Sarah Moser sits on her front porch, gazing out over Roanna Farms as the fog lifts off the field.
The acres have been in her family since her grandfather established the farm in Van Wert County, Ohio, back in 1959.
“My mom told me never to marry a farmer. Then I became one,” she laughs.
The hours are long; the work is backbreaking. But Moser has never shied away from a tough job.
“When the year is too dry, you still have the wind. When prices are down, you have the wind.”
She earned an ROTC scholarship and attended the University of Wyoming, then received her master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma. She served as an air weapons officer in the Air Force. She moved around—from Wyoming to Florida to Oklahoma to Nevada to Italy. But 15 years after leaving her small Ohio hometown, she found herself back in Van Wert.
“That’s when I really got a taste of farming, and I loved it,” Moser says, smiling. “I was eight months pregnant, out in the fields, climbing up and down the combine. My dad said all the neighbors were talking.”
Moser and her younger brother now operate the family farm, named for her grandpa, Ronald, and her grandmother, Anna. Moser wakes up before the crack of dawn to run a few miles, just to clear her head, and when it’s her turn, she heads out to the barns to check on their 5,000 hogs. Depending on the season, she might run the drill or the combine—all while never missing getting her three boys to school in the morning.
And some days, after all of that, she cleans up and heads into the office.
Moser is not just a mother, a farmer, and a veteran. She is also a development manager for Apex Clean Energy.
“Dad always told us we needed to have a job outside of farming,” says Moser. “The way the markets are, you can’t always guarantee you’ll be able to support your family.”
So back in 2013, Moser took on the role of economic development director for the county.
“I wanted to make Van Wert a better place. It’s my future and my children’s future,” Moser says.
In her role, Moser negotiated with a wind developer and began seeing the benefits of wind energy for small Ohio communities like Van Wert. So when Apex was looking for a development manager for Long Prairie Wind, she realized the job was a logical extension of her economic development work.
The county is already home to one wind farm, and Moser hopes that in a few years she’ll see more white blades gently turning in the wind.
“For farmers, wind turbines are a real solution. When the year is too wet and your crops are bad, you still have the wind. When the year is too dry, you still have the wind. When prices are down, you have the wind.”
But for Moser, Long Prairie is about more than helping keep Van Wert’s family farmers strong amid years of drought or dropping commodity prices. It’s about sustaining her hometown.
“Oftentimes rural communities are overlooked, but we have so much potential,” Moser says. “Wind is part of that. Wind brings an avenue to grow and learn and achieve.”
Long Prairie Wind will be Van Wert County’s largest taxpayer and one of the largest economic development projects in the state of Ohio. The project could inject $900 million in private investment into the region. Over the life of the facility, Long Prairie will provide more than $121 million in tax revenue to the county, over $41 million in landowner payments, hundreds of jobs during construction, 20 long-term operations jobs, and 30 years of local purchasing and investment.
Moser imagines a revitalized downtown area in every small village in the county and the best education opportunities for her children. She dreams of new community parks and recreational facilities and, of course, a bigger budget for the county’s economic development. And she knows it’s possible with Long Prairie Wind.
With planting season kicking off, Moser waves at those who drive past while she’s out in the fields, occasionally hopping off the tractor to say hi to a neighbor. She leaves her front door unlocked, and if you need to borrow her car, it’s sitting in the drive, keys in the ignition (though it might need gas).
“Van Wert is still the same place I grew up,” says Moser. “But technology and creativity and innovation have made it better. With Long Prairie in the works and promising an even better future, now it’s a place to raise my boys.”