Light, Camera, Auction

By Dan Wilson - Contributing columnist

Earlier in the year we reported the State of Ohio was in the process of selling off farm land and livestock associated with Ohio Correctional Facilities.

On Oct. 25 and 28, WMS auction services will be selling the Ohio Penal Industries 451 Angus and beef cattle herd at the Mansfield Correctional Farm. This auction will end a state owned cattle operation dating back to the 1920s at Mansfield Correctional Institution. The cattle operation started at the historic Ohio State Reformatory which was featured in the movie “Shawshank Redemption.” It is not often that a whole herd of this quality is offered at public auction. This auction is being managed by Paul Wagner and Kristy Gottfried agents for WMS Marketing Services and is expected to draw buyers from across the United States for this unique auction opportunity.

Ohio prisons began auctioning off state-owned cattle back in May as part of a plan to close most farming operations.

The closing decision was announced in April by Department of Rehabilitation and Correction officials, ending more than 100 years in the farming business. Director Gary Mohr said the farms no longer meet the agency’s mission of rehabilitating inmates to return to the work world after their release. Further, the farms are security risks with people dropping off drugs, tobacco and other contraband to be picked up by inmates and smuggled into prison.

The state is phasing out and closing nearly all farm operations at 10 prisons, selling thousands of acres of land, as well as 2,300 beef and 1,000 dairy cattle by the end of the year.

The dairy cows sold in May and June, and netted $1.3 million for the prison system. Sale-related expenses, including the cost to the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, for handling the sale, were a little more than $300,000.

Without its cows, the state will need about $2.6 million a year to provide milk for its various correctional facilities, which were previously supplied by state-owned cows.

The cost of buying milk, however, is likely less than the cost of producing it, according to supporters of the deal. The corrections department also plans to sell or lease most of its farmland.

The corrections department, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are also the center of a Franklin County lawsuit by the state’s labor union, the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, which alleges that state employees were not afforded their bargaining rights, and that selling the livestock will disrupt their jobs.

The decision to sell the farms came at a time when the state was in the finishing stages of a $9 million renovation at two of the farms, which included new dairy and beef facilities, and a new dairy milking parlor.

Officials for the state said they have halted those installations, and the farm buildings are being repurposed for other uses within the prison system.

Here’s seeing you, in Ohio Country!

By Dan Wilson

Contributing columnist

The writer is an award-winning veteran broadcaster for more than 30 years.

The writer is an award-winning veteran broadcaster for more than 30 years.