My family: Craig, Anne Marie and children Anthony, Kristen, and Kaitlyn
Why are you a Farm Bureau member? I joined several years ago. I researched what Farm Bureau did and realized that they were there for everybody: nonfarmers, small farmers and large farmers, and saw that they were a quality organization. I was asked a few years ago if I would like to get involved and agreed right away with no regrets.
Your farm: I moved from Solon because of the traffic congestion and sold everything to purchase more land. I started looking for land and approached a lady cutting her lawn and asked her if her land was for sale. She stated that she had just sold it to a developer. We tracked down the developer and purchased the land 15 years ago and at a higher price to keep it a farm.
None of the farmers in the area wanted to farm it saying it wasn’t big enough. So I started asking some of them for advice and some were reluctant to help except one. Phil Derthick from Derthick’s Farm. We became good friends where we now work and share information on agritourism for our farms.
We started out with a few vegetables that we sold on a table out front on the honor system. Then the produce started disappearing and then the money, so we tore down the old garage and put up a farm market building and then two hydroponic greenhouses (one with tomatoes and cucumbers and the other with ever-bearing strawberries). Then we put up four high tunnels and found room to add our fifth, plus the field crops that are grown on raised bed plastic. Our main crops are award winning sweet corn and tomatoes (varieties including heirloom and tomatoes from Italy). We also have pure breed Black Angus and free range chickens for eggs. We are not organic but try to use organic methods when we can. I purchase good bugs to control the bad bugs.
What do you enjoy most about farming? My favorite thing to see is newborn calves, and when my corn starts popping through the ground and I see how crooked I planted the rows and laugh. That’s when my kids tell me that you can fit more corn in a crooked row.
Current conditions: I’m currently retiring from the Bedford Heights Police Department as a police officer with 34 years of service. I was working 16 hours a day, seven days a week from April to October, between the farm and the police department. I used to tell people that I went to the police department to get my rest, but everybody that knows me knows that I work just as hard at both jobs and now have to work 16 hours a day at the farm.
Community involvement: County Farm Bureau board member and a board member for Geauga Tourism, in charge of the Sale Ring for the Junior Fair Livestock sale at the Great Geauga County Fair. My wife and I are throwing my retirement party from the police department and we are requesting no gifts, but will have a jar for donations to Womens Safe, a local shelter. We also donate excess food to the food shelter in Bainbridge.
Tell us something Geauga County is known for: We have the Great Geauga County Fair. I wish I would have moved here 30 years ago.
What are your plans for the farm? Continue expanding the operation and providing local produce and products. We presently sell over 100 local Ohio wines and over 250 local products in our farm market. We are into local and Ohio. One of our biggest accomplishments in providing local is expanding to seven farmers markets per week during peak season, increasing our Community Supported Agriculture subscribers and raising more vegetables and beef to supply to the Winking Lizard restaurants in northeast Ohio and Columbus. They are big into local and highlight our farm on their menus and in-house TVs at the restaurants.
What motivates you to keep farming? I love providing wholesome products and educating everybody about farming and different growing methods from kids to adults. When I’m at the farmers market and I have a new family stop by, I ask if their child likes sweet corn and when they say yes, I shuck an ear and give it to the kid and tell them to try it. My corn tastes like candy. When they try it they walk around the farmers market eating their ear of corn. Mom never thought they would eat it.
Biggest misconception (you’ve heard) about farming? That you can make a lot of money and I get paid not to farm. I still can’t figure out how to do that.
Translated from my Grandma Spoto’s original recipe.
Sirna’s Caponta | Small Batch
3 large eggplants with skins
8 to 10 large tomatoes
2 large onions
4 green peppers
4 stalks of celery
Large can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 jar of large green pitted olives (deli olives are best)
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut all your vegetables into ½” to 1” cubes, keeping them separate, Sauté the eggplant in ¼” of oil until brown (don’t overcook). Remove eggplant from oil and set aside, save oil. Steam the onions and celery, keeping them crisp. Drain water. Sauté onions, celery, green pepper and tomatoes in saved oil for 5 to 10 minutes until brown. Add eggplant, crushed tomatoes, vinegar and sugar, cook until thickened (about 30 minutes). Add olives and capers. Remove from heat and serve at room temperature, or chill for several hours. Serve with some good artesian bread and cheese. Bon Appetit!