By Linda Dillman
Farm Bureaus across the state are gearing up for fall farm activities and Franklin County is no exception.
On Sept. 25, the bureau is sponsoring Taste of Franklin County, a progressive tour of four working farms, including Bedford Falls Tree Farm in Lockbourne and Conrad Hive and Honey in Madison Township, along with Darby Creek Nursery in Hilliard and Circle S Farms in Grove City.
The drive-it-yourself tours last about 20 minutes at each stop and end at Circle S, the host stop, with a hayride and a locally sourced dinner. Proceeds from the tour benefit the Farm Bureau’s youth programs and scholarship fund.
Bedford Falls Tree Farm
“At our stop, we will discuss all the steps involved in having a Christmas tree farm, from ground preparation to the end experience for families,” said Melissa Rapp, who owns Bedford Falls along with her husband, Cecil. They started the farm in 2014 and opened their doors to the public in 2020.
The Rapps plan to display equipment they use in operating the Lockbourne Road farm, in addition to offering field tours featuring several types of tree varieties grown on the property.
“We hope to have our retail shop open in time for the tour—it suffered quite a bit of damage with the ice storm earlier this year,” said Melissa. “It is very close and will definitely be in operation for opening day of our Christmas season on Nov. 25. With all the tasks that go along with having a tree farm—shearing, mowing, upkeep, equipment and maintenance, there aren’t enough daylight hours.”
In addition to operating a working farm, when time allows, the Rapps are also renovating their 1848 work-in-progress farmhouse that once served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. According to Melissa, it was Cecil’s dream to open a Christmas tree farm.
“It almost did not come to fruition because the year we decided to start the farm in January 2014, he was diagnosed with a rare non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” said Melissa. “After lengthy discussion with each other and the oncologist as to whether or not to start the farm, we decided to go all in, and we are so glad we did. He continues to be in remission and is doing great, works harder than anyone I have ever met, and his dream has come true. We are very honored to be asked to be part of the tour and hope we do the farm bureau proud.”
Conrad Hive and Honey
Conrad Hive and Honey is a six generation family owned and operated beekeeping supply and honey purveyor near Canal Winchester in Madison Township that began by selling honey from a small stand at their house and at a couple of farm markets.
They now are a full service operation from selling equipment—including assembled hives, beginner supplies and queen bees—to providing the sweet fruits of their honeybee hive operation to the public.
When asked about serving as a stop on the Farm Bureau tour and what visitors will see, family matriarch Carmen Conrad said Conrad Hive and Honey will be extracting and opening a hive for tour visitors.
“People can find out what some of the small local farms are doing to make ends meet,” said Conrad. “We started selling beekeeping equipment and it has helped us to keep going. There are only a few bee supply places in the state.”
Carmen lauded the bureau for helping foster the relationship between beekeepers and farmers, pointing out how vital they are to each other. Her husband, Barry, who passed away in 2020, was a longtime member of the Central Ohio Beekeepers Association and taught hundreds of new beekeepers over the course of 25 years.
He ferried four to five million honeybees from Georgia to Ohio to their new home each spring and passed the heritage of teaching new beekeepers on to his granddaughter, Tess Conrad, knowing her passion for honeybees and love of her grandfather would be evident in her teaching.
“Barry and I became heavily involved with the Lithopolis Honeyfest and on Honeyfest weekend we could not manage without our kids, grandkids, and friends of grandkids, as many as eight of us at a time working our booth,” said Carmen in an online history. “Barry and I now have two great-grandchildren and though they haven’t worked here yet, they are beginning beekeepers in Georgia with their mom and dad who became beekeepers while in college. We know it’s just a matter of time before they are up here for a summer working.”