Back to the Land

Ohio’s roots are firmly planted in a soil that has transformed the Buckeye State into one of the most diverse agriculturally producing areas in the nation. Why not take advantage of that rich history with a family outing to one of Ohio’s many historic farms? A look at the past may give you and your family a glimpse into Ohio’s future.

The past in the present
You can walk back in time at Carriage Hill MetroPark Farm near Dayton. The farm, which is part of the Five Rivers MetroParks system, depicts life on a typical Miami Valley farm in the 1880s. Activities feature planting demonstrations in the spring along with educational tours on how early Ohioans flourished, according to the farm’s educational supervisor Rick Musselman.

The facility is the site of an original farm established by the Daniel Arnold family in 1830. It opened as a park and historical farm in 1968 and has about 600,000 visitors a year, including nearly 15,000 children through school outings, Musselman said.

At Carriage Hill, period farming techniques and methods are used to portray the life “of a typical, conservative farm family of the 1880s,” Musselman said. “Each year, more than 15 acres of land are farmed using horses and mules,” he said. Percheron draft horses provide the “horsepower” to pull farm wagons and equipment.

The farm fits in well with the park system’s overall mission: To protect the Miami Valley’s natural and cultural heritage. “The farm gives an overall realization of where we’ve come from,” he said.

Musselman said it’s hard to pinpoint his favorite thing about the farm. He said some visitors who brought their children are now visiting with their grandchildren.

“It’s important for people, especially kids, to relate to farming the way it used to be and also the way it is today,” he said. “Too many kids don’t understand where their milk comes from. They need to understand it didn’t just magically appear in the plastic jug.”

Musselman said the farm is expecting a huge crowd Labor Day weekend with a national plowing contest to be held there. “We’re expecting competitors from more than 20 states,” he said.

An eye on the future
At Lake Farmpark in Kirtland, the focus isn’t necessarily on agriculture’s past, but its present and future, according to Andy Baker, administrator of Lake Farmpark, which is a facility of the Lake Metro Parks system.

“We are an education and cultural center that is devoted to helping modern Americans understand where their food, fiber and other products come from that are necessary for us to sustain our daily lives,” Baker said.

The purpose of the park is to help people get “some sort of connection to what agriculture is still going on as well as the agriculture that has gone on before,” Baker said. Rather than recreating an historic farm or village, the Lake Metro Park system “figured it would be better to do something a little different,” he said. Lake Farmpark strives not only to help people understand the past of agriculture but also to draw attention to the present situation of the industry as well as get them thinking about directions for the future, Baker said.

Lake Farmpark is about 25 miles east of Cleveland in Lake County and lies on 235 acres of what was a diversified dairy and sheep farm in the mid-19th century, a diversified fruit farm in the early 20th century and an Arabian horse farm in the late 20th century. Lake Farmpark opened in May 1990 and features more than 100 farm animals representing 13 species and 50 breeds. More than 200,000 people visit the farm every year, including 45,000 children who visit on school outings.

Many of the farm’s exhibits are inside and are easily accessible year-round, Baker said.

“The one thing we want visitors to take away I guess would be a two-pronged understanding of the natural process (of growth) and also the tremendous human effort in terms of the amount of work that goes into producing the food that most of us take for granted,” he said.

Susie Taylor is a freelance writer from Madison County.

Carriage Hill
Carriage Hill is located at 7800 E. Shull Rd. Dayton and is open daily except Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. For more information, call 937-278-2609

Lake Farmpark
The farm is located at 8800 Chardon Road  Kirtland, Ohio 44094. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas and Mondays in January through March except Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents’ Day. Call ahead at 800-366-FARM (3276) for details. There is an admission fee.