When Butler County farmer Dave Jones snaps off an ear of corn from one of the thousands of stalks on the 2,000-plus acres he works, he envisions more than the pearls of sweetness beneath the layers of silk and husk.
He sees rows of machines and buckets of sweat -- the raw materials of the yield that ends up on kitchen tables or in feed troughs across the region.
Mr. Jones is on a mission to share that vision this weekend when his farm is featured on the annual Butler County Farm Tour, a free, self-guided jaunt through the county's countryside. Sponsored by the Butler County Conservation District, Butler County Cooperative Extension Office and Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau, the tour will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
In its 16th year, the event draws thousands of visitors, said Patti Jo Lambert, a spokeswoman for the tourism bureau.
"This is one of our most popular fall events," she said. "It's a great opportunity to celebrate our agriculture industry while giving people a chance to see what it takes to get our food from the farm to the table.''
That's exactly what Mr. Jones is determined to do when visitors arrive at the enterprise he and his wife, Jean, have been running for decades. Located off Jones Road, the couple owns 70 acres and rents an adjacent 2,000 acres, spanning the townships of Jefferson and Winfield in the village of Cabot. The third-generation farm is known for its poultry as well as the sweet corn that's sold in the 45 or so self-serve carts across Butler, Armstrong and Westmoreland counties. But that's not all they do: They also raise beef cattle, soybeans and feed corn.
Visitors be treated to free samples of sweet corn and deep-fried turkey and have an opportunity to view a display of equipment used in the field.
"I'm going to have two displays in the order in which they'd be used in the field set up so people can get an idea of what all it takes to produce what we grow,'' Mr. Jones said.
One display will feature a fertilizer spreader, a lime spreader, a turbo-till cultivator that prepares soil for planting, a weed sprayer, three six-row corn planters, another sprayer, a combine that pulls field corn from the stock then removes kernels from the cob and then a bucket of shelled corn.
The sweet corn display will feature a poultry manure spreader, a lime spreader, a fertilizer spreader, a disc harrow that works the ground, a sweet corn planter with a built-on weed sprayer, a weed cultivator that's operated manually by someone who rides a tractor, a tractor, an insect sprayer and wheelbarrows that are used by the workers who hand-pick the corn.
Mr. Jones grows about 225,000 dozen ears of sweet corn annually, selling them for $6 a dozen. His bigger business is grain -- soybeans and field corn, then the poultry and beef. But many people know the farm for its sweet corn because of the presence of the self-serve stands. Orders will be taken during the tour for Thanksgiving turkeys and chickens. He raises about 3,000 turkeys and 2,000 chickens annually.
Mr. Jones, 57, said he sees the farm tour as a great opportunity to advertise his wares, but he said the biggest motivation in participating is the opportunity to educate people. "I want people to understand that you don't just go to the grocery store and grab it off the shelf and figure that's where your food comes from,'' he said.
Two other farms and two wineries will be on this year's tour as well:
• Har-Lo Farms on West Jefferson Road in Butler Township will feature its 1,250 acres that produce potatoes, soybeans, corn, wheat, oats, straw and hay. Owner Harold Foertsch and his family will display equipment and will host a pedal tractor pull, hay rides and face painting for children.
• Thiele Dairy Farm on Pike Road in Cabot will show off its three dozen Holsteins as well as the corn, oats, soybeans and hay that are used to feed the cows that produce up to 10 gallons of milk each day.
• Rustic Acres Winery on Crisswell Road, south of Butler, and Winfield Winery on Winfield Road in Cabot will open their tasting rooms Saturday. Complimentary food samplings will be served with the wine.
Information: www.visitbutlercounty.com/events/4347/butler-county-farm-tour or 724-287-4761.neigh_north
Karen Kane: firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-772-9180.