Last Thursday I had the opportunity to work alongside beginning farmer interns at the Countryside Learning Farm. Countryside is a private program that partners with Cuyahoga Valley National Park in order to preserve the rural landscape of the valley by leasing sites in the park to sustainable farming ventures. The idea of countryside management through farming is innovative here but standard fare in the public lands of Europe. Prior to this summer, I had never heard of farming on national park land before. The opportunity to learn more about Countryside in a hands-on manner was presented to me in the form of a visit to the Learning Farm.
Alongside farmer interns, I learned how to scythe and rototill. While planting lettuce in the greenhouse that will be harvested in a couple weeks as microgreens, I lamented to the farm supervisor about my green thumb gone to rot. As a child, my family kept a flourishing garden of tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, onions, and many herbs. My grandfather enlisted me to help him every year, but in the decade since then, I haven’t done much gardening. Skills I practiced with unthinking ease when I was eight proved much more difficult at eighteen. In the Learning Farm greenhouse, I squinted in confusion at the instructions on seed packages, grousing to Jess about how I wished I had paid more attention to my grandfather and retained more of what he taught me about growing. She laughed and said that my experience was a common one. It’s not too late to relearn those skills now. I am glad that I was able to get involved in such an amazing program within our park, and I’m doubly glad for the interest in growing some of my own food that this experience sparked in me.