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Member Spotlight: Ed Snavely of Curly Tail Organic Farm
Ohio Ag Connection - 02/27/2024

Ed Snavely’s warm greeting was matched by a warmer-than-usual December day. There were few clouds in the sky as we made our way down the long driveway to Curly Tail Organic Farm. Ed pointed out features in the surrounding landscape as we stood chatting in the late fall sunshine. The white barn far in the distance was where he grew up and later worked with his father, a conventional corn and soy farmer.

Pioneering a Purer Way of Farming

Farming wasn’t always in the cards for Ed. He enjoyed it but didn’t envision a career as a farmer. But after one quarter of college, he called his mom, letting her know that it wasn’t for him. Ed returned to work with his dad on their farm, nearly 600 acres in Fredericktown, Ohio.

When a neighbor introduced the Snavelys to a lower-chemical way of growing, Ed was on board. He enthusiastically embraced the idea of reducing the farm’s inputs. His dad, however, was reluctant to make big changes.

Eventually, Ed and his wife Beth would heed the increasing pressure to do something different. They were worried about the consequences agricultural chemicals were having on their health, and the health of the soil. So, in 1979, they purchased a nearby farm property. By 1986, they had quit chemicals cold turkey and begun the transition to organic.

Long Legacy of Certification and Experimentation

In 1989, Curly Tail Organic Farm became certified by OEFFA. Ed’s organic certification number is 303. For those who aren’t familiar with the workings of organic certification numbers, Ohio’s first enrollee started at certification number 101. Ed’s certification wasn’t too far behind, and to this day, he remains one of Ohio’s longest, consistently certified organic farms.

Curly Tail’s organic certification covers the 95 tillable acres of the 114-acre farm. Currently, they’re planted in a seven-year rotation of hay, barley, soybeans, wheat, rest, barley, and spelt. When each field is left to rest, it’s planted in two cover crops: annual ryegrass and crimson clover. In addition to its nitrogen-fixing benefits, Ed is excited to see crimson clover’s pink-red flowers come spring.

This is a new rotation for Ed, and something he’ll continue to modify. “I’m not afraid to try new things,” he said during our chat. Weed control was difficult when he was growing row crops, like corn, so he phased it out. Eventually, he plans to incorporate peas into his rotation. Not only will this allow Ed to keep learning and growing, but it will offer a lysine-rich, high-fiber swine feed alternative to soybeans.

The Squealing Stars of the Show

The organic small grains grown on the farm are fed to a herd of about 100 pigs a year. Ed breeds six sows and is one of the Ohio producers to be working with heritage breeds, Tamworth and Herford. These breeds are leaner, with a rich, complex flavor.

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