COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — On a Tuesday morning in mid-August, bright yellow sunflowers sway in the breeze on a stretch of Lynd Fruit Farm just off of Morse Road — which, aside from the wind, sits mostly quiet.

It won’t look or sound this way a month from now. 

Days from now, the family-owned farm will begin to usher in guests to collect apples from its rows of orchards, and then eventually, pumpkins from its patches. Further away, those sunflowers will offer social media-worthy photos, and back at the market, the shelves will be stuffed with artisan goods. The infamous apple cannon will pop and pop, echoing into the air.

Fall is the busiest season for the Lynds.

But as the air cools and this year’s busy season commences, construction crews will also continue progress on a large plot of land a short drive from the family’s popular pick-your-own plots. The impending Intel project, and a changing Licking County, has left 59-year-old Andy Lynd thinking about what his family’s farm may look like decades from now. 

Farm of four generations evolved over a century

Apples prepared for fall picking at Lynd Fruit Farm. (NBC4/Sarah Donaldson)

Lynd and his sister, Debbie Patton, are the fourth generation to cultivate and harvest acres in western Licking County. 

In 1916, Lynd’s great-grandfather bought an orchard — and since then, the family continued to purchase neighboring property, which has presently expanded into nearly 750 acres across three different locations. 

Lynd’s parents shifted the farm’s direction in the 1970s: from a commodity farm selling to grocers to a pick-your-own produce farm that retails directly to its customers. 

“It’s meaningful to me, just to have an opportunity to extend to others the opportunity to just enjoy life and what it can present,” Lynd said in an interview. “That’s very rewarding. Growing a nice crop is rewarding, but seeing the reactions of the end-user is almost priceless.”

Lynd said he believes that changeover way back when also created a financial strategy that will now enable the family to “hold tight for a long time.”

Intel, other projects will alter region for farmers

Intel is not the only entity laying down roots in central Ohio. Other technology behemoths have been buying land and building data centers for years. Add that to numerous suppliers and subsidiaries vying to place boots on the ground close to Intel’s plant and an increased demand for housing and other services, and land prices have soared. 

Lynd has yet to receive a knock on his door.

“We’ve not had offers to purchase, but because of Intel’s presence, the pressure to sell property is just increasing and the values are increasing,” Lynd said. “The question is, if you own a farm, you own a lot of real estate … if you’re a commodity grower of corn or soybeans, how can you justify continuing in that business if somebody walks in and says, ‘I’ll give you x amount of dollars per acre’?”

It’s exciting, in a way. If the region’s population grows how it’s projected to, he believes his family offers a unique activity to central Ohio residents — new and longtime. Intel isn’t creating anything those residents can eat, Lynd said.

The state government has routinely lent a hand to farmers, he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture said its Office of Farmland Preservation continues to work alongside landowners and local governments on easements that safeguard some farmland. Licking County has 29 protected farms on more than 4,000 acres through the easement programs.

When the time comes, he and Patton will sell their interest in the farm to their children. 

“The question is, over the next 30 years, when the younger generation gets older, what will be their strategy?” Lynd said. “That’s the challenge because 30 years from now, I don’t know what east central Ohio will look like.”

But for others with land — particularly those in closer proximity to the eventual plant — it’s likely been a different conversation. Some families will gladly sell, some will do so reluctantly, and some will refuse it outright, he said. For now, the Lynds fall somewhere between reluctance and refusal.