Orleton Farms History:
The Interesting Past of Oak Run Solar Project's Future Site
Savion is proud to be working with the local community to develop a solar project on land recognized for innovation which has served a significant purpose over the past 200+ years. From livestock and crop production to hosting social events and providing jobs for hundreds of workers, the land and the community have supported one another. Today, the land offers a new opportunity to serve the residents of Madison County by implementing agriculture into the harvesting of clean, renewable solar energy.
Where the Land Originated
All land in Madison County, including the parcel that eventually became Orleton Farms, was part of the Virginia Military District. The land was considered among the finest in the state1 and was awarded to Virginia soldiers as compensation for their service in the Revolutionary War. Any soldier who held a warrant could choose land wherever he pleased within this district.2 These veterans and their descendants farmed the land for generations.
Early to Mid-1900s
In the early twentieth century, Foster B. Houston of South Charleston, Ohio, initially developed the 4,844 acres of land that would become Orleton Farms. It was acquired by Prudential Insurance Company and became known as Orleton Farms4 when it changed hands again in 1933 and was purchased by Miss Mary E. Johnston of Cincinnati.3 It later passed to Johnston’s nephew, John Sawyer.5
The farm was a prosperous agricultural pioneer for much of its history.6 Originally established as a Hereford cattle farm, it eventually expanded into other types of livestock and crops and brought new business methods to farming.7 The farm provided housing, a garden, and a Christmas bonus for employees which allowed them to purchase beef, hogs, eggs, and milk.8 Many distinguished visitors stayed in Orleton House and visited the farm, from British aristocracy to students from both The Ohio State University and abroad.9
Guests were treated to eggs, milk, cream beef, and corn -- all raised on the farm.10 Orleton House hosted numerous wedding receptions and anniversary parties. At one time, the Madison County Mental Health Center, which offered classes and counseling to community members, was located on-site.11 And, in November 1949, during a routine drain tile installation, a mastodon was found on site!12
In 1968, a documentary about the role of Orleton Farms and the U.S. in the agricultural education of Japan was produced by a Japanese-directed film crew.13 The farm also faced struggles. Blizzards and fire befell the farm, but the community always rallied to help rebuild, highlighting the spirit of camaraderie that is the hallmark of rural communities in times of need.
1970s into 2000s
Orleton Farms continued to innovate and evolve. By 1977, cattle operations ceased, and more crops were grown. The decade-long tradition of summer hoeing jobs for kids ended with the advent of chemicals to control weeds. In 2007, a Concentrated Animal Feed Operation (CAFO) proposal was submitted by the Dutch owners of the farm to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.15 This large-scale dairy proposed 5,428 cows, but that never materialized because conservationists argued runoff from the manure16 would pollute the Darby River tributaries. In 2009, Midwest Farms purchased the land.17
The evolution and innovation of the land continue as Oak Run Solar Project is poised to unite farming and renewable energy with the proposal of agrivoltaics.
Orleton Farms and Oak Run Solar Project:
History of Oak Trees
Savion established Oak Run Solar Project on land that spreads over parts of three townships that were established in the early 1800s. The land has existed as both Orleton Farms and Midwest Farms at different times in its storied history. The project gets its name from the oak timber lands it originally encompassed.
burr oak, white oak, black oak, red oak18
jack oak, burr oak, black oak19
Deer Creek Township
destitute in many areas, but white oak and burr oak where forested20
This content was created from gathering information from these sources:
“Orleton Farms from the Beginning” by Ann Vick
“The Orleton Farms Mastodon” from The Ohio Journal of Science, Vol. LII, January 1952
“PT behind plan to protect Darby from dairy farm,” Columbus Messenger, March 20, 2008
“Madison County: Developments and News” in UrbanOhio.com
Auditor’s Office of Madison County Ohio