July 7, 2010 – Today was a step back in time as we continued our tour through north-central Ohio. Our first stop was the Mansfield water treatment plant. Not specifically a historical site, but the plant manages to treat and pump 9 million gallons of water per day to supply a local population of 50,000 people with few technological upgrades since the 1980s. We definitely saw evidence of the recession where plant closures such as the GM plant to the North causing a 33% drop in the Mansfield population. We were lucky because they never give tours but made a special exception for us giving access to their testing labs, settlement ponds and sand filtration tanks.
Next our bus took us back to the 1940’s/50s on some winding roads to the Malabar Farm State Park. Malabar Farm is a 900-acre farm that was the home of Louis Bromfield, a Pulitzer-prize winning author. Our tour guides Denise and David gave us a wagon-ride to Bromfield’s 32-room farmhouse which has been preserved by the state into a heritage museum. The house tour gave us a glimpse into the Bromfield’s glamorous lifestyle where we saw photos of movie stars who visited Bromfield including Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (who were married right at the house). Bromfield was also an innovator in conservation farming practices such as terracing, no-till and conservation tillage and rotational grazing. With rotational grazing the cow does her own harvesting and manure spreading. We saw many of Bromfield’s practices being used as we drove through the Amish community.
After our afternoon in the sun we hopped back on our air-conditioned bus for a sleepy ride out to the heart of Amish country, Berlin, Ohio. We were joined by our tour guide La Vonne DeBois and our evening’s host David Miller, an Amish farmer and ordained minister who shared information about the Amish culture. It was a real treat to hear the stories David shared about his family and way of life. We were surprised to see that some Amish use electronic milking equipment and tractors. The trick, we heard, is to know where to draw the line. For example, the Millers are new order Amish and they can use a tractor for transporting the bales - but not in the field for cultivating or harvesting. David really emphasized the importance of family, faith and community to their culture. We ended our day with a delicious home-cooked meal prepared and served to us at the Miller’s farm by the family. This was by-far the best meal of the trip (chicken, roast beef, mashed potatoes, a delicious peanut butter spread and three kinds of pies!), and we were honoured at the end to hear two songs from David and his family, one in English and one in German. We climbed back in to the bus, full and happy, and made our way to Akron for the night.
John Borland, Matt Langford and Katija Morley - AALP Class 13