NEW BAVARIA — For anyone on a casual drive up county Road 19 northeast of Continental, the sight of a recently dug ditch between two cornfields just across the Defiance County line may not attract much attention. However, this two-stage ditch was one of several stops during Saturday’s Putnam County Ag Tour, a bus tour that highlighted new technology and techniques being used by county farmers to help protect waterways from pollution and algae-feeding nutrient runoff.
“Everyone’s come up to me and said that we need to do this more often and in other counties,” said Putnam County Farm Bureau organizational Director Jessica Vandenbroek. “It’s a good way for us to get our voice out there even to educate other farmers on what’s going on in the county.”
What brought the group to the ditch off county Road 19 was the fact that it not only helps lower the water depth of a 10-year storm event from seven feet to four feet, but it also features an automatic water sampling system that periodically collects water samples from the ditch for testing to ensure that nutrients are not running off fields and into tributaries leading eventually to Lake Erie.
Other stops included a hog farm where participants could see how different handling practices help keep manure out of waterways, as well as looking at various cover crops and a new hops production site in the county.
For Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amy Sealts, the tour emphasized just how important agriculture is to the county’s economy.
“I think sometimes people don’t see agriculture as business, but it’s a big part of our county,” she said. “We’re trying to work together and show people what our local agricultural community is doing in business here in our area.”
Among the attendants were a representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Robert Latta, R-Bowling Green, as well as state Rep. Robert McColley, R-Napoleon, who saw this tour as a way of vindicating an industry that has received a lot of blame over the years when it comes to toxic algae blooms.
“In the coming years, it doesn’t seem like this issue is going to be removed from the priority list in Columbus, so we need to be absolutely certain to gather as much data as possible to pinpoint what the contributing factors actually are, and if it’s not agriculture, we need to know that,” McColley said.
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.