How would you like to live on National Park property and run a farm? The Countryside Initiative program in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is looking for some tenants who could manage a local farm, along with contributing to the local economy with a food-based business.
The Countryside Initiative program offers beginning farmers access to affordable land, and enables them to tap into the Conservancy’s vast network of farmer’s markets and local agriculture, says Tracy Emrick, core partnership manager for Countryside Conservancy, a nonprofit that supports local food and farming in the Cuyahoga Valley. “It puts them right in the middle of a vibrant local food economy,” says Emrick.
She adds: “We’re looking of farmers that have a strong business plan and a real commitment to land stewardship and community, and for people who really understand that farming is a really tough job.”
The farmer tenants would need to practice sustainable methods appropriate for a national park, which could present its own set of challenges. The farming business should also be focused on producing high-quality specialty products for direct, local and retail sale.
This year’s available farms are located in Valley View and Boston Heights, and are suitable for fruit and vegetable production, management-intensive grazing operations, and integrated crop-livestock enterprises. The farm in Valley View includes a residence (rehabilitated) and approximately 9 acres of fields with the potential for an additional 3. The farm in Boston Township includes a residence (rehabilitated), a raised bank barn and approximately 12 acres of fields.
Shawn Belt, farm manager for Spice Acres in the Cuyahoga Valley, a working farm under the Countryside Initiative program, attests to the connections this program offers. “There’s an incredible farmer’s market in Howe Meadow that we just started going to. I like that Countryside has a network already built.”
The National Park Service will offer the long-term lease (up to 60 years) in conjunction with the Countryside Conservancy (CC), announce the next round of long-term lease offerings under the Countryside Initiative program in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP).
“People deserve to know where their food comes from, and farmers deserve to earn a living wage,” says Heather Roszczyk, education and marketing manager for Countryside Conservancy, which is managing the project.
The Conservancy is part of a growing movement that changes the way 21st century culture thinks about food, says Executive Director Darwin Kelsey.
“The program helps us take care of historic properties and is important for caring for our grow heritage and our cultural landscape,” says Craig Kenkel, superintendent of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Henkel says the Cuyahoga Valley National Park system gets 100,000 visitors a year, who now have direct access to local and healthy food, thanks to this partnership with Countryside Conservancy.
The Conservancy also hosts a number of farmer’s markets each year, which bring in $1 million of local food sales each year and see about 70 different vendors.
There are currently nine farms in operation under this program, including a vineyard and winery, vegetable and egg operations, livestock and pick-your-own and community-supported vegetable farms.
This opportunity, including information on the program, the farms, and the submission requirements, is fully described in the 2015 Countryside Initiative Request for Proposal (RFP) document.
To download a copy of the RFP, visit www.nps.gov/cuva (follow links to farm offering) or www.cvcountryside.org. Paper copies are available by request from Julie Gabelman, Countryside Conservancy, 2179 Everett Road, Peninsula, Ohio 44264; (330) 657-2542; Jgabelman@cvcountryside.org. Farm open houses will be conducted on Friday, July 31 and Monday, August 10; to RSVP call the CC at (330) 657-2542.
Proposals will be accepted until noon on Sept. 16. These leases, available for up to 60 years, are open to all interested parties on a competitive basis with selection being based on the proposal’s agricultural and economic soundness, responsiveness to a national park setting and engagement of the public.