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OSU Roads Scholars Tour stops in Willard

Cary Ashby • Jul 11, 2018 at 9:00 AM

NEW HAVEN TOWNSHIP — Buurma Farms Inc. was a stop on an annual Ohio State University tour Tuesday afternoon.

Each summer since 1997, about 75 OSU administrators, faculty members, staff and students take a bus tour across Ohio called the Roads Scholars Tour. The two-day experience highlights university partnerships with businesses, non-profit organizations and communities. It is geared toward acquainting the new administrators, faculty members and staff with what Ohio has to offer.

“Every stop on the tour has an education component,” said Janis Browning, OSU program coordinator.

This year’s seven-stop tour included an overnight experience in Cleveland, where the director of the OSU school of music provided a lecture at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame — complete with a pianist who also provided some music. Browning said she considers that part of the tour an “educational party,” which also involves Buckeye alumni.

Ohio State has operated an agricultural research station next to Buurma Farms since 1948.

“This particular station focuses on muck crops and Buurma Farms grows many of those same crops commercially,” said Benjamin Johnson, director of media and public relations at OSU. “Ohio State researchers in Willard and at sites around the state work closely with farmers on disease management, insect and weed control, food safety and more.”

More information about the muck-crops agricultural research station can be found at https://oardc.osu.edu/facility/muck-crops-agricultural-research-station.

Roger Rennekamp, director of OSU extension, told the Buckeyes they were “in for a treat” at Buurma Farms.

“There’s nothing like this in the state of Ohio,” he added, before introducing Bruce Buurma, retired first vice-president.

Buurma shared many statistics about the farm, including that it grows 17 different vegetables over about 1,400 acres, with 20 to 25 semis leaving the Kok Road facility each day.

At peak time, Buurma Farms hires nearly 1,300 employees. Bruce’s brother, Loren, one of the tour guides, said there are 10 mechanics at the Willard-area facility and with currently about 325 total workers, their employment numbers are down slightly. At the Gregory, Mich. farm, there are about 125 employees now. 

“It’s a big business. It takes a lot of labor,” Bruce Buurma said.

His nephew, Joel, is the food safety expert at the farm. He said as long as the facility is putting out a safe product, there is a less of a chance of a recall. Joel Buurma noted that their standards probably exceed those of many restaurants.

Megan Schmidt, a junior communications major, shared some of her impressions after the lengthy tour. She said she was impressed with the versatility of creating machines that can be used to process different produce, all while “pushing the boundaries.”

The Miamisburg resident also said it was interesting to hear that 50 cents of every dollar spent at Buurma Farms goes toward the employees, who stay in 100 houses. 

When one thinks of a farm, Schmidt said it’s easy to think of simply planting and growing vegetables, but she learned there are the sorting, cleaning and watering processes in addition to inspections.

“There are so many sections to it,” she added.

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