By Matt Clevenger
PIQUA — The Johnston Farm and Indian Agency has hired Ben Richard to serve in the position of site director, replacing long-time site manager Andy Hite who retired from the position earlier this year.
Richard officially started in the site director position on Monday, May 22.
“I was able to spend almost two weeks with retiring director Andy Hite to review operations, get information on previous and current projects, etc.,” Richard said. “I was able to experience what days look like during school field trip season, and have been actively involved in the day-to-day operations during our summer season.”
“It’s been a busy time and a learning time, but it’s been rewarding,” he said.
Richard’s involvement with the Johnston Farm first started with childhood trips to the Heritage Festival.
“My parents brought my brother and I to the Heritage Festival several times back in the early 80s,” he said. “My first memory of the site was seeing all the tents set up with the smoke in the air and buzz of activity all around; this was accentuated by a re-enactor who came strolling past us at the main gate in nothing but a loin cloth.”
Originally from Allen County, Ohio, Richard earned a degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Administration from Ohio State University.
“Prior to coming here, I worked for nine years as a park manager for Virginia State Parks and for 16 years in county parks,” he said. “In addition to administrative and supervisory duties, I was a commissioned law enforcement officer in both Virginia and Ohio.”
Richard and his wife Renae have eight children, and currently live in Sidney.
Located at 9845 N. Hardin Road, the Johnston Farm and Indian Agency is a 200-acre historical site focused on the life and home of John Johnston, who was a farmer and U.S. Indian Agent for Western Ohio from 1812 to 1829.
The site, which features the Johnston family home and farm, as well as an Adena earthwork located on-site, is open on a seasonal basis throughout the year, and receives approximately 10,000 to 12,000 visitors per year.
“With an Adena Indian mound on site, we know this particular area was occupied over 2000 years ago,” Richard said. “The site was also on intersecting travel routes for Native tribes and traders in the 1700s. The Miami village of Pickawillany (1747-1752) and a subsequent British trading post were located here, and later, an American supply post for General Wayne’s campaign through the area.”
“Ohio was the far west at one time, and the events that unfolded right here are very interesting and had an impact on the growth and development of Ohio,” he said.
More information can be found online at www.johnstonfarmohio.com.
“The site is open for the public during our fall school group schedule in September and October,” Richard said. “Call the office before heading out to visit, to ensure we are open and facilities are available on a particular day.”
The Johnston Farm will also host its annual Fall Celebration from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14.
“We will have demonstrations, hay rides, house tours and canal boat rides,” Richard said. “Dulcimer Friends will be here providing music, and families will be able to make some s’mores while waiting to ride the canal boat. For more information, contact the site office at 937-773-2522.”
“I want to continue to offer excellent interpretation and education opportunities at the site,” he said. “Another goal is to reach more people, and let them know we’re here and have some exciting things to experience. I would also like to expand our programs and events, to draw more visitors to the site and give families a great place to reconnect with the past.”