Co-op People

Gary Stretar

When young Gary Stretar wasn’t playing sports, he was busy drawing something. He didn’t grow up to become an athlete, but two childhood influences cemented that second pastime into a rewarding career.

The first was his teacher in both fifth and sixth grades, Miss Paul. Stretar says he didn’t learn much more in college art classes than what Miss Paul had already taught him. “Teachers don’t always challenge kids to learn more, but she did,” he says. “She wasn’t afraid to teach us [advanced art techniques of] perspective, line, color values. A lot of us in her classes went on to art careers.”

Co-owner Andy Lane of Hand Hewn Farm shows the latest class of would-be butchers the first steps in the process (photo by Margie Wuebker)

Friends Andy Lane and Doug Wharton offer tasty lessons and plenty of hands-on experience during unique “Pasture to Plate” workshops at rustic Hand Hewn Farm in rural Tuscarawas County.

The men, who began homesteading at the Fresno-area farm once owned by Lane’s grandmother in 2015, raise heritage hogs, chickens, and rabbits. They initially learned to butcher for their families’ consumption, relying on pointers from old-timers as well as detailed books on the subject.

“We learned through trial and error,” says Wharton, a former commercial contractor. “Now we focus on doing it right and demonstrating how to use each cut to its best purpose.”

The second and third generations of the Stalder family of cheesemakers: John Stalder and Chuck Ellis stand behind Grace Stalder and Sally

For Swiss immigrants Ernest and Gertrude Stalder, 1937 was an important year. Not only was their son John born, but a new rural electric cooperative began powering their business, Pearl Valley Cheese, in eastern Coshocton County.

For the Stalders, cheese is more than a business — it’s a lifestyle that has endured for four generations. John and his wife, Grace, took over the factory during the 1960s, and though they’re now octogenarians, they lend a hand there practically every day. The couple also raised four daughters — Ruth Ann, Sally, Heidi, and Trudy — who, along with their spouses and offspring, have helped to make cheese and run the plant in various ways over the years.  

Laurelville Fruit Farm sign

It was the antics of a wily and very hungry fox that serendipitously led to the creation of an apple-growing enterprise and cider mill that are still going strong more than a century later.

“My dad took over the farm after World War II,” he says, “and growing up in the ’60s, I remember working my tail off to help out. Some of my high school friends and I would get up at 5 o’clock in the morning and make a thousand gallons of cider before school started, and then jug it when we got home. But it was fun, we didn’t think of it as work.”

Julie Hohenstein (far right) relied on the support of her family during treatment for breast cancer, but was grateful to Pink Ribbon Girls for filling in the gaps.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.

Pink Ribbon Girls serves five regions: Dayton, Cincinnati, and Columbus in Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri; and the Bay Area in California. The organization’s sights are set on expanding their reach to other regions throughout the country, to ensure that no one has to battle breast or gynecological cancers alone.

As Hohenstein can attest, breast cancer affects more than the individual — it affects the entire family.

Around 200 elk are home on the range at Dave Flory’s Quiet Harmony Ranch in the rolling Preble County hills.

Around 200 elk are home on the range at Dave Flory’s Quiet Harmony Ranch in the rolling Preble County hills. 

After viewing an informational movie, visitors can drive through the elk park to view the statuesque animals lounging in pastures and paddocks or opt for the 50-minute Outback Encounter, which affords a closer look and commentary. The inquisitive elk often approach fences for a peek at visitors or simply watch from their open shelters.

“It’s a joy to talk to people about astronomy,” says Hoehne. “I’ve been stargazing most of my life, and this park is a great way to bring others into the fold and get them interested in science in general.”

Getting Brad Hoehne to stand still for a photo isn’t easy.

Served by South Central Power Company, the park sits on an open patch of land within Hocking Hills State Park. It’s named for the Ohio-born-and-bred astronaut who was the first American to orbit the Earth. JGAP opened in 2018, but Hoehne had been thinking for years about creating a venue where the public could connect with the cosmos. “I got the idea in 2003,” he says.

A crowd watching the fireworks show

What started out as a little backyard celebration just outside the village of Fletcher in Miami County nearly 20 years ago has evolved into an event that everyone can enjoy. 

Even their “humble” beginning wasn’t all that insignificant; the event drew between 100 and 150 agricultural business contacts, family, friends, and neighbors. But now, the event has grown to several thousand in attendance — and that doesn’t even include those who watch the show from neighboring private parties or from safe parking spots nearby.

“Ultimately, we do this to make people happy, especially those in our community,” Mike says. “You don’t do this for the money — you do this because you want to make those people happy. That, to me, is the challenge.”

Funny cars are one of the crowd favorites at Dragway 42.

Jeff Gates, a tool and die maker from Republic, was hoping to introduce his 1965 Ford Ranchero to the world during Thursday Night Thunder on this fine evening at Dragway 42 in the Wayne County village of West Salem. The car, however, had other ideas.

When asked if he couldn’t just drop it off at a local garage and have them repair it, the veteran racer laughs. 

“No, this is the fun part,” he says. “At least most of the time, so long as you get to run them every now and then. I just enjoy building this stuff.”