Once upon a time they were held in just about every corner of Ohio and now they have all but faded away. But not in Highland County. The 114th Buford Farmers’ Institute will be held Feb. 23 at the former school.
Tammy Wardlow, president of the Buford Farmers’ Institute, said that about 10 years ago the committee knew of just six farmers’ institutes still operating in the state. She said she is unsure if any others have faded away since then, but that Buford’s is the only in southern Ohio.
“It’s the longest consecutive running thing in Highland County and we just want to keep it alive for our community,” Wardlow said. “People that haven’t seen each other for the past year, this is where they catch back up, and they may not see each other again for another year. It’s a big community welcoming thing and we like doing it and keeping it up. As long as the township can keep the school open, there will be an institute.”
This year’s session begins at 7 p.m. There will be live music by Back in Time Express, judging in more than 100 categories, a ham and bean dinner, a baked goods auction and somewhere around 100 door prizes and raffle items.
Farmers institutes were established in the late 1800s as a way to promote agricultural interests. They often lasted two or three days and were the forerunners of today’s OSU Extension Service. They were held in most Ohio counties and often included speakers who would explain the latest information on farming methods and techniques, along with displays of the newest farm implements. Hundreds of institutes used to be held throughout Ohio and they were something like what county fairs are today.
The Buford Farmer’s Institute dates back to 1904.
In past years, the Buford Farmer’s Institute held afternoon and evening sessions. But when the Buford school closed after the school district merged with Lynchburg, numbers at the afternoon session dwindled until it was dropped a few years ago.
Today, there are more than 100 categories that anyone from anywhere can enter items in: quilts, crocheting, needle work, arts and crafts, baked goods, produce and hobbies. The winners in each category receive ribbons and $5, $3 and $2, respectively, for first, second or third place.
All entries can be dropped off at the Clay Township Building (former school) from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. the day of the event. The gym doors will close at 1 p.m. for judging and awarding the winners.
The ham and bean dinner, plus cornbread, coleslaw, desserts and drinks, will be served from 4-7 p.m. in the gym and concession area. Other items including hot dogs, sandwiches and assorted snacks will be sold throughout the evening.
The evening session begins at 7 p.m. and will include a 30- to 45-minute performance of classic country and gospel music by Back in Time Express. The baked goods and produce auction, led by Glenn and Brad Hess, follows and closes down the event, which Wardlow said usually ends around 10 or 11 p.m.
All proceeds benefit the Buford Farmers’ Institute.
For more information about the categories, or if there is anyone that would like to help with the institute, call Dianne Mock at 937-417-8225.
“We just hope to see lots of people out there this year,” Wardlow said.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.