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Bluffton “Winter Farmers Market” Makes it’s Debut

…exotic breads, pea shoots, dead flowers, live music

Bluffton has it’s first Winter Farmers Market since, well, anyone can remember.  And the inaugural market was on the last Saturday of last month. 

In fact, it’s slated for the last Saturday of each month through the winter.  It’s being held at Bluffton’s rather expansive Senior Center downtown.

Harrod, Ohio’s Art Woodruff’s “Firm Roots Farm” was represented, in all it’s greenery.  Woodruff bills himself as a ‘micro-greens artist,’ if you will.  The farm grows such micro-greens young shoots as sunflowers, radish, broccoli and pea.  (*If it wasn’t for Firm Roots pea shoots, well, I might not be alive today to write this. Wink.)

Across the way was the booth “Artisan Hearth Breads by Bent Nail Bakery.”  (*That’s right, they EVERYONE here see themselves as ‘artists’!)

To say Judy’s breads are a decided touch of the exotic, would be, well, an understatement.  The types of her bread include:  Greek Olive Onion Bread; Parmesan Herb Bread; Apple Raisin Bread with a hint of (Oh, I’ll leave that as a surprise.); Samalina Bread (“Not to be confused with Salmonella Bread,” Judy laughed.)

By the way, Judy had come all the way from Ft. Jennings (Some 30 miles, one-way!), as she does each week for the summer Bluffton Farmers Market as well.

Eduardo Sguerra came east from Columbus Grove, Ohio, and from his “Wild Vine Farm.”  Wild Vine sells only the best in vegetables (in season), black walnuts, fresh market flower bouquets, dried florals…  Eduardo said he was just back from a two-week trip to the country of Columbia to visit relatives.

“How was that?”  I asked.

“Warmer,” he smiled.

And, among a good number of booths this day, there was the Bluffton Baking Co. booth.  Well, it was the ‘Bluffton’ Farmers Market after all.  They sell breads and “Gourmet Stuffed Cookies …to die for!”

And “headlining” the whole event was Bluffton’s favorite house band.  They’ve been playing for years all over this village.  And what’s more, each year, oddly enough, they actually change their band’s name – to stay relevant, I guess. 

Last year their name was: “The Usual Suspects.”  This year, it’s: “The Unusual Suspects.”  And they, most decidedly, are.

So, come one, come all… Bluffton Winter Farmers Market Mania is: ON!

Are we all living in East Palestine, Ohio?

The beginning of this month marked the one-year anniversary of the catastrophic East Palestine, Ohio train derailment.  And in this decidedly ongoing toxic chemical release saga, there’s a tremendously salient question that no national reporter, or local reporter for that matter, has yet to ask.  And I’ll get to that momentarily.  But first, a recap…

On February 3, 2023, just before 9 p.m., a Norfolk Southern train derailed near East Palestine.  Some of the train cars contained extremely hazardous/toxic chemicals.

The chemicals included: benzene; ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexy acrylate…  I mean, even trying to pronounce the names of these could kill you.  (Not to mention, most are carcinogenic.)

The latter chemicals are used in making all sorts of products.

Oh, and there was also phosgene gas, which was used as a highly lethal “poisonous gas” during World War I.  Phosgene gas is now used in making organic chemicals, dyestuff (paints, etc.), polyurethane resins…

During one of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s press conferences at the time, he said that, yes, the Norfolk Southern “manifest” listed these chemicals.  And yes, there was somewhat of a fire with some of the derailed train cars at the scene.

A reporter asked if it was prudent to do the subsequent “controlled burn” with the chemicals (to prevent a possible explosion)?  Or should the company have simply tried to cool the cars down?

Another reporter asked if it was, indeed, safe for East Palestine residents to return to their homes so soon after the accident? Yet another reporter wondered why states aren’t alerted prior to these kinds of toxic chemicals being shipped through them?  And on, and on…

All extremely valid questions.


I mean, think about it.

We have the tremendously advanced technological smarts to develop a spacecraft to take us to Mars, but we can’t come up with a paint without these toxic chemicals?

For instance, many of our current paints “…cause cancer in rats in California,” according to some of the labels.  And if the lab experiments were done elsewhere, it wouldn’t take Einstein to figure out the paints probably “…cause cancer in rats in Kentucky, Alabama and Montana, too.”

Now, I’m not a physiology professor at Dartmouth, but aren’t rats kinda/sorta, physiologically, especially with their respiratory system, pretty much the same as us.  I mean, they have a nose and breath stuff into their lungs. 

If the stuff they’re breathing (paint fumes in this case) have carcinogens in the vapors, um, wouldn’t it stand to reason some are going to get cancer – even rats in Alaska!  And by extension, um, we have noses and lungs too.

The chemicals in those train cars are, again, in our paints, our cleaning fluids, our plastics, our… 

Statistics show that one in three Americans will now get cancer in a lifetime.  And those odds are probably a bit higher in East Palestine, Ohio right now.

But frankly, shouldn’t we ALL be looking at this?  In fact, the rapid-release, voluminous vapors in East Palestine at the time, could merely be a microcosm of what’s happening to us all nationwide.  Only it’s just happening slower. 

And what’s more, shouldn’t we, ALL of us, be lobbying for legislation to ban these toxic chemicals?  Well of course we should.

“Billy the Beaver” SEES HIS SHADOW!

After giving this some deep, considered thought (for at least a couple minutes, or so), I’ve decided Bluffton needs a — drum roll…: “village pet!”  And not just any pet. But rather, a “signature pet,” if you will.  One that is not only cute, endearing, all that; but one that will bring in A LOT of money!

And, frankly, if the following wouldn’t be an absolute ‘Bluffton business boon’ around more tourism, I, frankly, don’t know what would be!  But first, a preface…

As noted in an article last edition, “Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog,” year in and year out, gets a lion’s, ‘er rather a hog’s share of the attention on Feb. 2 for that ‘…seeing his shadow, or not, deal.’

But Phil isn’t the only groundhog in town (read: the nation), so to speak.  Ohio, unbeknownst to many, has its own groundhog, which is trotted out to see his shadow, or not, on Feb. 2 as well.  He’s called: “Buckeye Chuck.”  I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP!

While Phil draws over, say, 10,000, or more, tourists that day, and nationwide media.  Chuck draws at least several thousand tourists to Marion, Ohio each Feb. 2 for the groundhog festivities there.

Now, who says only groundhogs can see, or not see, their shadows on this day?  NO ONE!  So…

What if we in Bluffton tell the world that BEAVERS can see their shadows, or not, as well.  And we could call our beaver (Wait for it…) “Billy the Beaver.”  I mean, it’s got the same consonance-sounding thing going on as Punxsutawney Phil.  And both are, basically, categorized as big hairy rodents. 

If this is marketed right, the Bluffton downtown merchants could, again, experience a BLUFFTON BEAVER BUSINESS BONANZA, with an exponent!  Stay with me on this.

Punxsutawney, for instance, sells “Punxsutawney Phillsner” in their taverns.  Well, the taverns here could sell “Billy Beer.”  Oops. I forgot Jimmy Carter’s brother has the market cornered on “Billy Beer.”  So, uh, how about: “Billy’s Beaver Brew”?

Punxsutawney really plays up the groundhog thing, with colorful groundhog sculptures on some downtown corners, groundhog souvenirs in the shops…  Well, I mean, we could do that with beavers!

What’s more, ‘ole Phil really doesn’t live in a small cave on top of Gobbler’s Knob.  That’s just a one morning thing. He actually lives in a tricked-out, temperature-controlled big terrarium in Punxsutawney’s Town Hall – with his wife, “Phyllis.” Seriously!

This, needless to say, brings tourists to Punxsutawney year-round — just to get selfies with Phil, then buy some Phil souvenirs, get a mug (or two) of Punxsutawney Philsner, and so on.

Has anyone noticed how big the foyer area is in Bluffton’s Town Hall?  That’s right, “Billy,” and his wife, “Bertha,” could live in a nice, tricked out, temperature-controlled terrarium there. And, for instance, this newspaper’s nature columnist, “Mr. B,” could regularly check in on both of them.

If this all works out, all I’m asking is, like, a cut on the Beaver Brew sales.  LOL.  Lots Of Lager!

Meet your public servant: State Representative Susan Manchester

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State Representative Susan Manchester (R-Waynesfield), to the surprise of some, didn’t grow up dreaming of bumping elbows with fellow lawmakers in the bustling state capital building. Quite the contrary, but for a summer internship with U.S. Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Urbana), Manchester would likely be working on the family farm, instead she finds herself fighting for families and children.

Growing up on the family farm in Waynesfield, Ohio, Manchester went on to graduate from The Ohio State University in 2010 with degrees in Psychology and Political Science. She worked in Washington, D.C. for Congressman Jim Jordan, where she focused on policies such as agriculture, health care, business and education.

“I fell in love with the work we were doing. Getting to meet people from across the state and to see the issues other parts of Ohio are dealing with,” Manchester said.

These days Manchester is serving her third term in the Ohio House of Representatives and represents the 78th District, which encompasses Allen County and the northern portion of Auglaize County.

Manchester took a position with a non-profit organization focused on mentoring kids.

Manchester was first elected to the General Assembly in 2018. During her time in the legislature, Representative Manchester chaired the House Families, Aging, and Human Services Committee, and also served as a member of the House Health Committee and House Primary and Secondary Education Committee. Additionally, she was appointed to the Health Oversight and Advisory Committee in 2021.

Representative Manchester also served as the Co-Vice Chair of the Ohio Legislative Children Caucus, where she ardently fought for the protection and safety of Ohio’s children. She created the Ohio Youth and Family Ombudsman Office through the department of Jobs and Family Services, which provides a layer of security and accountability for Ohio’s children. Her work as an advocate for Ohio’s children has been recognized statewide. Representative Manchester was honored by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio with the Legislator of the Year Award in 2022, and was recognized as a Champion of Children by the Ohio Children’s Alliance.

Additionally, Representative Manchester introduced and passed several important bills that addressed needs she saw in her district; many of these bills are now state law. Notable bills she had signed into law include the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Program, which helps assist one generation of farmers to the next as agricultural assets are rented and sold and ultimately fosters a strong agricultural presence in the state. She also closed a dangerous loophole in Ohio law by expanding the Ohio Revised Code to criminalize the use or manipulation of a controlled substance addiction as a method of human trafficking.

Manchester recently filed paperwork to run for the Ohio Senate seat currently held by term-limited Senate President Matt Huffman.

Manchester tells The Bluffton News she has had the privilege of representing 5 of the 7 counties of the senate district as a member of the Ohio House, and that she is excited for the opportunity to continue providing conservative representation to the residents of West Central Ohio.

“During my five years in the legislature, I have fought hard to balance the budget while cutting taxes, cut red tape for small businesses and protect our constitutional liberties, while steadfastly standing up to defend innocent life. There is still more work to be done and I look forward to continuing that work in the Ohio Senate,” she said.

As a state representative Manchester passed bills to create the Ohio Youth and Family Ombudsman office to assist youth and families in Ohio’s foster care system and launched the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit program to support family farms. She has served on the Agriculture, Education, and Healthcare committees.

In an interview with TBN she shared her excitement to hit the campaign trail to listen to voters and to share her conservative record in office.

“Our district is right in the heart of West Central Ohio, where conservative principles are alive and working,” Manchester said. “It is critical that we continue to protect and defend our conservative values at the Statehouse.”

Manchester and her husband Isaac live near her family farm in Auglaize County. Prior to being elected to the legislature, Manchester served as Congressman Jim Jordan’s legislative aide. Senate District 12 covers Allen, Auglaize, Mercer, Shelby, Darke, Logan and Champaign counties.