CHESTER - Eighteen farmers, farm bureau representatives and farm market organizers gave U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown food for thought April 15 during the first stop on his “Grown in Ohio Listening Tour.”

Another 30 people, including other area food producers and interested guests, attended the meeting on the grounds of Patterson Fruit Farm Market.

Market owner Bill Patterson hosted the discussion. He is the president of the Geauga County Farm Bureau.

According to Brown, agriculture is the state’s largest industry. Although Ohio is the nation’s 35th smallest state, it is the eighth-largest farming state.

Participants in the discussion ran the gamut of growers.

Andy Miller, an Amish certified organic farmer would like to see the government forms for certification pared down from 20 pages to something more manageable.

Debonne Vineyards and Rat Cellar Brewery owner Tony Debevec would like to see loans or other funding for harvesting equipment to be shared with other small brewers.

He said he cannot afford to harvest hops that have to be picked by hand. By saving money on harvesting, he said he could hire more people and create better paying jobs on the production and marketing end of his business.

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