Saturday, March 4, 2017

A Good Day at Harrison Farm

Today was a good day at Harrison Farm.  It was cold, it was muddy, it was productive, and it was deeply fulfilling.  Best of all, it was a day full of people visiting the farm and animals engaged in their usual antics.

My new Assistant Zach has survived four weeks of being a minion at Harrison Farm, and he fits in very well to our farm family.  Zach is active in FFA, is passionate about playing football, is a very good conversationalist, and has a positive attitude.  Thus far, this intrepid sixteen year old is managing to tolerate my eccentricities as a farmer quite well.  He has been a most welcome addition to our team!  My former interns Elizabeth & Marissa were both out to the farm today, along with Student Assistant Zach.  Elizabeth is a beacon of so much goodness & laughter, and the work load somehow seems much lighter just by the virtue of her company.  Marissa is preparing to transition from intern to assistant at Harrison Farm as she wraps up her college career.  I am markedly impressed with the manner in which Marissa is embracing more opportunity & responsibility at the farm.  She has a strong intellectual curiosity and a heart for animals.  Neither Elizabeth nor Marissa grew up on a farm, yet one would never think that to see how competently they have learned to manage the work of Harrison Farm.  They are both strong, caring women.

Today I was onsite all day with my awesome team.  I gave them each individual tasks & group projects to accomplish -- and then unleashed them.  I am full of pride for the leadership & work ethic that they displayed in carrying out their assignments.  At our designated time for lunch break, my team returned and settled in around the kitchen table.  I finished making lunch, while they read over three articles I had saved for them as our weekly "Harrison Farm Required Reading": an interview with the Executive Vice President of Ohio Farm Bureau, the obituary for the amazing physicist Dr. Mildred Dresselhaus, and a personal reflection by the President of the University of Richmond on the value of listening.  

As I prepped our lunch -- and watched those three remarkable young people sitting at the kitchen table reading -- my heart was so full.  They finished their reading, we prayed, and then we dined.  Our menu was Harrison Farm scrambled eggs, Red Beans & Rice with Harrison Farm Goat Sausage, and Harrison Farm Lamb Brats.  We like protein.  For dessert, we enjoyed a batch of Grandmother Harrison's Chocolate Chip Cookies.  During the meal we discussed the "required reading", laughed about our misadventures with the day's farmwork, and made plans for the future of the farm.  I cannot imagine a more fabulous lunch than what I enjoyed today.

I love this farm with all my heart, and I believe it deserves the opportunity to serve a purpose for our community.  My heart is full of joy as I watch these phenomenal young people gain skills, embrace animal agriculture, and become mature citizens of integrity.  Our afternoon brought more farm work, a "traveling goatherd" expedition to a neighbor who needed help with a goat, and a wonderful visit from one of my very favorite families.  It was a good day.  My grandfather had a plaque in his office with a quote from President Abraham Lincoln: "I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.  I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him."  These days it seems that this farm looks a bit prouder, stands up a bit taller.  Harrison Farm is finding its purpose.  And it seems that Katherine Harrison is, too.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Testimony on Farm Taxes

I truly appreciate the support that my community offers to Harrison Farm, and I want to make sure this land in turn serves the community around me.  Recently, I had the opportunity to testify before the Ways & Means Committee of the State Senate on farmland taxation.  The formula for taxation on farm land currently includes certain factors which have created a very difficult burden on farmers.  Senate Bill 36 would help by refining the formula to make it more accurate for how farmland is used.  I share this in the hope that my friends who care about the work of Harrison Farm will also be advocates for policies that keep farms in operation!  Garden Goat & Finn Lambkins thank you!

Chair Eklund, Vice Chair Terhar, Ranking Member Williams, and members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee: thank you for the opportunity to provide proponent testimony on Senate Bill 36.  

I am Katherine Harrison, and I own & operate a small livestock farm near Canal Winchester, in southeastern Franklin County.  I am the fifth generation of my family to work this particular farm.  Nearly my entire life has been spent working on this land, and I love it with my whole heart.  I raise goats, sheep, and chickens.  In addition, I have a wonderful guardian donkey, ten unruly barn cats, and the best farm dog ever.  Harrison Farm focuses on celebrations and animals and teaching -- as those are my passions.  

The mission of Harrison Farm is to enrich lives by connecting people with animals and farming.  Besides raising meat & eggs, I use my farm as an opportunity for people to learn more about animal agriculture.  I work with the Ohio State University to provide internships for animal science students, and I am very proud of the eight young ladies who have interned with me.  I also work with my local high school FFA program, and have had ten amazing student assistants work on my farm over the last decade.  We host a number of events at Harrison Farm, including a quarterly Open Farm, on-farm dinners catered by a local chef, and the extraordinarily popular goat yoga.

Living near a metropolitan area provides many wonderful opportunities for me to connect with individuals who are curious about farming, but know very little about it.  Since my farm is only a thirty minute drive from downtown, it is a convenient location for urban & suburban residents to visit.  Admittedly, it is the opportunity to snuggle adorable baby goats that draws visitors to the farm.  I have found, however, that if you place a baby goat in someone's arms, they immediately light up and want to learn everything they can about animal agriculture.  Although my farm is a small one, it gives me the opportunity to answer a wide range of questions about farming.

I truly feel that farms like mine are important for metropolitan areas.  Farms provide green space, employ members of the community, and enhance food security.  Unfortunately, the reality is that there are great pressures placed upon my farm due to our close proximity to an urban center.  One of these realities is a higher tax burden, as I am quickly discovering as a new land owner.  As mentioned, I am the fifth generation of my family at my farm.  I grew up with my grandparents, who taught me so much about farming and about life.  I am the only one of their descendants who is a farmer, and my parents are deceased.  Unfortunately, the generation between my grandparents and myself did not view the farm with the same love that I do.  For them, it was a valuable real estate asset that could be sold.  

I recently had the opportunity to purchase at auction the 44 acres of my grandfather's farm which adjoin my home, out of the 323 acres which were auctioned off.  I would have loved to have purchased the whole thing, but my finances were not such to be able to do so.  I have the habit of following my heart even in business decisions, which was abundantly evident in my decision to purchase those 44 acres.  To break down the tax implications on this piece of property, allow me to share some details on the financials.  I have not yet finalized a rental agreement, but for a few years I will likely rent the land to a neighbor to farm.  I anticipate this can bring in about $180 per acre per year. The taxes run approximately $120 per acre per year.  That leaves a possible net of $60 per acre per year to pay down a loan for $300,000 to purchase the land.  That is a tough financial situation to navigate, yet it illustrates the difficulty of keeping land in farming when taxes take such a steep portion of any potential profit.

Farmers are deeply vested in our communities.  I love my farm, and I love sharing it with others.  Part of the responsibility of being a steward of the land, is paying appropriate levels of taxation.  The current tax situation on farmland, however, creates added pressures that make it more difficult for small farms to remain in metropolitan areas.  Farms like mine play a vital role in our community and I invite you to visit Harrison Farm whenever you would like to enjoy the antics of adorable baby goats!  Thank you sincerely for the opportunity to provide proponent testimony for SB 36!