SALEM, Ohio – Drive through the park and expect to see creeks, trails, even waterfalls, but a farm?
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park
and Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy are working to make that image more common.
Through an initiative that began in 1999, the conservancy is restoring farms in the park and then leasing them to farmers.
Four farms are currently available. Proposals are due Aug. 31. (See related box for details.)
How it works. But it’s not quite that easy.
The process is competitive and complex, full of rules and oversight.
People who are interested must pass preliminary questionnaires, submit a meticulous farm proposal and go through a series of interviews.
Then, if they are chosen, everything they do will be subjected to an OK from the park.
For you? It takes a special person to be able to farm here, said conservancy director Darwin Kelsey.
“If your idea of farming is 2,000 acres from the inside of an air-conditioned cab of a mega tractor, this isn’t for you,” he said.
This is about establishing retail operations with high-quality specialty products, he said. The three currently working farms in the park produce vegetables, eggs, flowers and wine.
These are high-profile farms living a public existence, Kelsey said. These people will be living and working in a fishbowl, scrutinized not just by the public but also the park.
“You will farm our way, you will like it and you will smile,” he said.
A fit? The conservancy reviews the applicants’ information carefully, determining answers to four questions:
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