Why is it that Ohio agriculture is so often underestimated at the national level? Granted, in terms of sheer quantity, our total agricultural production is but a hill of beans compared to the vast production of the “I states” to the west. And, because we are not at the top of the list for many of the nation’s top commodities (through we are in the top 10 in many of them) it is apparently easy to overlook the might of Ohio in terms of national agriculture. The most recent example of this that I have seen is the National Christmas Tree Convention that was held in early August.
Leaders from Ohio lobbied the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) to host the event this year and there was some skepticism. After all, Ohio barely cracks the top 10 in overall Christmas tree production and would simply not be able to compete with the bigger players in the country such as North Carolina, Michigan, and Oregon that have hosted the convention in the past.
Ohio’s Christmas tree industry is mostly made up of small choose and cut retail operations with only a few large wholesale operations. The state has around 400 farms and the Ohio Christmas Tree Association has around 200 members, small by national standards. But, as has been proven repeatedly in all segments of Ohio agriculture, what we lack in sheer production bulk we make up for in leadership quality.
The National Christmas Tree Association agreed to take a chance on having the convention in Ohio and was rewarded handsomely with what many attendees from around the country have called the “best NCTA Convention ever.” The first ever National Christmas Tree Association Convention in Ohio matched or exceeded expectations for donor funding levels, trade show exhibitors and the overall experience.
The event was held at the charming Sawmill Creek Lodge near Sandusky on the shores of Lake Erie. Guests from around the country were very impressed with the locations, the local attractions (including Cedar Point and Put-In-Bay) and Ohio in general. And, fortunately, the weather cooperated with three of the nicest days of 2011. One attendee from North Carolina said that he had so many positive comments about the event that he had to continue them on the back of the comment card.
At the event, OARDC researcher Jim Brown was recognized for his early research and development of the Canaan fir tree that now accounts for roughly half of the Christmas tree production in Ohio. Other highlights included the selection of the grand champion tree that qualified a Wisconsin farm for presenting a tree to the President at the White House and some excellent tours to impressive Ohio Christmas tree farms in northern Ohio.
The bottom line is that Ohio agriculture has once again risen to the occasion to prove national naysayers wrong, demonstrating that Ohio’s agricultural hill of beans amounts to mountain of quality leadership.