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Ag Entrepreneur: From tees to bees

Agriculture.com Staff 03/30/2010 @ 12:06pm

Where there's a will, there's a way. The Barnes family of Williamsport in south-central Ohio has found ways for 2,200 acres to support four families.

Isaac Barnes returned home from college to be turf manager of the golf course the family designed and built in 2000. Isaac's Aunt Jan winks as she opens the stained-glass door to the clubhouse.

"We needed more jobs for all the Barneses after they came home from college," Jan says. "We could buy land, rent land, or do something else." The something else includes Crown Hill Golf Club, an 18-hole, par-72 golf course where the 120-head cow-calf operation once was.

Although Isaac liked the golf course, the 16-hour days and 250-days-a-year schedule didn't mix with raising a young family. So he obtained his teaching degree and is a high school science teacher.

"I used to run the combine over there," says Isaac, motioning to the family's cropland acres. Now, along with helping his brother, Justin, and his cousins ,Wesley and Adam, on the grain farm, Isaac has branched into other ag ventures on top of teaching high school students.

On the first hole, Isaac feeds some of the family's 80 honeybee hives. Along with selling 4,000 pounds of raw honey (without pasteurization or high-pressure filtering) per year, Isaac and his wife, Jayne, grow flowers and also make candles and soap from beeswax. They sell the products and honey at a simple wooden self-serve stand on their farm called Honeyrun. Jayne, a stay-at-home mom, cares for Maizy, 6 months, and Mason, 2.

After working at a consulting firm two years, Isaac's sister, Becky, longed for farm life. Becky, Jayne's roommate in college, says the two had a "grandiose idea of farming" when they were 18. The idea became reality after they visited markets, talked to farmers, and decided to take advantage of the local food movement.

"Produce-farming an acre can be profitable -- if you work at it," Jayne says.

Becky, who also is a substitute ag teacher, makes a full-time living on 3 acres of sweet corn and 3 acres of garden and greenhouse. She sells organically grown produce to nearby Columbus, Ohio, restaurants and farmers. In the summer, Becky travels to six farmer's markets weekly selling fresh produce. Her dad, Tom, jokes, "She sells a lot of lettuce -- for $5 a pound."

The business is no joke. Becky uses decomposed organic chicken manure on her garden, and the practice is spreading to the grain operation. The Barneses' grain farm also purchases the manure for $20 a ton to cut fertilizer costs.

Branching into new ventures and following their passion comes naturally to the Barnes family.

"It all started with my dad," smiles Tom Barnes, the father of Becky and Isaac. "He graduated from college, decided to not teach after five years, and became a missionary in Puerto Rico."

Where there's a will, there's a way. The Barnes family of Williamsport in south-central Ohio has found ways for 2,200 acres to support four families.

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