Family business shows how Ohioans are working together behind a good meal
We often hear that the Buckeye State is a swing state, that the birthplace of aviation is the heart of it all. But getting down to our roots, perhaps nothing defines Ohio more than food.
In the space between farmers and eaters, Ohioans are milling wheat, packaging produce and cutting meat. Truck drivers move food from point A to point B. There are scientists and veterinarians, chefs and grocery clerks. All told, food and agriculture accounts for one in seven Ohio jobs.
The journey of food from farm to plate all starts with passionate people working together. This is the story of one such community.
Garman Feed & Supply got its start almost 36 years ago when Dane Garman bought a business, which had been closed for five years, at an auction. He and his son, Greg, worked alongside each other for decades until the now 84-year-old Dane retired a couple of years ago.
Adam Garman is the third generation to join the family business, which focuses on meeting the needs of the farming community.
“We know what our customers need and can guarantee the best quality. We like to make sure we have a relationship with our customers and that they’re not just a number,” said Adam, who also helps run the family’s beef cattle and row crop farm.
Adam’s comments reflect a strength of having a strong food and agricultural infrastructure in Ohio—businesses are better positioned to respond to local needs, ultimately making the food system more resilient.
Just ask Helen Roe, who lives about 10 miles away from the Garmans and, with her husband Bill, raises about 300 goats for 4-H projects and for meat.
“They are very easy to work with. I call so often that Greg knows my voice,” she said. The family makes its own goat feed and buys some from Garman Feed & Supply. A four-ton order will last about a month.
“They grind it and set up a formula that’s right for our goats,” Helen said, noting that she uses corn, wheat, oats and spelt, depending on the grain’s cost. “I like to raise my goats with the least amount of processed stuff. I like to use more natural things but that is not always possible because of cost. The Garmans are good if you need medication or have issues because they know what to do or who to ask. They are very knowledgeable.”
The Garmans also supply feed for the Roes’ chickens, ducks and ostrich as well as their five Great Pyrenees, which protect their animals from coyotes and other predators.
FROM THE START
For many who grow food in this rural community, the Garmans are involved from the time seed hits soil.
Spring tends to be the busiest season for the family with farmers getting ready to plant. They help customers determine if their soil has the proper nutrients and what type of seed to buy. During the growing season, they have a custom fertilizer and weed control/insecticide business that helps farmers maintain their crops. And at harvest, they provide a local outlet for farmers to sell their grain. The Garmans even rent space where farmers can store their crop—their facility can hold 200,000 bushels of grain at a time.
Some of the grain is used to make a wide variety of animal feed for local farms. Farmers also turn to the Garmans for supplements for animals such as minerals and salt, and various products such as muck boots, dog treats and livestock health products.
All the while, the family emphasizes its relationship with its customers.
“We treat our customers as we want to be treated. We run our business with integrity. Our word is our bond,” Adam said.
Working closely with farmers means the Garmans share in their ups and downs, the long hours and unpredictable schedules.
When it comes to getting seed, feed, nutrients or other supplies for his farm, Phil Free doesn’t need to worry about keeping an eye on the clock. If it’s after hours and something that can’t wait until the morning, he knows he can get ahold of Garman Feed & Supply and get what he needs.
“I can get them on the weekends, and they’re pretty good about after hours calls. I’ve got their cell phone numbers, which probably isn’t convenient for them,” laughed Free, who raises cows and calves for beef and grows about 1,000 acres of hay, corn and soybeans.
The Garman family, however, doesn’t mind the inconvenience. They understand that growing food isn’t a 9-to-5 job. Some farmers don’t even get started until they get home from their off-farm jobs and many work weekends and whenever the weather cooperates.
Like many other people in the business of food and farming, the Garmans are driven by passion.
“You can’t farm for the money. You farm because you love it,” Adam said. “This is why our business has been around for more than 35 years—we love what we do.”