September 2019 - 1

Michigan firm thrives in
soil health market
Taylor grows for chefs,
wine estate guests
The fourth dimension
of tillage offers
September 2019 | Volume 53 |
Issue 9
The Sunbelt Expo and Swisher International named Charles " Chuck " Obern its 2019 Florida Farmer of the Year. Photo: Janelle Folk/Janelle's Photography
By Stephen Kloosterman
Associate Editor
Curiosity pulled Charles " Chuck "
Obern from a family garden north of
Pittsburgh to a minimum-wage nursery
job on the East Coast. It pulled him to
an agriculture degree and 10 acres in
Florida. Today, he's at the head of C&B
Farms, a 1,500-acre operation growing
herbs and vegetables.
The first-generation grower's
successful journey into southern
specialty agriculture was recognized
in July, when the Sunbelt Expo and
Swisher International named Obern
its 2019 Florida Farmer of the Year.
Growing curious
Obern said he first felt the itch as a
youngster living in Pennsylvania who was
charged with growing peppers, tomatoes
and other vegetables for his mother.
" I was tasked with farming and
maintaining a vegetable garden, " he said.
" That's the beginning. (I) had to make a
See CURIOSITY, page 6
Action, empathy urged for stressed growers
By Stephen Kloosterman
Associate Editor
Headlines for years have repeatedly
announced crisis levels of farm stress,
but a surplus of spring rain in some
U.S. regions has made this season
particularly concerning.
In the Midwest, growers have had
less time to work outdoors. Disease
pressure, particularly in vegetables,
will be worse than usual later in the
year due to the moisture.
While farmers of all sorts have
serious business concerns, fruit
and vegetable growers have specific
problems. The difficult labor climate,
increased regulation and buyermandated
prices for fresh-sold
perishables leave growers with little
room to maneuver.
Officials are trying to help, offering
resources for mental health, as well
as practical advice for navigating
stressful business transitions. The
2018 Farm Bill included bipartisan
reforms to provide farmers with
critical support and mental health
resources. Extension specialists
across the country are writing articles
about how to recognize critical stress
levels in one's self, as well as others.
Michigan State University Extension
Educator Ron Goldy has organized a
day's worth of farm stress education
sessions at the Great Lakes Fruit,
Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO, held
in December in Grand Rapids.
The educational sessions will
cover a variety of topics. One goal is
to simply get growers talking about
See STRESS, page 8

September 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of September 2019

September 2019 - 1
September 2019 - 2
September 2019 - 3
September 2019 - 4
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September 2019 - 6
September 2019 - 7
September 2019 - 8
September 2019 - 9
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