Nestled in the Miami River valley outside the village of North Bend, Ohio, Carriage House Farm has been worked by six generations of family since 1855. This historic location, home to our 9th President William Henry Harrison, is a diverse ecosystem of a patchwork quilt of small farms, parkland, residential communities and floodplain.
As our family has grown, so has the farm. What was once a small 90 acre homestead, today includes more than 300 acres of fertile, mostly river bottom, land and woods. We also farm with our neighbors, baling hay, for our horses, building horse trails, hosting events, and helping out when needed.
Why is it important to preserve the heritage of Ohio's farms?
We live in an age in which most people, especially the younger generations, seem to be concerned with only the present. There appears to be little planning for the future and no attention given to our history, to the lessons of the past. Urban sprawl gobbles up farmland. Children think food comes from a sterile, bright shiny superstore...and that belief is not limited to children, I'm afraid. Our national highway system has erased all memory of cattle paths, horse-drawn wagons, and dirt roads. Instead of helping parents in yards and gardens, our children remain indoors, glued to TV's, computers, and video games.
Is what I've described progress? I don't know. It's certainly change, and change can be good. But is it always? Aren't [urban, suburban] schools always trying to teach their charges about farms, farm animals, and the source of the food they eat? Don't they schedule annual field trips to the nearest local petting farm, as if the farm consisted mainly of opportunities to see and touch sheep, pigs, chicken and rabbits?
Families move around the country, following the job market, no longer rooted to the land their great-great-grandfathers probably farmed Isn't it important to have a connection to the soil? Is that an out-of-date concept? I don't know, I expect it is.
For us, though, it is not. We know who owned the farm we work, the soil out of which we harvest soybeans and corn to feed a nation (a world?), the soil from which we coax the cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, sweet corn, peppers, lettuce, okra, carrots, beets, radishes, eggplant and herbs which grace not only our table but also those of our family and friends. We can trace the generations of our family on the land back to the mid-19th century, to Enos and Job Hayes. They purchased land in small parcels, gradually acquiring a sizable farm, a process which was continued by the current (co)owner, Richard Marion Stewart, great-grandson of Job and Missouri Hayes. When we're out in our hayfield which borders the Great Miami River, looking back at the buildings we've added onto over the years, we're filled with pride, and we wonder what those distant forebears would think if they could see the place now.
Where once the land was farmed with teams of enormous work horses, it is now plowed, disked and harvested with large, powerful machinery. Where chickens roamed, and pigs were housed, there are now three new stables full of boarded horses. Treed land has been partially cleared for pastures, new fences and gates have been erected and a new metal barn for machine storage built, the old carriage house and new connected tool storage addition have been given a fresh coat of paint, a new rock wall borders the road below the vegetable garden, and the orchard is being restored.
Americans need to be reminded from time to time, they need to remember, that most of the original Europeans who came to this wonderful land were farmers, and they came here to make a new start in a place where they could own their own land...where they could feed their families by the toil of their hands and the sweat of their brow...a place where no landed gentry or nobleman could take their land from them, where they would be free to make of themselves what they would.
America's farm heritage must be preserved. It was the backbreaking effort of independent men and women, like our Hayes forebears, who carved fields out of wilderness, erected homes, and built Ohio. That must never be forgotten.