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Century farms lacking in Southeast Ohio counties

Nearly 900 “century farms” are registered in Ohio, but Athens is one of only three counties in the state that does not have one.

A century farm is a farm owned and operated by the same family for a minimum of 100 years, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

There are century farms in 85 of Ohio’s 88 counties — the missing three are Athens, Noble and Pike.

“Many families find out about the Century Farms Program by talking with their neighbors about a neighboring farm that was recently registered,” Program Manager Cindy Shy said.

Families register their farms each year. The program started recognizing outstanding farms in 1993, but changed the program to honoring all century farms in 2003, according to the Department of Agriculture’s website.

Fifty-two new farms were added to the list in 2011, the closest being the Brimner family farm in Hocking County. There are 889 farms on the list and new farms are added every year.

“It’s a matter of outreach, just getting the word out to the families that qualify for century farm registration,” Shy said.

But not knowing about the program might not be the only reason Athens County is not on the list.

“Farming in this part of the state is very different than in Columbus or Chillicothe,” said Timothy Anderson, associate professor of geography at Ohio University. He added he was not surprised that Athens was not on the list.

The land in Athens County and most of Southeast Ohio was not glaciated, so the soil was not enhanced like it was in other areas, he said.

Two of the counties without century farms — Athens and Noble — are in Southeast Ohio. In the eight counties in Southeast Ohio there are only 22 century farms while in the 11 counties in Southern Ohio there are 66 century farms.

“Appalachia has poor soil in general. In the early 19th century farming focused on cattle,” he said, adding that coal mining was more important to the economy than farming.

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