OEFFA Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Ed Snavely of Curly Tail Organic Farm

Originally published in the Winter 2024 edition of the OEFFA newsletter.

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. 

The high-protein, small-grain diet that the pigs crave is ground on the farm and enhanced with organic-approved vitamins and minerals. Taking a slower, more careful approach to raising happy pigs means far fewer health concerns. Ed pointed out that conventional swine producers deal with multiple veterinarian visits each month. The last time a vet was out to Curly Tail Organic Farm was in the early ’90s.

It wasn’t hard to spot a unique relationship between Ed and the excited pigs that surrounded him. The words “pig whisperer” were thrown around a couple of times during our visit. It’s this level of care that has earned Ed recognition from organizations like Slow Food International and OEFFA, where he was the 2011 Stewardship Award winner. Ed has also earned a place in the hearts of Worthington Farmers Market shoppers, where he’s been a treasured vendor for 25 years.  

Farm Succession and Farmland Access

As we prepared to leave (with some frozen pork chops and already drooling mouths), Ed once again pointed out the surrounding area. He’s neighbored by four conventional farms that spray herbicide multiple times a year—fighting an expensive, dangerous losing battle against weeds. While he, like many others, believes that conventional agriculture is on its way to collapse, he’s worried that it might be the future fate of his farm. 

Through OEFFA’s Outreach and Begin Farming programs, we often talk about the struggles beginning and expanding farmers have in accessing land. At the other end of that struggle, however, are current farmers without succession plans in place. Ed worries that someone won’t have the know-how and resources to carry on the legacy of Curly Tail Organic Farm.

“How can somebody come in here that’s not an established farmer and fork out $1,000,000 for it?” he asked, “That’s just the farm, not even the equipment.”

When it comes to preparing the next generation of farmers, Ed shared buying used equipment is helpful, as is a willingness to experiment. He added that he wouldn’t recommend doing what he did in the mid-80s when he abruptly quit using chemicals. Instead, Ed suggested doing things gradually. Being willing to learn from mistakes is helpful, too.

Curly Tail Organic Farm’s Generosity

In addition to these words of advice, Ed and Curly Tail Organic Farm have been instrumental in laying the groundwork for organic farming in Ohio. His dedication and willingness to do things differently have impacted and inspired farmers not just locally, but around the world. Ed is a treasured facet of Ohio agriculture—and he provided a meal at one of the biggest celebrations of our state’s farming legacy.

Curly Tail Organic Farm was a generous donor of the 2024 OEFFA Conference. The local, organically-fed pork was featured on the menu.


Are you an OEFFA member with a food or farm story to share? Contact newsletter@oeffa.org for a chance to be featured!

OEFFA
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
41 Croswell Rd.
Columbus OH 43214

oeffaoeffaorg

OEFFA:(614) 421-2022 (614) 421-2022
OEFFA Certification:(614) 262-2022 (614) 262-2022