Adam and Aubrey Bolender are part of the Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative. Photo by Michael D. Tedesco/FFM staff

There’s something timeless and nostalgic about farming that has captured the hearts of Americans for centuries. This is especially true in Ohio, where agriculture has deep roots and family farms make up a notable percentage of the landscape.

While farming may be as old as time, the rising generation of farmers are leading the industry into the future by marrying the tried-and-true methods of their forefathers with a modern approach and technological advances.

Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative

Dr. Tricyn Huntsman-Parker, a large animal veterinarian, checks on cows that are part of the Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative. Photo by Michael D. Tedesco

Young Farmers Start the Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative

Aubrey Bolender grew up helping her family grow soybeans, corn, wheat and tobacco in Brown County. She spent summers square-bailing hay, riding tobacco setters and selling eggs from her hens.

“I always enjoyed the work,” Bolender says. “Many of my best memories came from those days in the field.”

With a love for farming in her blood, Bolender is carrying on the family legacy – with a twist. Today, she is a part of the Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative, a farming co-op that brings together local cattle farmers to sell all-natural, high-quality meat in the marketplace.

The benefit of the co-op is two-fold. Local family farms can come in all sizes without sacrificing quality, and customers are guaranteed to receive locally grown meat from their own backyard to feed their families. It also helps farmers form a better relationship with consumers.

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Like farms of generations past, everything can remain on a small scale while still reaching a broad demographic.

“It’s about being able to pay attention to the details,” Bolender says. “There’s a satisfaction
you get from knowing you’re taking excellent care of each and every animal. That would make grandpa proud.”

Matt Cunningham of Rustic Brew Farm

Matt Cunningham of Rustic Brew Farm. Photo by Michael D. Tedesco/FFM staff

Next-Level Beer with Rustic Brew Farm

“We’ve converted a small portion of our grain farm over to hops and malting barley to supply Ohio’s craft brewers with Ohio-grown ingredients,” Cunningham says. “There’s nothing like sipping a craft beer that’s the result of all your hard work and has ingredients from your own farm.”

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Cunningham understands you reap what you sow, which is why it makes sense to incorporate modern technology into agriculture.

“We use GPS guidance for almost all of our machinery, soil testing and variable rate fertilizer application to put the right amount of fertilizer where it needs to go,” Cunningham explains. “Farms have to run much more efficiently now, and technology is enabling us to do that.”

Cream of the Crop Dairy at Rosedale Farms

Keener built his own dairy farm after discovering that many farms available for rent were outdated with inefficient milking parlors and dairy systems.

Today, Keener and his wife own and manage Rosedale Farms in Ashland County, a dairy operation that couples their love for farming with efficient, modern technologies. For example, their flush barn sweeps the interior alleys of the barn every four hours to keep their cattle living in a clean and healthy environment.

While managing hundreds of dairy cows is hard work, Keener loves the job and hopes it teaches valuable life lessons about hard work and critical thinking to
his two sons, Jack and Henry.

As these modern pioneers embrace technology in an effort to shorten the distance between farm and table, Ohio’s agricultural industry can rest assured that it is in good hands.