The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.office
    NEW OFFICES—Fayette village administrator Steve Blue speaks with tax administrator Genna Biddix at the new front desk of the village office. Village council members voted to use budgeted renovation funds targeted for the old office and instead buy the vacant bank building on the corner of Main and Fayette streets. The old office was sold to Sherwood State Bank. When everything is put into place in the spacious new village office, an open house will be scheduled. Council member David Wheeler donated all of his time needed to make changes in the bank interior to fit the Village’s needs.

Vreba-Hoff farm land for sale 2011.09.14

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Fallout from the Vreba-Hoff Dairy bankruptcy continues, with the auction of more than 400 acres of Lenawee County land scheduled Sept. 20.

An auction is also planned that day in St. Joseph County near Leonidas to sell 370 acres of land.

A farmhouse, barn and outbuildings are also on the auction block at each location.

The sale will be used to pay off a portion of the $9 million debt owed to creditors by Midwest AG Investments, the real estate subsidiary of Vreba-Hoff Dairy Development.

According to an article in the Adrian Daily Telegram, Lenawee County Circuit Judge Timothy Pickard approved an order in July to clear liens from titles in order to fast-track a sale. This would help the court ordered receiver, Amicus Management of Grand Rapids, Mich., take advantage of farm land prices that are currently running high.

Real estate agent Gene Beaverson of Fayette wasn’t yet familiar with the land scheduled for sale, but he’s seen agricultural land selling at prices much higher than even two years ago.

Recents sales in the Fayette-Archbold area have brought prices above $6,000 an acre, Beaverson said, but that was for land that was all tillable.

Halderman Real Estate Services of Wabash, Ind., is conducting the sales. The St. Joseph County land will be auctioned first, with a sale scheduled at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 20 in Leonidas. The Lenawee sale will follow at 6:30 p.m. at the Christian Family Center in Adrian.

Two of the Lenawee tracts are located southeast of Jasper on Treat Highway. The land was purchased several years ago when a 5,000 head dairy was proposed.

Another tract is located on Packard Road near Munson Highway. Two other tracts are located along U.S. 127 near Packard Road. Tillable acreage in Lenawee County totals about 300 acres. The farmhouse is located south of Packard on U.S. 127.

In addition to facing unpaid fines for environmental issues through the State of Michigan, Vreba-Hoff faced foreclosure last fall when the mortgage company Rabo Agrifinances sought payment of $55 million in loans.

Southern Michigan Dairy, a subsidiary of Rabo, later became the court-appointed owner of the farms.

STILL PROBLEMS—Large dairies with liquid manure systems have operated in the Hudson area since the first Vreba-Hoff facility was constructed in 1997.  Ten years ago, after several cases of manure draining into streams, members of the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan (ECCSCM), began a water monitoring project near manure application fields. The project tested water for E. coli bacteria and dissolved oxygen levels, two indicators of water quality. 

The ECCSCM monitoring project of 2001-2003 documented several streams at risk from field application of liquid manure. The Department of Environmental Quality investigated, and in 2004 the DEQ placed two streams draining former Vreba-Hoff property on Michigan’s list of “impaired waters.”

Since then, no agency has done routine water testing. This led the ECCSCM to  wonder how streams are faring today.

Volunteers began re-testing some of the same sites for E. coli and dissolved oxygen over the summer.

The first sampling on July 12 found E. coli bacteria counts as high as 52,000/100 ml at one site–52 times higher than Michigan’s standard of 1000/100 ml. for partial body contact. Two other sites also violated the water standard for E. coli with counts of 12,000 and 4,000/100 ml.

“Some agencies tell us practices have improved, the bad actors are gone.  But the first test results don’t support that,” said Janet Kauffman, coordinator of the water monitoring project. “We’ll have a better idea what’s what in a few months.”

The group will monitor several sites every other week through the fall.

Total monitoring data is posted on the group’s website: www.eccscm.org.

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