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Farm Science Review site recovering from tornado damage
By Doug Graves
Ohio Correspondent

LONDON, Ohio – Ohio State’s Molly Caren Agricultural Center, home to the Farm Science Review (FSR), was hit by an EF2 tornado on Feb. 28, causing heavy damage to the facility as well as the Madison County Airport along state Route 40. The electrical infrastructure and several buildings were impacted.
According to the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio, a total of nine tornadoes crossed western and central Ohio that morning. The aftermath of the storm left 46 of the 62 buildings on the agricultural center property damaged or destroyed, said Nick Zachrich, FSR manager.
“We immediately started the recovery process, clearing the debris field and assessing the damage to each building,” Zachrich said. “All of the electrical infrastructure is privately owned by the university. We will be repairing it over the next few months.”
This included 13 university-owned buildings and 33 privately-owned buildings. Of the buildings struck by the tornado, most incurred minor or cosmetic damages. A handful were damaged badly enough to be demolished. No individuals or animals were in the impacted buildings at the time of the storm, and there were no reported injuries.
Like other local farmers impacted by the story, the focus of the FSR and College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Science (CFAES) teams has been on recovery and rebuilding to ensure the show will continue as scheduled.
“We are full committed to hosting this year’s show and coming back stronger than ever, which is in our nature as a farmer-focused facility and event,” Zachrich said. “There will be minor impacts of certain exhibitors being in different locations than usual. Otherwise, it will be business as usual for us, and everyone coming to the next show can be assured all of the structures will be as safe as they have been in the past.
“At first, we were unsure, but we have reached out to all of those event organizers to let them know we will find a way to make things work. Most of the partners are willing to be flexible on how we are serving their needs.”
Zachrich noted that the site’s farming operations and field demonstration areas were unaffected by the storm.
Aaron Wilson, CFAES assistant professor and Ohio’s state climatologist, surveyed the damage at Molly Caren Ag Center.
“The reports indicate the path of the storm system was more than 21 miles long and 500 yards wide,” Wilson said. “Of course, damage along the path and across its width varies based on whether a structure takes a direct hit or not, or whether debris and other projectiles hit neighboring buildings. All these variations in damage were present at Molly Caren Ag Center.”
Before hitting Madison County, the tornado ravaged South Charleston, Ohio, just west of Orient and known for its vast farmland. Charlie Troxell, of Troxell Family Farms and a frequent FSR attendee, who farms 1,800 acres with his father, Tom, and brother, Jeffery, lost multiple buildings.
“We’re fortunate,” Charlie said. “We lost the two oldest barns on the property, our original shop and a concrete containment facility. We always thought it would be nice to have one big barn and one big complex for conveniences, but this made us realize that having things spread out make a difference. Our quality build barns withstood the storm.
“You can’t replace nostalgia and history. Those things mean something. The barn we lost used to be host to 4-H meetings and other community events back in my dad’s heyday.”
On the opposite side of Columbus, another well-known agricultural site, Lynd Fruit Farm, was also damaged by a tornado. That farm’s packing house was severely damaged, but the market and trees are fine.
Three weeks after this storm system did its damage, another set of tornadoes devastated areas in western Ohio on March 14.
“Limiting tornado damage can be challenging, of course, especially when you think of the barns and other shelters found on farms,” Wilson said. “There is ongoing research and innovation around building assets, like grain bins and barns, with materials that may better withstand extreme weather, like high wind or hail events.”
The Molly Caren Agricultural Center includes 100 acres of exhibit area and 600 acres of land for field demonstrations such as corn and soybean combines, tillage, nutrient and lime applications, and drainage installations. It also includes a 67-acre demonstration and education area for agriculture and natural resources management practices.
This year’s FSR is Sept. 17-19. Activities will take place at either new or temporary facilities in place for the event.