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Preserving rural landscape through local farms

By Jennie Vasarhelyi Cuyahoga Valley National Park Published: May 10, 2017 12:00 AM
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Beautiful scenery is part of the appeal of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. In many national parks, nature dominates the views. However, Cuyahoga Valley scenery blends nature and history

You can see this at a place like Everett Covered Bridge. This historic bridge sits over a beautiful tributary of the Cuyahoga River. You also see it along park roads. You might be surprised by views of goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, cows, orchards, and fields of produce. Over time many people have made a living farming in the valley. The National Park Service recognizes this heritage by working to preserve the rural character of the valley.

To do so, the National Park Service (NPS) created the Countryside Initiative over a decade ago. Through this program, the NPS has leased eleven properties to farmers committed to small-scale, sustainable farming. A non-profit partner, the Countryside Conservancy, works alongside the NPS to implement the vision for farming in the valley.

The Trapp Family Farm, located along state Route 303 in Peninsula, is one of the Countryside Initiative farms. It is a 30-acre mixed crop and livestock farm. Mark and Emily Trapp started the farm to feed themselves and a small community of people as much as possible with the food they grow. Currently they primarily produce eggs, chicken, pork, and vegetables. Dairy products and grains are part of future plans.

The Trapps try to use as little fossil fuel as possible. "I got into farming in part out of concern for fossil fuel consumption," Mark Trapp said on a recent day when he toured park staff around the farm.

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Two draft horses, Doc and Dan, play a role in their effort limit fossil fuels. You may see them in the fields along state Route 303 doing the work often done by tractors. The Trapps also make their own compost, primarily from animal waste. This prevents them from having to buy commercial fertilizers, which can be fossil-fuel based. This year, they will spread 70 tons of farm-made compost to maintain soil fertility.

The Trapps raise heritage breeds of animals. They do well feeding outside and managing the elements. The chickens and pigs are in portable pens that are moved around the fields to let animal droppings further promote soil fertility.

The use of cover crops also helps keep soils healthy. Each year, they plant only about half of their fields in vegetables. The rest of the fields receive cover crops like clover that are later plowed into the soil. Mark Trapp referred to it as green manure. "We find that if we do a really good job feeding the soil, then the plants are healthy," he said.

Tracy Emrick is the executive director of the Countryside Conservancy. She notes that because the Trapps follow sustainable practices, their farm "looks very different from a tradition farm." One of the results of running a farm program in a national park is the opportunity to showcase how farming can be more harmonious with a natural environment. "The balance between food systems and natural systems is fragile, but necessary. The Trapps' work shows how the two can be compatible. He is a great role model for the other park farmers and farmers working outside of the park," Emrick said.

All of the Countryside Initiative farms have a commitment to inviting the public to their farms. The Trapps will lead a public tour of their farm at 10:30 a.m. on June 3. It is free, but they ask that participants do not bring pets. They also have a farm stand daily from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. It primarily sells eggs, but has produce when available. A larger farm stand starts in June and occurs from 10 a.m.-noon on Saturdays.

To learn more about farms in the park, visit www.cvountryside.org. The Trapp Family Farm is located at 1019 W. Streetsboro Road in Peninsula.


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