Northwest Ohio farm provides food for families all over the country

Published: Oct. 18, 2017 at 4:50 PM EDT
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Agriculture is big business in Ohio. In fact, it's one of the largest sectors of the state's economy. Farming generates tens of billions of dollars every year. And it is harvest season at a lot of northwest Ohio farms.

Five generations of the Rothert family have farmed the land in northwest Ohio. The operation dates back to the year 1854. What the family grows here ends up on tables all over North America.

Farming is in Jake Rothert's blood. He is the fifth generation of the family to make a living off the land. What started as a small family farm has grown into a massive operation, "We have 10 full time employees. During peak time we can have up to 100 seasonal employees."

The family farms 3,500 acres here in northwest Ohio.Tracy Dresser's great-grandfather started it all,"Through the generations we have continued to farm, expand and improve on what he began after immigrating from Germany in 1854."

The Rotherts grow everything from corn to peppers, pickles and tomatoes. A lot of the tomatoes they grow end up at Hirzel canning for Dei Fratelli products. Hirzel is another locally-owned family business that sells its products all over the country.

While they grow plenty of tomatoes, but cabbage is king at Rothert Farm.It is one of the largest cabbage producers east of the Mississippi River. What the Rotherts grow ends up in stores like Meijer and Walmart. Tracy says it's also used by restaurants like Tony Packo's, Panera and Kentucky Fried Chicken, "People are surprised to find out our cabbage is in so many different places. They are always like, "I never knew your cabbage is in KFC coleslaw." It's a fun thing to share with people."

A lot has changed since the original family members worked this land.Technology is a big part of the farm. Jake says what used to take days in many cases now only takes a matter of hours, "All our cabbage is cut, cleaned and cored in the field. It is put into sealed boxes and brought to our facility and put in a vacuum cooler. Less than 30 minutes later we are able to get it to shipping temperature. In a lot of cases we are able to ship the product out the same day it is harvested."

Jake says while cabbage is the biggest crop, diversification is important, "It is a way to mitigate the risk in the business. Grain prices are not great right now, so we are trying to keep our eggs in a lot of baskets. That is the strategy we employ at this farm."

One of the newest crops in the line-up is kale, "It's a superfood. We are really excited about growing it. Every year, we are increasing our acreage of kale. We enjoy growing it. Our kale goes to a lot of local suppliers, as well as throughout the east coast."

As the number of crops grows, so has the business. The family farm is now a two-state operation.The Rotherts also farm about 4,000 acres in Florida. Some of the family members split their time between the Ohio and Florida farms, making this a year-round business for a family with such deep roots in northwest Ohio.