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Local food cafe is just one highlight of OEFFA Farm Tour
   
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Local food cafe is just one highlight of OEFFA Farm Tour
By Doug Graves          
Ohio Correspondent

MORROW, Ohio – The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is conducting a Farm Tour and Workshop Series, one that will feature 10 organic and sustainable farms and more than 20 virtual events. This event opens the door for farmers, educators and eaters to learn about agriculture and local foods in person and online. It all starts June 29 and ends Nov. 12.
“From seeing milled grains up close to learning how to dye fabrics with indigo, there’s something for everyone,” said OEFFA Executive Director Khara Strum. “OEFFA believes farmers’ learning experiences should be accessible, diverse and inclusive, addressing real-life issues and encouraging person and farm growth.”
The next stop in the OEFFA Farm Tour and Workshop series is an integrated farm and café tour at the Fresh To Morrow Farm Café & Market, 121 Main Street in Morrow. Owners Ryan and Megan Doan will open their business on June 29 at 3:30 p.m. for the public to see their seed-to-fork operation.
The farm practices no spray, regenerative farming, and permaculture methods. Located on the banks of the Little Miami River and bike trail, Ryan and Megan have built a vertically integrated food system that incorporates both the farm and other local producers.
Building soil health, encouraging seasonal eating, supporting their local economy, and reducing food waste are important aspects of their work. 
“It all started in 2009,” said Ryan, who at the time was a data analyst in Cincinnati. “I was looking for an exit from corporate America. I began gardening in my back yard, then did inner city, urban farming in Cincinnati’s east end for 10 years. I never got any grants nor did I get any free money. I simply used the city land.
 “We cooked at the urban farm and held farm-to-table events, sold tickets, had live music. That was fun and we did that four times a year. We also held a buffet in the middle of our garden.”
The couple eventually sold their house in the city and fled to a farm in Morrow with its population of just over 2,000. They have an 11.5-acre farm just west of Morrow. They have a long-term lease with nearby Camp Kern to farm an additional 10 acres.
When they first took occupancy on Main Street in Morrow in 2021, they occupied the back half of a building that was also home to an antique shop. In 2022, they bought the entire building.
“We keep steadily growing,” Ryan said. “We were out to get people to eat whole foods, local fresh foods and not processed foods.”
His Doan’s business is open 30 hours a week, and that includes Thursday dinner, meals all day Friday and Saturday, and a Sunday brunch. He employs two full-time and four part-time workers.
“Our menu is basic with a little bit of flair,” Ryan said. “Our menu is flexible. One meal we might have stir fry with seasoned vegetables. We don’t specify what’s in the seasoned vegetables. That gives me a lot of flexibility on a week-to-week basis. We also have generic categories that I can play with depending on what’s in season.”
His top sellers on his menu, he said, are his Hillbilly Hibachi, Power Bowl, burgers and chicken salad. “What we pull from the field is on the menu,” Ryan said.
On their field they plant and raise broccoli, cabbage, turnips, beets, lettuce, spinach, dill, cilantro, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, onions and garlic, just to name a few.
“We are a seed-to-fork operation, so there’s no middle men and we own the entire value chain. We can eliminate waste and maximize what we pay in wages,” Ryan said.
All fruits and vegetables used at the café come straight from the Doans’ garden. The couple source local beef and pork, but purchase certified organic chicken at a local store.
“We’re looking for a local food source for our chicken,” Ryan said.
“The best thing is that 75 percent of our expenditures stay in Morrow and just 25 percent of the expenditures leave the system. The labor, vendors, rent, utilities – they’re all staying right here in Morrow.”
While Megan has held on to her job in the medical field, Ryan has no intention of going back to the corporate world.
“My theory is, say, you have a small farm and a small restaurant … If they team up both would become more profitable. The deficiencies of one is the strength of the other. People say you can’t make money farming, and you can’t make money with a restaurant. But if these two entities team up and serve local, fresh food you can make money on everything. All this is better for the environment, better for the economy, and better for the customers.”
And there are nine other enticing stops on this tour. On July 20, farmer Levi Hostetler, of West Salem, Ohio, will teach attendees the techniques to increase production and profitability in organic farming. Hostetler has been growing OEFFA-certified organic produce since 2005. Each season his farm supplies Green Field Farms Co-op with zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, fall squash, hay and corn.
On July 21, Alex and Alexis Dragovich, of Mud Run Farm in Navarre, Ohio, will discuss their success of growing and milling small grains as they do for their region on their 30-acre farm, utilizing horse-drawn equipment and sustainable practices. This tour will showcase their knowledge of organic practices, small grains and stone milling.
In addition to seven other live farm visits to explore, there are 20 virtual visits to see, ones that will teach attendees about Land Leasing Basics, Farm Employment Law Basics, Sowing Seeds for Success, Organics 101, Farmer Help Shop, The USDA and You, and others.
For a full list of stops in the OEFFA tour go to https://news.oeffa.org/farm-tours-2024/.

6/17/2024