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Zerkle loves the bees she attracts and the worms she raises, but it’s her dogs that she can hug!

Farm and Life Transitions

Zerkle Shares Her Wisdom.

Visit as many farms as you can of likeminded individuals and learn from their experiences and be planning to work hard to make your farm sustainable. Never give up the farm dream that is in your heart.

Joan Zerkle of Anderson Creek Farm in southwest central Ohio is optimistic about her future as a part-time farmer, because she expects to age and improve along with her farm.

In consultation with a mentor, Joan recently adjusted her plans for an apple orchard, scaling down the size as she learned about the selection and care of a low-chemical orchard. She also started five perennial crops, namely, raspberries, grapes, asparagus, rhubarb, and horseradish.

To increase the sustainability of her farm, Joan made many changes that result from her participation in Wisdom in the Land.

Resources. Joan continues to experiment with vermiculture as a means to improve her soil through composting and, once perfected, hopes to raise and sell worms. From her woods, where there are lots of worms, Joan captured the resource of composted leaves, and began spreading them on her gardens. She has noticed an increase in the population of worms per shovel-full. To protect her gardens, Joan planted a wind break and is establishing a rain catchment system to provide water for irrigation. Both the nearby alfalfa fields and newly planted wild flowers were planted to expand bee forage and keep bees in the area where they can bring the most benefit to her production. Investments are in process or planned. Another shallow well will be drilled which will have a hand pump with her own patented gear box. With her own eye toward aging, Joan suspects she may adapt that hand pump to a pedal pump seeing she enjoys bicycling! A filter strip of quail grass is being planned along a creek, not only to help filter chemicals still being used in the field, but also to prevent soil erosion and to create wildlife habitat. More trees will be planted in the future - mixed trees for the birds, for shade, and to offset carbon dioxide and fruit trees to add peaches and pears as orchard products and bee food. To meet her farm sustainability goal, Joan intends to make use of solar and wind power sometime in the future. Joan finds time in her busy life to establish and maintain relationships with like-minded people, regarding production practices and commitment to agriculture. She is meeting such people at the farmers’ market at which she is a vendor, and through both local and statewide groups of barn preservationists. Area farmers are noticing the changes to her farm and stopping by to talk, recognizing her efforts at trying to be a farmer!

Production. On the land she rents to another farmer for the conventional corn/beans rotation, Joan changed from corn/beans to wheat/alfalfa in an effort to reduce chemical use on land nearest her residence and also to improve soil fertility. Joan works to enrich her vegetable gardens and orchards using natural additives such as fish emulsion, bone and blood meal to ensure proper nutrients. She is adopting natural pest management strategies, such as hand picking of pests and is learning how to introduce beneficial insects. For purposes of additional fertilization, insect control, and healthy food, Joan is seriously considering raising pasture-fed poultry. In 2005 Joan initiated a transition on the farm to reduce or eliminate the use of chemicals on her farmland, beginning with her own vegetable production on two acres where no chemicals are applied. In 2007, Joan began selling her high quality produce at the area farmers’ market and continues to sell honey there and off the farm.

Business. In August 2007 Joan started working full-time off the farm to help pay for her land. She plans continuous, affordable investments to develop the farm’s capacity to become self-supporting and to provide supplemental retirement income.

Contact Information:

Joan S. Zerkle

Anderson Creek Farm
1831 Bair Rd.
Urbana, Ohio 43078

Champaign County

937-652-0010
jsuzette@main-net.com

In 1987 Joan Zerkle bought her 80-acre farm and, ever since, has cash rented her land to an area farmer. In fall 2006 Joan set out to learn what would be the best use of her farm that would also make it chemicalfree and economically sustainable. Joan works hard to continuously improve the farm so that she can maintain a part-time involvement while establishing operational practices that are aging-friendly.