(Posted June 24, 2021)
By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer
Howard “Chic” Foust did not give it too much thought when his mother announced she was going to pay off the remaining balance of a farm loan for their property in Plain City.
“I was proud of her for taking that step,” he said, “but that was pretty much all there was to it.”
A few weeks later, however, when that loan documentation started arriving on their doorstep, he began to give her decision a lot of thought.
“I remember this day so well,” Foust recalled with a laugh. “I was out here mowing when a UPS truck stopped in front of the house. The driver gets out and starts to unload these big, heavy boxes that were filled with all of the original paperwork they had on our farm.”
Knowing his mother would not be able to transport more than 100 years’ worth of paperwork history, Foust took on the tax of carrying the boxes to the place where “all the family documentation goes.”
He said that at that moment, he felt a little bit of pity for himself for the extra work, but more pity for the poor soul who would have to go through all the paperwork to find deeds, wills, and what have you.
That poor soul turned out to be his daughter, Lauren Karn.
Karn said that since she moved into the house and onto the 93-acre farmstead with her husband, Eli, and their two young children, Abe and Ike, in 2019, she continued in her father’s tradition of ignoring the boxes full of paperwork.
“When we moved here, we knew not to throw anything out,” she joked. “We don’t do spring cleaning in this house; we do a careful spring relocation.”
Then the pandemic happened, and she needed a new focus.
Though there was plenty to keep her busy–like her job as a nurse in the cardiothoracic surgery department at Riverside Methodist Hospital, helping Eli with farming and marketing, and tending to her boys who are under the age of 4–she wanted something outside of the norm to keep her mind occupied. So she opened up those heirloom boxes with a mission in mind, and it wasn’t just to “put things in order.”
“I knew about the Ohio Historic Family Farms program [established by the state department of agriculture], and I wanted to see whether we had the documentation to prove that we qualified for one of their designations,” she said, referring to the 100-149 year Century Farm designation, the 150-199 year Sesquicentennial Farm designation, and the 200-year or more Bicentennial Farm designation.
She knew the Karn Farm, formerly Pleasant Valley Farms, had not been around long enough to fall under the Bicentennial Farm designation, but she knew their same-family ownership would meet the standards of the other two designations.
“It was just a matter of piecing [all of the paperwork] together to prove that no ownership of our farm had changed hands to someone outside of the family,” she said.
With the help of her relatives–“they answered any questions and helped me locate needed information”–and with the assistance of the county recorder, she put together the timeline of their family farm.
Hailing from the Boston-area, L.D. Converse, Karn’s great-grandfather six times removed, purchased the “swampland” in 1843 where he raised livestock, primarily cattle. Five years later, he constructed the red brick house and used exterior and interior accents found in materials throughout the property.
Over the decades, the property was handed down to his descendants and they continued in the tradition of preserving the use of their farmland to feed the community and provide work for their families.
With six generations of operational same-family proof of ownership in her hands, Karn sent copies of the documents to the Ohio Department of Agriculture for consideration. In May 2021, Karn and her relatives received word they had proven their farm is, in fact, an “Historic Family Farm,” and were awarded certification as a Century Farm and a Sesquicentennial Farm. They also received a visit on June 15 from Ohio Director of Agriculture Dorothy Pelanda, who presented the family with a proclamation from Gov. Mike DeWine praising them for their “commitment to preserving the agricultural heritage in the state.”
Karn said that news, along with the visit from the director, was worth the painstaking, albeit interesting, effort of documenting the history of their farm.
“It is so exciting to be named as an Historic Family Farm,” said Karn. “That program was created to recognize the hard work farming families put into providing needed resources for their community, their state, and their country, and for us to be recognized for our contributions alongside these other families is a wonderful thing.”
The Karn Farm is located on U.S. Route 42 in Plain City. They are only the third farming family from Madison County to be recognized as an Historic Family Farm by the state department of agriculture.