New Farmer Academy Mentor Farms
Mentor farmers provide real life work experiences for our NFA interns, along with the kind of wisdom and advice that can only come from the school of hard knocks.
Countryside is here to support our mentor farmers with intern labor assistance, as well as continuing education and networking opportunities to help grow their farms – and our local food system.
Our mentor farm network reaches far and wide! It includes rural, urban, and suburban farms, market gardens, pastured livestock operations, greenhouses, and farms featuring agritourism and permaculture design.
Countryside is dedicated to connecting people, food, and land – which means supporting local farmers. Show them some love by liking and sharing their pages, and then by supporting them with your food dollars!
Bay Branch Farm
Annabel Khouri and Eric Stoffer are the proud farmers of this beautiful urban farm located in Cleveland, Ohio. They started their farm in 2010 and have been at their current location since 2013. They grow vegetable to be taken to market – leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, herbs and some flowers.
They believe in putting the needs of the community, the environment and our customers ahead of profit, believing that being a good steward to our community will lead to profits. We follow organic growing practices, but are not certified organic.
When we asked what their favorite thing to grow is, they said: “It’s so hard to choose a favorite thing to grow. I love root crops like carrots because you’re always surprised by the outcome when you dig them up, but nothing beats a sun-ripened tomato in the summer. I wait all year for those babies!”
Bath Hollow Farm
Since 2015, Melissa and Brett Safran have owned Bath Hollow Farm, situated on 28 acres in Cuyahoga Falls. With a goal of preserving the existing woodlands and sharing the space as a peaceful retreat, it serves as a home, a small sustainable farm, and a gathering place for weddings and special events.
They have been experimenting and learning on their farm for a few years with everything from laying hens and fruit trees, to veggies, garlic, and sunflowers. They’re also growing Christmas trees with the intention of selling them as live dug trees when they mature in a few years. They’ve attempted to build soil carbon by growing cover crops, rotationally pasturing chickens, and using leaves from the city’s leaf collection as mulch.
This year Brett and Melissa are excited to partner with Countryside and make their land and equipment available for use by beginning farmers or interns.
Harvest Bell Farm
Tiffany Mushrush Mentzer operates this historic farm located in Newbury, Ohio with the help of her husband and parents. They purchased the farm in 2014 and started farming in 2015. They grow flowers, herbs, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, zucchini, winter squash (specialty varieties for local chefs). They raise laying hens (500), hogs and turkeys (year-round).
Harvest Bell Farm is a family farm focused on the health and wellness of the families around them. They believe in sustainable, ethical and natural practices. Their goal is to provide naturally raised livestock and fresh crops. The farm is nestled in beautiful Newbury, Ohio where they have 20 acres to let their animals be completely pasture-raised. They raise their animals in a humane, stress free environment. They have a constant supply of fresh water and enjoy the freedom of being outside in the sunshine and eating up nature’s offerings. In addition to nature’s offerings, their animals have a steady supply of fresh NON-GMO feed. They don’t use animal by-products, antibiotics or other non-natural feed additives.
Tiffany’s favorite thing to grow is flowers and her favorite animals to raise are her hogs!
Keleman Point Farm
Proudly run by Mike and Melissa Keleman with the help of their 2 sons, they are biodiverse farming on 48 acres in the heart of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. They are also one of our Countryside Initiative farms!
They practice a closed system and regenerative style of farming. All livestock is pasture grazed using intensive grazing and long rest periods, which enhances root growth and stimulation of the grass and increases the production of top soil. They pride themselves on the humane treatment of all their animals, through enrichment and a nutritious diet provided predominantly by the land. “healthy ground, healthy grass, healthy animals, healthy people”
Let's Grow Akron
Lisa Nunn operates the Let’s Grow Akron sites with the help of her staff that includes Jamie Mutnansky, Kevin Nunn, Maggie Duff, Pete Bach, Rich Johnson, Ryan Carpenter and Zakiyyah Jowhar-Schmidt. Let’s Grow Akron doesn’t exactly fall into the category of beginning farmer(farming less than 10 years) or really even the farmer category, for that matter – they are actually a non-profit organization! But because of their amazing work supporting community food gardens in neighborhoods where access to fresh food has been unfairly limited, we deemed them a perfect mentor farm candidate.
Let’s Grow Akron has been in operation since 1988 and they have a total of 30 sites that they operate today. They grow a large variety of fruits, vegetables and mushrooms. They also have chickens and bees, and they produce value added products. Their farming philosophy is very simple, “We Grow in Community.”
Lisa’s favorite crops to grow are swiss chard and dried beans!
Living City Farms
Living City Farms is a small-scale regenerative farm that seeks to heal the land and our connections with the natural world through the growing and sharing of fresh produce in our Northeast Ohio community. We have two locations: our original urban farm in Akron and our larger new farm in the suburb of Tallmadge. We grow annual vegetables intensively there in our half acre orchard market garden, in between rows of young pawpaw trees. We are planning to replicate this alley cropping pattern with elderberries and annual veggies in our urban farm, as well.
Our urban gardens were started by Julie Costell in 2013 to grow produce for her vegan restaurant Ms. Julie’s Kitchen. It slowly became clear that the gardens had the potential to grow into a full-fledged farm, and in 2017 our farm manager Steve Larson was brought in to expand and deepen our production capacity. With the help of several other team members and the support of our parent company Good Place Holdings, we were able to officially begin farming at our new Tallmadge location in 2021. Today we continue our mission to supply Ms. Julie’s Kitchen with fresh produce, and are in the process of expanding our sales via a farm stand, online sales, and partnerships with local groceries, restaurants, and production kitchens as well.
Our production systems at LCF always strive towards holistic ecosystem stewardship, and they are ever-evolving as we continue to learn, innovate, and implement both new discoveries and ancient wisdom alike. We currently utilize many agroecological practices like the no-till compost mulch method, mixed species cover crops, compost extracts, foliar sprays, and agroforestry practices like alley cropping in order to nourish a vibrant living soil agro-ecosystem at all of our farm locations.
Our favorite crop to grow is pawpaws!
Mud Run Farm
Mud Run Farm is operated by father and team Alex and Alexis Dragovich. Certified organic since 2007 and located in Stark County, Ohio. They are specializing in growing and milling small grains, with a focus on soil health and closed loop agriculture.
They felt that local grains were something their community in NE Ohio was lacking. So in 2020, they built a small mill on the farm and have been learning and growing all that is required to produce quality flour and cereals.
They also raise laying hens, grow vegetables and dried beans, and make maple syrup.
They participate in the Countryside Farmers’ Market every Saturday as well as the Shaker Square market in Cleveland.
Their products can also be found at several fantastic woman owned farmstands – Purplebrown Farm Store, Harvest Bell Farm, and Southgate Farm.
Needham Gardens was founded in 2011 by Andrew and his mother Ginger Needham. It was run as a hobby market garden from 2011-2015. In 2016 Andrew decided to scale up operations, and in 2018 he was joined by Liz Emery and her daughter Alexis. Together the 3 of them are pursuing a diverse range of products and markets to grow their business.
We grow on ½ acre at our home in Cleveland, Ohio. We grow a mix of annual fruits and vegetables and perennial small fruits. We have a small pre-order club (like a CSA). We also produce honey on site, jams and jellies as cottage foods, and we are starting a small craft relish canning business.
Find us every Saturday of the year from 8am-1pm at Coit Road Farmers’ Market. We are also at Kamm’s Corners Farmers’ Market on Sundays, June-October, 10am-1pm.
Old Husher's Indigenous Orchards
Justin “Old” Husher is the proud perennial fruit farmer of Old Husher’s Indigenous Orchards, located in Amherst, Ohio. In Justin’s family, they refer to this site as the “farm” and it’s in its first growing season this year (2021). There are also two smaller, 6-year old sites in Lakewood. These are referred to as the “orchards” and were the prototypes for the big farm.
Justin has been farming for 12 years, but has only been serious about farming pawpaws for the past 7 years. At Old Husher’s Indigenous Orchards, they focus on Native North American perennial fruit crops. Primarily, these are pawpaws, elderberries, persimmons, and aronia. That being said, Justin is an imperfectionist. So, there’s Chinese chestnuts and asparagus as well; and figs are on the way!
Justin doesn’t have a philosophy so much as tenets. He is a huge fan of soil health. He practices reduced tilling, cover cropping, wood chip mulching, and organic fertilizers. He is also a huge fan of growing trees, rather than just planting them. He uses drip irrigation to water his trees. He believes that insects make up the bottom of the food chain. So in the sub-farmland areas, he will be installing 3.5 acres of pollinators in 2021 as well as many native shrubs. He also likes densely planted rows within rows (which is highly evident at the Lakewood sites). He’s not a fan of pesticides/sprays at all, but he has used glyphosate twice in 12 years and expects to use a dormant oil spray on the elderberries eventually. Life is a balancing act.
When we asked Justin what his favorite crop to grow is, he not so surprising responded with “Pawpaws!”
Kelly and Jorge manage Powers Acres, a 50 acre Certified Organic diversified farmstead in Medina. They have a small egg laying flock, Icelandic sheep herd, specialty annual vegetable production, as well as, a plan for a diverse small orchard with many species of perennial edibles. 30 acres are wooded and are currently being managed with the help of a forester, and they are starting to introduce some native species like ginseng and Goldenseal.
There is also an Apiarie on the property owned and run by Susan Schmidt of Schmidt Family Farms. The farm is a collaboration of many and that is intentional. They believe in community cooperation and connection.
They sell honey, infused honey, eggs, lamb meat, herbs, flowers, asparagus, and specialty vegetables, including some Puerto Rican essentials like, Aji dulce peppers. They will be adding some guinea fowl this season so look out for that! They are a staple at the Countryside Farmers’ Market, they never miss!!
Purple Skies Farm
David & Visar Duane are the owners and operators of Purple Skies Farm and have been farming for 9 years, starting part-time with just a red raspberry plot. Before they knew it, there were high tunnels with more red raspberries, asparagus, garlic, strawberries, and blueberries. During the 2021 season, they are adding a 50’ x 50’ flower field.
In addition to their farm, they run a 2 suite Bed and Breakfast that has not been very successful. They also hope to add agritourism in the near future.
Their Farm Goals:
- Nourish the land and in return, it will provide us the most delicious produce.
- Reduce wastes by repurposing whenever possible.
- Practice good safety, including food safety.
- Provide fair wages whenever possible.
- Promote food as medicine.
Their favorite things to grow are the items that they love to eat the most because if they cannot sell them, they can eat them and have no waste! To pick one crop specifically, it would be garlic because it’s the easiest to grow and it’s delicious.
Sasha and Jimmy Miller are the farmers of Purplebrown Farmstead. They have been operating the farm since 2016 when they were awarded the land lease after submitting a proposal to the National Park Service. Their farm is located in Hudson, Ohio on land in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. They’re one of our Countryside Initiative farms!
They are a diversified permaculture farm, currently focusing on raising pork on pasture, outdoor mushrooms, a small CSA, and managing a cider orchard. Their farming philosophy is “Permaculture: ancient wisdom, common sense, appropriate technology.”
We asked Sasha what have favorite thing to grow or raise is and she said, “Diversity. I really appreciate the diversity of activities and flavors involved with this approach of farming. If I had to pick, I’d say pigs. Love my pigs.”
Resilient Acres is a regenerative farm in Chardon, Ohio, focused on perennial polycultures. Current members of the polyculture (aside from us humans) are chickens, sheep, goats, bees, and a variety of guilds of mostly native shrubs and trees, including elderberry, serviceberry, blueberry, currants, paw paw, oak, chestnut, maple, beech, pecans, walnuts, cherry, apple, peaches, persimmons, and more!
We also grow a variety of medicinal herbs and are working on implementing a woodland management plan to propagate more woodland medicinals. We offer a variety of agritourism opportunities through Airbnb, HipCamp and Healing Gardens, which are used as channels to promote the sale of our farm products, including eggs, firewood, and some produce. We plan to develop additional educational opportunities primarily related to the medicinal herbs we grow.
Rhythm and Roots Farm
Rhythm & Roots is our home, located in Akron, Ohio. We have changed our lifestyles to pursue the raising of animals in the way they were originally designed to be grown, on real healthy grass pasture and without the use of chemicals.
Growing our food this way has brought so many benefits to us both physically and emotionally. So much so, that we would like to bring this joy and food to others. We are still relatively small, farming on about half of our 16 acres. We are enjoying the process of expanding into a new rhythm of each day and season, and growing new and joyful roots and habits where we are.
We are a family of five with three children ages 2-6. It has been a joy to have the kids help around the farm and see how they learn. Each and every day holds a new lesson as their minds expand beyond what we think is possible – we try to learn from our kids in this way. The older we get the less we absorb from the things around us.
We predominantly raise chickens and pigs on rotational pastures, but we also do goats, ducks, and turkeys on the farm. We sell products directly from our farm as well as a couple of local vendors in the area. We thank you for your support as we go through this adventure of life. We truly hope you enjoy what we produce here.
Second Spring Farm
Second Spring is a diversified family farm on 7 acres in Grafton, Ohio. The farm is owned and operated by Rachel Wiegand. 2021 is their fifth season growing for market and CSA. They have a 3 acre market garden for annual vegetables. They also have chickens and ducks for egg production as well as goats, 2 beehives, berry bushes and a few fruit trees. They focus on lettuce mixes and other specialty greens, but grow a wide variety of all the staples.
Their farm mission is:
- to supply our customers with fresh, healthy food.
- to grow it in an ecological way that works with nature – not against it – by focusing on soil health and friendly ecosystems.
- to prove that a small farm growing organically can be productive and successful.
Rachel Bellis operates Southgate Farm with the help of her husband Justin Turner. The farm is located within the city of Green’s Southgate Park in North Canton. Their first growing season was in 2020.
They grow over 50 different types of annual vegetables and herbs using about an acre of space. They also periodically raise pastured pork or lamb, and they have a couple dozen chickens mainly for personal use or CSA.
Rachel believes that healthy, living soils promote healthy plants, animals and people. In order to protect and build their soils over time, she is committed to organic practices, though she is not seeking organic certification at this time. She and Justin look at the farm as an ecosystem. Diversity in crops, other life forms, and enterprises is essential. Rachel gets really excited about the relationships between plants and microbial life in the soil. She tries to minimize tillage in the garden. She and Justin believe that animals in agriculture should be treated with respect, and they strive to provide livestock with an environment that allows them to practice their natural behaviors.
Rachel’s favorite things to grow are root crops, peppers, and scallions!
Tierra Verde Farms
Mike and Connie Jones are the owners on Tierra Verde Farms located in Deerfield, Ohio. They have been in operation since 2010. On their farm, they raise grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured pork, chicken, turkey, and eggs. They also have honey and maple syrup.
Their farm philosophy is simply to farm holistically – marry the priorities of the land, the livestock, the farmers and our nutrition. Check out this video to really understand what they’re all about at Tierra Verde Farms.
We asked Mike what his favorite animal to raise is and his response was: “It’s too hard to choose a favorite, I love cattle and pigs are just fun!”
Weymouth Farms & Orchard
Weymouth Farms & Orchard, Winery, was started by Paul & Brenda O’Neill back in 2006 when they purchased the original Conant Homestead, which dates back prior to 1825, and is the oldest home in Hinckley.
The Conant family traces its roots back to Roger Conant, the founder of Salem and the first Governor of Massachusetts. Paul is originally from Massachusetts and Brenda grew up in Hinckley. The O’Neill’s started by planting Asian pears, apples, and a small quantity of grapes that year. In 2010, Paul started to experiment with the idea of making wine from the Asian pears which were starting to be productive. Having no winemaking experience whatsoever, and no mentor to guide him, Paul enrolled in the on-line Viticulture and Enology Program at UC Davis.
After two grueling years of spending nights and weekends studying and taking examinations, which cut into family time much to the chagrin of Brenda, Paul graduated the certificate program in 2012. Upon graduating, Brenda told Paul, that after all that, “you better make good wine, or else I’m going to kick your butt”. Ever since his wife’s colorful ultimatum, along with her endless help, they embarked on the expansion of the property with more planting of grape varieties which were chosen to match the climate and site. The majority of their grape varieties originate from Cornell University, which has been developing “low-spray” grapes which require much less use of pesticides than traditional varieties, but do require much more care during the fermentation process.
Their efforts seem to be producing great grapes and great wine. They don’t follow traditional conventions on their winemaking. Their wines are unusual and made from fruits and grape varieties which are typically not found in most outlets. Their fruits are grown in a manner which optimizes sunlight. Their site, which is one of the highest ridges in our area, usually has a breeze when other areas do not. Being higher, their fruit trees and vines awaken from their winter hibernation typically a couple of weeks later than surrounding areas, and ripen later in the year when they get the cycle of hot days and cool nights of Northeastern Ohio. Great wine from great fruit. As a result, they have managed to produce some of the highest awarded wines grown in Ohio, including multiple-gold and double gold awards from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, The Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, the Ohio Wine Competition, Tasters Guild, International Wine Competition, and The Harvest Challenge.