Malabar Farm is pretty damn photogenic any time, but for Christmas it can’t be beat. With snow headed our way, the park will be a postcard on Christmas Day this year.
Even back in mid-November the staff and a crew of volunteers, who make state’s only farm park go, had the Big House at Malabar State Farm Park looking like Christmas was near and the Bromfield family was ready to put their presents under the tree. A big decorated Christmas tree stood between the railings of the famous double stairway. From the grand piano in the entryway, the home was filled with music. There was another beautiful tree with an ear of corn at the top in the office of the late Louis Bromfield, the farm’s former owner, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and very vocal advocate of conservation stewardship. In the dining room smoked venison and ham and turkey and cookies and Ohio wine was being served.
And was that Santa himself standing at a podium on the sidewalk outside the front door?
No, that was Andy Ware, deputy of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, waxing poetic about the his days as an intern at the park, describing proposing to his wife on the property and introducing Jim Zehringer, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Zehringer probably came closest to playing the role of Santa Claus. He is the one who presented the gathering with a new manager for the park and a capital improvements budget of $500,000.
“This farm is a community treasure. It is a state treasure,” Zehringer told the crowd of about 100. “In its day it was America’s farm. Louis tested things here. He used this farm as a show case and a stage. Everyone here today has a passion for Malabar Farm. We are committed to making it look nice like a state park should and like Malabar Farm would have looked 70 years ago.”
The new manager is Korre Boyer. His position is shared between the Ohio Department of Parks and Recreation and the Division of Soil and Water Resources. He brings a good blend of practical farming and agricultural education to the job. He is a Richland County native who graduated from Plymouth High School. He then graduated from The Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and a minor in production agriculture. Following graduation, he taught vocational agriculture for four years at Lucas High School before he started working as an organization director for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation in 2003.
Meantime he has managed a 200-acre grain and cow-and-calf farm since 2000. The farm had previously been in his wife’s family. He and his wife Belinda have three children, Colton, Braden, and Madison.
“I look forward to bringing together as many community groups for programs and partnerships as I can,” Boyer said.
Zehringer said he would turn to the best farmers in the area to farm the land. He said the farm should be place where new ideas and concepts are tested. “Bromfield tried things here. He would be engaged in water quality issues today, particularly nutrient testing in water and the impact of drainage tiles on water quality.”
He also noted that the farm could be an excellent site for a beef grazing operation.
As a member of the board of directors of the Malabar Foundation, I am very pleased to see the action by the director and the department. Ohioans have a unique place in Malabar, and it is used for multiple activities beyond farming – like, hiking, horseback riding, bird watching and fishing. The park makes its own maple syrup. It hosts festivals like Heritage Days in the fall and Hollywood Returns events in the spring. Plays written by local authors are performed in the barn. And the volunteer guides have plenty of stories to tell to those who tour the house.
As a communicator for agriculture, I am hopeful that Malabar can evolve from a place where farmers learned the newest techniques for conservation to a place where all Ohioans can learn about the challenges facing their farmers every day. Zehringer noted that Louis Bromfield would have been the first to tackle the issues of keeping nutrients on the land and not in our water resources. Let Malabar be a place where these key issues are examined and demonstrations performed. Let it be were the best solutions for farmers are put on public display.
That will be a challenge for the new manager regardless of budget. Zehringer said, to hold his feet to the fire. He said come back in 8 months and see if the place doesn’t look better. He knows I for one will take him up on it.