A Family organic tradition
By Patty Rice Groth
Good stewards of the land, educators in their community, innovators of technology. These phrases only begin to describe Dale and Toni Norwood who own and operate Springwood Valley Farm in rural Galion, Ohio. On just over seven acres of slightly rolling land, the Norwoods grow organically-nurtured produce, children, and innovative ideas.
Daughters Electra and Serena are home-schooled and participate in many of the couple’s outdoor activities. Two wonderful children growing up in the home of their grandfather and great-uncles built for family patriarch Van Norwood in the early 1970s. Dan and Barbara Norwood had already built a home for themselves and their family in Crestline when Van and the former Florence Maglott purchased the property on Nazor Road on the northeast side of Galion. With help from his siblings and others, a nice two-bedroom brick home was erected on a rise not far off the road.
Innovative ideas include experiments with the soil as well as the continuing pursuit of Dale’s degree in electrical engineering from DeVry University. In a workshop and music studio building behind the house, Dale is developing proprietary biomedical user recognition devices and software.
Van and Florence were gardeners, using the land to grow produce for their own and family use. Dale says he grew up eating organically, before it was a popular movement. They give credit for some of their early organic gardening beliefs to local growers Lynn and Ken Chapin. Active in certification programs for official status of organic farming, the Chapins are knowledgeable growers who passed on to the Norwoods their experience and success as organic farmers.
“It’s all about making soil,” says Toni. You have to feed the soil to grow a healthy plant, which in turn will give hearty produce at its full nutritional capability. A large plot of ground at Springwood Valley Farm is dedicated to composting, creating rejuvenated soils for the fields and greenhouses/tunnels.
Before they moved onto the farm in 2001, Toni and Dale enjoyed a small vegetable garden from which they shared naturally-raised produce with their neighbors. Anxious to begin life as full-time farmers, even before moving into the home on Nazor Road, the couple was working on the farm. “Full-time” has not been achieved yet, but that goal remains.
Dale believes he has discovered the best direction in which to plant his rows to take best advantage of natural water drainage on the property. It is part of being a “good steward of the land,” taking advantage of natural irrigation while controlling erosion.
In every culture around the world, people gather around food. Families need to know and teach children where their food comes from, say the Norwoods. When one knows their food came from a local farm, handled by a person you can know, so many worries which can accompany large commercial operations are eliminated.
“People are so far away from their food,” say the Norwoods of produce brought in from around the country to local grocery stores. “Organic” foods which must be trucked to Ohio from California and Florida are defeating the purpose of organic farming. The produce has to be picked before it has fully matured in order to survive the trip, natural resources are burned up getting it here, and nutritional value is lost in the interim.
Eating locally can create a kind of “safe zone.” Area farmers markets are an important way to create a safe zone, and the Norwoods demonstrate their commitment to the concept by managing the North Side Farmers Market on Ohio 598 on the north side of Galion in Crawford County. The market is registered with the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and vendors welcome inspectors when they visit the market. Nearing the end of its second year, vendors at North Side Farmers Market continue to learn how to work within ODA regulations. What can often be an adversarial relationship between producers and ODA has developed into one of mutual support of the venture in Galion.
“All communities could be served by a farmers market,” says Toni.
That leads to what they see as their role as “educators in their community.” Helping folks grow for themselves is an important part of a farmers market, say the Norwoods.
Teaching someone how to successfully grow their own produce using organic methods helps everyone. Backyard gardens help create food security for families. Taking one’s excess produce to a local farmers market builds food security, a safe zone, for one’s neighbors. What they would like to see here in Crawford County is a community gathered around healthy growing and eating.
Is it possible for Galion to become a self-sufficient agricultural community? Is that possible while staying within the ODA’s rules and regulations?
Yes, it is, say the Norwoods, especially with the widespread presence of the canning industry in Ohio. There are three nonprofit companies which will help a small producer develop a small business plan, identify appropriate facilities, and such. Ohio is home to a number of businesses which will prepare your produce your way and label it with your name. Larger local producers could find the fruits — and veggies — of their labors on the shelves of local grocers with a little affordable professional help. In either case, a good place to start is with the Ohio Department of Agriculture at (614) 728‑6201.
Springwood Valley Farm is at 1242 Nazor Road, Galion. The Norwoods can be reached by phone at (419) 462‑0483 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Patty Rice Groth is an Inquirer correspondent. She can reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (419) 468‑1117.