OARDC, Fremont, Ohio  copyright Ken Chamberlain

From Ohio State University press release                                           Since the early 1970s, OSU’s North Central Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) has been involved in growing and evaluating new cabbage varieties for Ohio’s sauerkraut processors and growers.

According to the USDA, 1501 acres are dedicated to processing cabbage production in Ohio.  Most cabbage fields are in north central and northwest Ohio along Lake Erie’s fertile plains.  Most are relatively near OARDC’s Fremont research farm.

OSU extension educator Mark Koenig runs the trials with station manager Matt Hofelich.  Koenig reports, “The idea is to support local growers through scientifically based, unbiased, replicated trials conducted in field conditions similar to the ones they encounter on their farms.  We tested 20 varieties in 2011, from early-maturing to late-maturing types and compared them for yield, head quality, good color for kraut, maturity rates, impact of planting and harvesting time on quality and other characteristics.”

One of the beneficiaries of the program is The Fremont Company, the second largest producer of sauerkraut in the country.  The company’s based in Fremont and produces Frank’s Kraut and Snow Floss Kraut.  Plant manager, Bruce Hanzel, says his company and its Ohio farmers would be at a significant competitive disadvantage without the Fremont station’s trials.

“Wisconsin and New York are the hotbeds of processing cabbage production in the US,” Hanzel explained.  “The major seed companies are located in New York and conduct their own variety trials there.  But the difference in soils and climate between New York and Ohio make those trials of little value to us.

“Varieties that work well in New York may or may not work here, or their maturity dates don’t match.  (The Fremont station) trials are extremely valuable to us because selecting and growing the right varieties increases efficiency and lowers costs.”

My Take:  Our tax dollars at work for a better New Year’s Day kraut dish.  A nice win-win situation for all.

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