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The Prize inside Crackerjack Farm

August 14, 2012

People living in northern Ohio have no idea how beautiful the southwestern portion of their state is. Driving out to Crackerjack Farms in Willow Wood to visit with Frank and Wendy Wilson I passed some beautiful rolling hills. I was thinking that the earth is not folded as tightly north of the Ohio River as in West Virginia but then the road dipped and turned and the joke was on me.  I am beginning to think that car commercials touting steering capability should not be filmed on the Pacific Coast Highway but here in our Tri-State Region!

Frank and Wendy both grew up in West Virginia. Wendy said her grandparents had a small farm on East Pea Ridge Road and she later acquired 4.2 acres in the area where she had some horses, flowers and blackberries. Wendy is a veterinarian, working two part-time jobs. She works at a vet clinic in Proctorville but also provides information resources for vets worldwide requesting information. Frank grew up on a farm but spent his working life as an air traffic controller. He retired recently and laughs that he has never worked as hard as he does now.

Married 5 years ago, they purchased their 62 acres  and named it after a horse that Wendy had owned for 32 years.  The farm only had the house and a shed when they moved in. They had some help from the Amish to top their horse  barn and started putting in their gardens the second year they were there.  They have three horses.

Their intentions were to plant only for their own needs, and Wendy preserves a lot of their produce. 

Frank explained how the horses provide the compost for the gardens and the task falls to him to manage that. They attended a Master Gardener Class; Wendy completed the course and Frank enjoyed much of it.Frank took on the responsibility of the landscaping plan, building raised beds behind the house for additional garden space. They have a large garden with an electrified deer fence in front; they once lost a row of veggies when they forgot to put the power back on.

They are growing produce for themselves and bringing the excess to the Wild Ramp Market for us. They have corn, tomatoes, beans, asparagus, strawberries, squash, tomatillas, carrots and potatoes as well as several fruit trees including a fig which is doing well.

Last year they lost their potato crop to an infestation of Colorado potato beetles, so this year they have used a treatment of spinosad, which is toxic to insects but has no effect on mammals. In fact, Wendy says it is one of the ingredients in dogs’ heartworm meds. It is toxic to honeybees, however. Frank is researching for another alternative for next year and thinks he found an organic clay-based compound to spray on the potatoes, so he is optimistic he will take care of the pest problem without negative affects on the environment.

Frank and Wendy also have planted marigolds in most of their vegetable gardens. They said their State of Ohio County extension agent does not think it has any beneficial effect but they believe it does and they will continue to plant them

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 14, 2012 11:14 pm

    This is great Wendy and Frank

  2. A. J. Kim permalink
    August 15, 2012 8:41 pm

    I’ve had the good fortune to visit Crackerjack Farm numerous times and to taste a wide variety of Wendy’s excellent pickles and preserves, so I’m glad to see her and Frank getting the accolades they deserve!

    One small correction, though: while spinosad, which is derived from a naturally-occurring soil bacteria, is toxic to bees while it is wet, it has very little effect on them (or other non-plant-eating insects) once it is dry; in addition, it does not affect earthworms or beneficial soil microbes. Whenever Wendy and Frank have applied it, it has always been just before dark, so that it has plenty of time to dry before the bees are active again in the morning.

    • August 15, 2012 8:48 pm

      Thanks for the correction AJ. I know the apiaries in the area will be happier, but then again, they probably already knew that!

      • A. J. Kim permalink
        August 15, 2012 8:51 pm

        Bet they did – the National Organic Standards Board permits its use, after all 🙂 .

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