Milton Cook's 209-year-old farm recognized at Warren County fair

Officials: Niche farms increasing in Ohio

LEBANON, Ohio - If you like funnel cakes, carnival rides and the smell of cow barns, the Warren County Fair just might be on your 'to-do' list.

While the annual celebration of agriculture is a fixture in Lebanon, it also shows us the changing face of farming.

County fairs got started in the 19th Century as a celebration of agriculture. But in today's age that's sometimes hard to do.

"I've been called everything from a redneck to a hillbilly at school," said the queen of the Warren County Fair, Dana Bullock.

Still that doesn't stop Bullock from showing off her prize goat, Violet.

"I feel like farmers are under appreciated and if the public doesn't understand us then they're going to have problems finding food on their plate," she said.

Those sentiments are shared by Milton Cook whose 209-year-old organic family farm was recognized at the fair's opening ceremony.

"I've been farming since 1971, and my son will probably take over when I retire," said Cook.

But that tradition may be in jeopardy as Milton's son Travis has other plans for his life.

"I do theater for a living."

None of this is to say the family farm is disappearing.

According to the Warren County extension service, the number of smaller niche farms like the Cooks' is growing. The Director of Agriculture for the state of Ohio, David Daniels, says it's not just cows and plows.

"It's food science. It's animal and human health. So there's an agricultural job out there that would provide somebody a lifetime vocation," said Daniels.

And for the fair queen, it's a lot more.

"It kinda teaches you responsibilities and values that you wouldn't learn if you were raised in the suburbs," said Bullock.

Daniels says there are 73,000 farms in Ohio with an average size of 175 acres.

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