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Ohio couple passes on retirement, starts organic farm
By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
Ohio Correspondent

TRENTON, Ohio — At an age when their friends are buying second homes in Florida, Joe and Janet Streit are starting a new career - organic farming.

“We both grew up on farms but we didn’t farm,” said Joe. “We purchased this land because we liked being in the country. Our nephew farmed it for years.”

About three years ago the medical profession sent Janet home to die, Streit said. Health insurance dropped them. They got interested in nutrition and were able to turn Janet’s health around.

“We decided to make the step and start farming,” Streit said. “It was a major step for us, a major investment. We had no cattle, no fences, no equipment, and no buildings suitable for a farm operation.

“Everybody thought that I went crazy. I turned 60 and started all this additional work instead of less work,” he said with a laugh.

Janet is able to join Joe in working 14 hour days on the farm. They feel so much better that they’re able to put in those hours. Both had joint and back problems and have learned that those are symptoms of poor nutrition, they said.

Their first farming venture was to find a breed of cattle that would do well on just grass. The Santa Gertrudis breed filled that need.

They’re easy to work with and very docile. Streit thinks that breed was a good decision.

The meat products have been good quality, Streit said. They have their own label and have the beef slaughtered in Osgood, Ohio at a USDA inspected facility so they can sell it by the piece, marketing it from their home and at the Oxford Uptown Farmer’s Market.

“We have struggled with the decision on marketing meat because we’ve had so many people wanting to buy beef - a half or quarter beef on foot. We get $2 a pound for an animal on foot. I think if I had 20 to sell I probably could because people are eager. I couldn’t comprehend that. These people are willing to pay $2 a pound for something that has no grain.”

It’s well documented, Streit said, that the negative Omega-6 fats come from grain fed animals whereas a grass fed animal has more of the positive Omega 3 fats.

Besides beef, the Streits also sell organic eggs. They started with 50 chicks and couldn’t keep up with the demand. Another 100 chicks are about half grown and will soon be producing.

“In order to have hens and feed them organically you have about $2 a dozen invested in actual cost in the eggs. We sell them for $3 at the market. That’s another thing I couldn’t comprehend - people paying $3 for eggs when they can buy them at the grocery store for 79 cents or whatever.”

Added Janet: “There’s a big difference in the taste. People are aware of that and will pay that price for eggs.”

Rabbits are the newest venture. Calling it a “kind of experiment,” Streit said they are putting in a domestic rabbit facility and will have 100 New Zealand white does.

“There is a tremendous market,” Streit said. “We’ll sell some at the farmer’s market and some commercially. The meat is cholesterol free so many doctors recommend it for people with heart issues.”

The couple is still learning about growing vegetables organically. That was their weak area, Streit said.

“There’s a lot we don’t know about gardening,” he said. “My father raised sweet corn and green beans but none of it was organic and doing organic things is like starting over,” he said. “You have to learn to control pests and have good rich soil without fertilizers. We use a lot of compost and that all sounds pretty simple but it can get very complicated.”

The Streits have another year to go before their farm will be certified organic. Accomplishing that, from their point of view, beats lying on a Florida beach.

For information, call the Streits at 513-737-7131 or 513-284-7330.

Published in the September 7, 2005 issue of Farm World.

10/26/2005