Maple Crest Farm holds onto legacy amid challenges

by Dan Holland

For Stacey Giere, who co-owns and operates the Miller Road Maple Crest Farm with her brother, Brant, and mother, Meredith, preserving the family’s legacy and way of life has been a challenge in recent years. It is the last registered heritage farm in Cuyahoga County – meaning it is has been owned by the same family for at least 100 years.

The Brecksville farm, which dates back to 1826, faced its most recent hurdle as it was forced to sell land along I-77 for construction of a southbound on-ramp. The ramp is being built in conjunction with an expected traffic increase tied to the development of Valor Acres, a mixed-use commercial and residential development underway at Miller and Brecksville roads just to the east.

Approximately 1.5 acres along the eastern edge of the property were needed to build the on-ramp. Original plans called for the ramp to run straight through the spot where the 1905 red barn and a farmhouse sit, but an agreement was reached with the city to move the ramp farther east on the property.

“My overall goal has been to coexist with our farm and stay there until my end, which all of my ancestors have done,” said Stacey. “Seven generations later now, my brother and I, who run and manage the farm, and have continued to work for that legacy, are trying to figure out what our future will be.”

The former dairy farm, which originally comprised 140 acres on which 70 Jersey cows grazed, now consists of 20 acres. Much of the acreage was lost in 1967 when the state of Ohio required the family to sell a large portion of the land to make way for I-77. Additional acreage was sold off to make up for the loss of the dairy business and gradual transition to an equine recreational and agricultural farm.

The original 1826 farmhouse, which sat where the highway went through, was moved at the time to the western end of the property using rollers and timbers.

The family added 35 horse stalls to the existing half-dozen in 1994, which included a new indoor equestrian arena in the white barn located behind the original farmhouse. The family’s 40 antique and reproduction carriages are maintained by both Brant and outside contractors, while Stacey competes in carriage competitions around the country and instructs others in their use.

Stacey and Meredith operate the equine training center and compete in horse shows. The farm offers boarding, training and riding lessons. It currently hosts about 15 boarding clients, according to Stacey.

“We’re very fortunate to have a niche business where students and clients from here, there and everywhere can come and train with us or send us a horse for us to train for them,” she explained. “They can come and visit and get their lessons and practice in before the horse goes home with them.”

The additional traffic and noise coming from the new interstate entrance ramp, which will encroach even closer to the riding ring where clients train, is a concern, as riders can be endangered if a horse gets spooked.

Saving Maple Crest

Brant’s girlfriend, April Acuna, who began promoting Brant’s Porsche racing team years ago, became involved in the plight of the farm by creating a Facebook page entitled “Save Maple Crest Farm.”

“April started the Facebook page so that we could share pertinent information,” said Stacey, who works as a full-time financial advisor and for Brant’s Porsche racing team on weekends. “We don’t want to sugarcoat it, and we also don’t want stories to get twisted around inappropriately. We just want people to know the truth with what we’re experiencing.”

Brant said the Save MCF campaign came about when the family was trying to figure out what was happening with the highway expansion project. He said that aspect has since been settled with the city.

“The city bailed us out. We can’t say enough good things about the mayor and city council,” Brant said. “They all came out here and met with me and wanted to help, and they were able to move that project to the east. Otherwise, it would have come straight through my house.”

Brant began exploring future options a few years ago that could include preserving the farm as a public trust if its operations cannot continue. Neither Brant nor Stacey has children to whom the farm can be passed down.

“Stacey and I are the last of the family,” explained Brant. “It is our hope that the red barn stays forever as some type of educational, historic learning center. We’re open to those suggestions; we’re open to discussions with the Metroparks about that.”

Stacy said the community would lose a lot of its history if the farm isn’t preserved.

“It would be very sad for us as a family and also the community, since we have a great following of clients and customers and townspeople that love seeing the farm,” she said.

The loss of the farm also would mean the loss of Stacey’s livelihood.

“It’s truly a beacon for the community, and I just want to be able to continue to fulfill this dream of teaching, training and incorporating the horses,” she continued. “We have generational students now, whose parents rode at the farm, or their dad bailed hay for my grandfather. This farm is my tapestry, and I’m very fortunate and extremely grateful for it.”

Brant said the family hopes to remain part of the community for years to come.

“It’s been nearly 200 years, and we want to keep going,” he said. “We like being a little oasis here, which is difficult considering everything around us, but we just want to continue doing what we do. It’s truly a labor of love.”  ∞