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!”
Joe and Marcia Coleman are the farmers of Coleman Gardens, located in Avon Lake. They have been in operation since 2016. They grow over 60 types of vegetables and herbs on 2 acres, growing everything from spring lettuce mixes to fall squashes. They currently operate a 40 family CSA and grow produce for several restaurants. They currently have a 30′ x 72′ high tunnel, a temperature controlled seedling room, and 5 beehives on site.
Farm Location: 763 Lear Rd, Avon Lake, OH 44012
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!
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
Steve Larson (he/him) and Em Evans (they/them) work together to run Living City Farms, a small regenerative no-till farm with locations in both Tallmadge and Akron, Ohio. Currently, they grow mainly diversified annual vegetables, but at their new farm they will be incorporating more agroforestry practices by alley cropping their vegetables between rows of perennials like pawpaws and elderberries.
The farm has been in operation since 2012, initially beginning as a small set of urban gardens for the vegan restaurant Ms. Julie’s Kitchen, and has been slowly growing into a larger farm business with the help and support of their parent organization, Good Place Holdings. Over the last year or so they have gained access to a larger property in Tallmadge, where they will be farming on roughly 2 acres of land. 2021 will be their first year at their new Tallmadge location!
Their farming philosophy is that they believe humans are part of nature, not separate from it, and that by stewarding the farm as a whole, biodiverse ecosystem, they can help heal both the land and ourselves, too. They see farming as an invitation back into relationship with the earth, its history, and their own local sense of ‘place’.
They adhere to the general tenants of no-till, regenerative, human-scale organic agriculture, but they try not to be dogmatic about their practices and approaches. To mitigate the need for annual tillage, they use compost as a mulch on their beds to create a plantable surface that also feeds the soil and suppresses weeds. They have also begun to work more with mixed species cover crops as a grown in place mulch that allows them to improve soil structure and life. They work with various biological inoculants and foliar applied nutrients as well and continue to experiment and refine with their growing systems to ensure that their crops and soil continue to grow in health. They believe in knowing their context, knowing their values, and making decisions that are both practical for the business and in alignment with their integrity.
When we asked them what their favorite crops to grow are, Steve said that he loves to grow carrots and Em said that they love to grow garlic scapes and pumpkins!
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!”
Kyla Werlin and Beth Lomske are the farmers of Oxbow Orchard. 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 Valley View, Ohio on land in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. They’re one of our Countryside Initiative farms!
They grow annual vegetables, flowers, garlic, and they are establishing a diverse fruit orchard, an acre of blueberries and an acre of brambles. They also raise Icelandic sheep, rabbits, ducks, and chickens.
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.”
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 very first growing season was in 2020.
They grow over 50 different types of annual vegetables and herbs in a half acre market garden. They are doubling their cultivated area for the 2021 season so that they can put in a large pumpkin patch next to the garden. They also periodically raise feeder pigs for pasture-raised pork, they have a couple dozen chickens mainly for personal use or CSA, and they hope to get some sheep by the end of 2021.
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. Beyond that, she believes in looking at the farm as an ecosystem. She avoids even the pesticides approved for organic production if they are broad-range or not entirely necessary. Diversity in crops and other life forms is essential. She gets really excited about the relationships between plants and microbial life in the soil. She tries to minimize tillage in the garden. She thinks that balance and diversity in your enterprises is essential in order to succeed as a small-scale sustainable farmer. She believes that animals in agriculture should be treated with respect, and that includes providing them 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!”
Trapp Family Farm
Mark and Emily Trapp are the farmers of Trapp Family Farm. They have been operating the farm since 2012 when they were awarded the land lease after submitting a proposal to the National Park Service. Their farm is located in Peninsula, Ohio on land in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. They’re one of our Countryside Initiative farms!
They grow about 2.5 acres of seasonal produce in a horse-powered market garden. The remainder of their land (30 acres) is dedicated to management-intensive grazing chickens (for meat and eggs), turkeys, and sheep on permanent pasture and multi-species cover crops, prepping the soils for future plantings of fruit, nut, and fuelwood trees.
Since their beginning, they have focused on a biological, diversified form of farming to regenerate soils and begin to build a resilient community. The farm has focused on pasture-raised eggs and meat as well as nutrient-dense produce grown with limited amounts of off-farm inputs, instead focusing on building soil health through the extensive use of: a unique proactive approach to weed management, cover crops, composting, and intensive animal grazing. These methods provided them a path toward a truly profitable farming model that works financially, ecologically, and socially. They are excited to share their success, and many lessons learned with future generations of small farmers.
We asked them what their favorite crop to grow is, and this is what they said: “If children are parents greatest critics, perhaps then, carrots are a farmers greatest critic! Producing tons of large, crunchy, tasty carrots from tiny seed is uniquely satisfying and challenging, especially without irrigation. Plus it’s hard to find a crop that when grown well, tastes better than supermarket carrots, even organically grown ones!”