A self-proclaimed do-it-yourselfer, Sherry Mitchell of Cherry Ridge Farms knows what it takes to run a successful farm operation.
Cherry Ridge Farms is a family attraction in Georgetown, Ohio, known for its corn mazes, pumpkin patch hayrides, pony rides, petting zoo, crafts and food.
As the owner of Cherry Ridge Farms, Mitchell is not afraid of a hard day’s work. Following a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call, she does a daily devotion and pulls on her leather work boots and bibs. Then it’s off to go work on the farm.
Agricultural life is nothing foreign to her, as she grew up on a farm in Brown County, Ohio. There she helped her father, Ed Phillips, farm the ground. Then five years ago, she and her husband purchased a farm property proudly overlooking White Oak Creek at the historic Kimball’s Ford Crossing.
At the time of the farm’s purchase in 2003, the previous owners had a stable barn and an indoor arena for their own personal pleasure, Mitchell says. The Mitchells soon took advantage of the facilities and became engaged in the horse business. It wasn’t long before they started boarding horses and giving lessons. Later they started the Saddle Club.
“We realized that there were a lot of horse crazy youngsters that loved horses but didn’t have a horse farm to realize their dreams,” she says. “We next added pony birthday parties and then a therapeutic riding program, which is new to this area.”
Today, Cherry Ridge Farms is the embodiment of a life-long dream, Mitchell says.
“My favorite part of the job is when I see the smiles on the faces of children and their parents after experiencing life and making a memory by picking the perfect pumpkin, petting a bunny for the first time, riding a pony, or climbing in the top of our hay mow,” she says. “I can relate to those same experiences and it takes me back to the days when I was growing up on the farm and that put a smile on my face.”
But Mitchell knows that with any dream comes challenges.
“Being in business for yourself, no matter what you’re doing, means you’re wearing many hats all the time,” she says. “That means the paperwork, the business and the after business hours, too.”
And the work can be less than glamorous.
“Sure, I give riding instructions, pony birthday parties and many other things on the farm, but I still have a day that I have to clean the horse stalls,” she points out. “Summers are filled with baling hay, fixing fences and such.”
But running a farm, requires more than manual labor, Mitchell says. She offers words of advice for aspiring agribusiness entrepreneurs.
“So if you can’t or don’t like to wear many hats, being an entrepreneur might not be a good fit unless, of course, you have the funds initially to hire the other jobs done,” she says.
Mitchell says finding a niche is key to success in agriculture.
“Today’s farmers are diversifying to find other means of providing income from their land,” she says. “Diversification is the key word these days — making money from the land in other ways.”
Speaking of other ways you can enjoy Cherry Ridge Farms, be sure to check out their corn maze. They’re open every weekend in October. Pumpkin patch hayrides, “kiddie maze,” petting zoo and pony rides are also available.
Photo: Courtesy of Sherry Mitchell