Farm-fresh goods, fun just steps away at CVNP homesteads

by Judy Stringer

With its endless trails, river access and beautiful scenery, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is – for most of us – both a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and a great place to energize your body. 

For several farmers and their families, however, CVNP is home.

Ten working farms currently operate in the park under a 25-year-old program in which CVNP leases land to the farmers, who must follow strict guidelines for sustainable management. 

“It is really unique to have public land used this way,” said Sasha Miller, who operates the Purplebrown Farmstead in Boston Heights, noting the benefit to those in the surrounding area. “To have these quaint, diversified farms dotting the rural landscape enhances the community and the quality of life for residents who have access to them. It certainly stimulates the local economy and shows the compatibility of agriculture and conservation.”

Miller’s 12-acre permaculture farm features a burgeoning cidery. She and her husband, Jimmy, are cultivating a 3-acre orchard with more than 20 varieties of apples, various pears and other fruit. The couple also raises pork and grows vegetables and flowers. Many of their items are sold at the two-year-old Purplebrown retail shop in Peninsula.

“We have more than 60 vendors all within 60 miles of the store,” she said of the shop. “It’s open five days a week, and so for all intents and purposes, it really is like a brick-and-mortar farmers market.”

Miller also chairs the board of directors for the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy, a nonprofit charged with supporting CVNP farmland preservation. She said park farms range in size from 1.5 acres to over 40 acres and nurture a variety of products. 

“There’s livestock, there’s produce, there’s a lot of perennials, there’s a winery,” Miller noted. “Our folks are really all over the place and demonstrating how diverse agriculture really can be.”

Many of them gladly accept visitors and/or operate farmstands, she added. Interested guests should check each farm’s websites for details. Szalay’s Farm in Peninsula,, is a popular stop with a market and “weekend eatery” that reopens June 7. Others include Greenfield Berry Farm, where visitors pick their own fruit; Sarah’s Vineyard; Heritage Farms; Spice Acres; and Trapp Family Farm.

The Conservancy is currently working on a website “to better promote what is going on with the park farms,” according to Miller.

“We each operate independently,” she said, “but soon with the new website, we hope to provide much more updated and current information in one place.” ∞