Co-op People

Fresh bread

Crushing it

Chris Bihn is a born educator, and while he may have left the classroom, he’s more committed than ever to teaching. These days, his lesson plans involve the production of nutrient-rich and easily digestible food through an innovative process of crushing grain.

Bihn, a former high school teacher and a member of St. Marys-based Midwest Electric, heads a family business known as Our Fathers Food, which uses a patented technique for preparing organic grain and seed for human consumption that yields unlimited shelf life without chemicals, preservatives, enrichments, or nutrient loss.

Groovy Plants Ranch

Feelin' groovy

As the summer-of-love sound of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” echoes through the shady grounds of Groovy Plants Ranch, shoppers give their toddlers and dogs a leisurely wagon ride, pulling them slowly along while oohing and aahing over hanging baskets brimming with lush b

Situated along a rural road about 30 miles north of Columbus, Groovy Plants Ranch is a 5-acre complex where Jared and his wife, Liz, grow and sell plants that they ship to customers around the world. It opened in 2016, but Jared began cultivating the business in his late teens while studying landscape design at Columbus State Community College and working at a Delaware County greenhouse. “I started growing succulents in my room because they’re easy to care for and propagate,” Jared says. “It was a side hustle to earn extra Smoney.”

Residents of Safe Haven Farms tend to a variety of seasonal tasks that rely on repetition and routine.

Serene acres

Tucked away in the western part of the state is an idyllic 60-acre farm, complete with chickens, horses, alpacas, and a miniature horse named Jack. The human residents here — like all farmers — tend to a wide variety of daily and seasonal tasks.

ASD is a lifelong condition that affects one in 54 people. Symptoms vary but can include trouble communicating, repeated rocking, and strong reactions to sounds, scents, or tastes. It’s common for an autism diagnosis to include other disorders, such as epilepsy, obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADHD, and bipolar disorder. Depending on the severity of someone’s symptoms, it can be difficult to hold a conversation, maintain a friendship, or keep a job. 

Wooly Pig Farm Brewery

Wooly Pig Farm Brewery

On Fridays, Wooly Pig Farm Brewery officially opens at 3 p.m., but by 2:30, friends and neighbors are already sitting down at the natural-edge wooden tables that brewmaster Kevin Ely and his family made from a prodigious el

When the farm was for sale in 2014, Jael was finishing her Ph.D. in biology at the University of Utah, and Kevin was the brewmaster and production manager at Salt Lake City’s Uinta Brewing Company. Kevin, who has a brewing science degree from the University of California–Davis, often traveled to Bavaria to obtain equipment for Uinta. While there, he also explored historic farm and village breweries in northern Bavaria’s Franconia region. Photos of Franconia that Kevin sent to Jael reminded her of Coshocton County, but the wooly pigs in the photos really caught her eye.

Castle exterior

A man and his castle

It stands to reason that a man who has made his living battling termites might choose not to build his house of wood.

With towers rising 50 feet above its hilltop foundation, Grizer Castle is the concrete manifestation of a dream that was inspired, as many are, by Hollywood. As an 8-year-old, Grizer was fascinated by the 1968 film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and his obsession with castles was launched while watching Dick Van Dyke pilot his flying car over Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle.

Guy Denny with pigeon

Life with pigeons

Most men, believing ourselves invincible at one time or another in our lives, can think back to boyhood and remember doing at least one thing so incredibly dangerous that we were lucky to survive. Consolidated Cooperative member Guy Denny is no exception.

After dark one night, he and a young buddy climbed out on the massive, metal I-beams that support the bridge. There, beneath the bridge, with cars whizzing past just a few feet overheard, his buddy shined a flashlight beam into the eyes of the mesmerized pigeons while Denny grabbed them one by one and shoved the birds into a burlap bag. The boys’ poke was nearly full when Denny reached for one last bird — a beautiful, nearly pure-white pigeon — and promptly lost his footing on the bridge.

Janet Bowers

Trufflemaker

For years, Janet Bowers would make truffles as gifts for friends and colleagues, but, she says, “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could do it professionally.” After all, she already had a full-time job as a practicing psychologist. 

Bowers, a member of South Central Power Company, grew up in Chillicothe and went on to work for the National Park Service and as a schoolteacher before deciding to earn her doctorate in clinical and forensic psychology.

Joe Lockhart

Iron man

A woman who had purchased a skillet from Lockhart Ironworks recently asked Doug Lockhart if he could add a helper handle to her cookware. The veteran blacksmith, a South Central Power Company member, gladly obliged.

Lockhart’s shop sits amid 83 acres of woods and fields on his farmstead, 10 miles northeast of Logan. He and his wife, Berta, live in an 1824 log farmhouse; keep ducks and goats for eggs, meat, and milk; raise some hay; and harvest their trees for lumber that they cut in the farm’s sawmill.

Bob Jenkins and Sam Gross

First Flight

Josh Maihle of Columbus still remembers the first airplane ride he ever took. “I remember I was just 6 years old and riding in the backseat of a small, yellow private plane,” says Maihle.

Bob and his wife, Jill — members of Consolidated Cooperative in north-central Ohio — own two small, vintage aircraft. “We own a 1947 Cessna 120 and a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub,” says Bob. “I also co-own a 1972 Cessna 172 with my son, Shawn.”

Jenkins has been flying for more than 50 years, ever since his father taught him to fly. He made his first solo flight at age 16 and earned his private pilot’s license in his early 20s.  

Nancy Crow

Star quilter

Nancy Crow’s quilts hang in the Smithsonian and the Museum of Folk Art. They’ve been on exhibit in China, England, France, and other countries. Some of her quilts even appear on the covers of two of Maya Angelou’s books.

Surprisingly, for a fabric artist as accomplished as Crow is, she did not learn to sew when she was young. She became an avid knitter in high school, but didn’t create any fabric art until she took a course in tapestry weaving at Ohio State University. Her BFA and MFA degrees from the university were focused on ceramics art.