Benjamin Stinner ~ died Nov. 23, 2005 in an automobile accident at age 50. Ben was a professor of entomology based on OSU’s OARDC Wooster campus. He was an international leader in the areas of agroecology and sustainable agriculture. He made significant research and outreach contributions in the ecology and economics of whole-farm systems, arthropod ecology, nutrient cycling and the role of organic matter in soil fertility. Ben had worked with the Hartzler farms for many years, researching our farming practices and being mentored by Harold Hartzler. He is deeply missed
People from all over the world of agriculture have visited the Hartzlers to learn more about their methods. Benjamin R. Stinner, Ph.D., and Deborah Hall Stinner, Ph.D., are two of the more notable. The husband and wife both have degrees in ecology. Ben is Professor of Soil Ecology and Sustainable Agriculture with the Departments of Entomology and Horticulture and Crop Science at Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster, OH. Deborah is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Entomology, also at the OARDC.
"We have worked with the Hartzler family for almost 10 years now," notes Deborah. Such long term study offers some unique research opportunities. It provides university scientists, such as the Stinners, insight into what happens to the soil, plants and livestock when farming methods are converted from extensive petrochemical usage to alternative methods. The Stinners have been integral in documenting some noteworthy research findings.
"Harold Hartzler is an amazing man," begins Ben. "He started about 30 years ago, back in the 60s, going in an opposite direction from mainstream agricultural methods. He and his family have been able to produce good yields of crops and have good levels of livestock production
"They've got a nice balanced system," says Ben. "They rotate their corn with hay, small grains (usually oats) and then forage crops like alfalfa and red clover for two to three years. Then they go back to corn. Animal manure is also put on their corn crops.
"The clover and alfalfa actually help bring nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil. This plays an important role in soil fertility and nutrients. Another thing worth noting is that they use innovative cultivation techniques for weed control," says Ben. "There is definitely a lot going on in this process, and the Harztlers have mastered these ways of farming very well.
"I should mention that the Hartzlers are not pushing for high yields," notes Ben. "But they are also not using expensive materials such as pesticides, which are often required for higher yields. This helps their bottom line," he adds. And, interestingly enough, the Stinners' research indicates that the Hartzler's crop yields and livestock production are at the county average or slightly above county average.
One of Harold Hartzler's unique claims is that bugs do not like healthy plants, European corn borers in particular. Dr. Larry Phelan from Ohio State University, performed experiments to study this occurrence. He took soils from the Hartzler farm and soils from other nearby farms which use petrochemicals and planted corn in each of the samples inside of a greenhouse. Female European corn borers were then released in the greenhouse. The experiment findings indicated the borers showed a distinct preference for the corn grown in the chemically-treated soils. Although some eggs were laid on corn grown in Hartzlers' soil, research showed their plants were actually warding off the insects.
The fact that Harold has shared such information for years is confirmed by Deborah. "The Hartzlers have generously mentored interested people from all over the world in regards to their methods," she says. "They have had literally hundreds of visitors from Japan, Australia, Italy and England.
"The key thing to realize about the Hartzlers is that they are not hard-line organic farmers . They are much more concerned about some basic principles. Basically, the health of the soil directly impacts the health of the plants, the livestock and the people." says Deborah.
The principles of rotating crops, avoiding the use of harmful chemicals and using natural fertilizers can have a major impact on a community. "We study soils with a long-term look at the whole farm," says Deborah. "In fact, we look at the whole ecological system and how it is impacted by farming methods. That includes the family. The Hartzler family is definitely making a difference here."
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"..The Cream Rises to the top"
Whether you drink it straight from the bottle (we won't tell your mom), or from a favorite glass, there's one thing you need to do first: SHAKE BEFORE DRINKING! That's because our milk is all natural and the cream rises to the top -- that's what makes our milk healthier and tastier than most!