ridge Farm
  • Paul Tomcho, Creekside Farm
  • Becky and Kip Rondy, Green Edge Organics
  • Bob O’Neil and Christine Hughes, Village Bakery and Cafe

These community members range in years of farming, variety of crops, and methodology. However, they all share a common vision for a future food system that supports small-scale, sustainable agriculture. The panelists also stressed the importance of the Athens Farmers Market, the main retail outlet for all their products.

The conversation surrounded both the positives and negatives of the food system, with uneasy comments about the industrial agriculture industry and the environmental destruction it is responsible for. However, the panelists look toward a future where the Athens community is more aware of where its food comes from and willing to make structural shifts to support it. There was discussion on the role that Ohio University could play in such a shift, with more institutional purchasing of local food products.


One audience member asked for advice on how to break into the farming industry as a college graduate with little money or farming experience.

Harper recommended that people volunteer or work on as many types of farms as possible in order to find what niche they truly love. The types of farming are so diverse, whether it’s crop, location, animals, etc., and the opportunities for new farmers to learn are endless.

Rondy also noted that beginning a farm means you are investing in a community. Wherever you establish your property is where you will most likely be for a very long time, and it needs to be a place with the market and environment you want to devote your life to.

Tomcho recommended that beginning a farm with an additional source of revenue, whether that is a second business like a bed and breakfast, or an entirely different job.

In its entirety, the evening was filled with a wonderful conversation about the resiliency of sustainable agriculture and the future of the food system. The audience left the event feeling inspired and ready to go eat some local, sustainable food.

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