Guests flock to ‘Meet the Farm (ers)’ open house

by Chris Studor

Guests strolled through fields of grass and clover marveling at the many aspects of farming at the June 8 Meet the Farm(ers) event, hosted by Farming With Friends.

The nonprofit, 87-acre farm opened this year on state Rt. 303 in Hinckley Township and already fresh eggs are being offered for sale, a wide variety of fruit trees are flourishing, vegetable and herb gardens are sprouting and a store and stable are well under construction.

Executive Director Tristan Griffin describes the purpose of the farm as “an endeavor to restore God’s creation through regenerative farming, employing people with disabilities while engaging the community.”

The property is owned by Brian Moore and his wife, Allysa, who Griffin said he met though the Fellowship for Christian Athletes. Griffin said he and Brian Moore shared a vision of a farm which aimed to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities and rich in Christian spirit.

“My inspiration came from my daughter, Scout, who has Smith Magenis syndrome, a developmental condition,” said Griffin. “One day I took her to a farm I and my wife, Melanie, felt she just seemed to come alive.”

Griffin has already been in contact with the Medina County Board of Disabilities. He currently employs two disabled adults, Alex Claus and Sam Brady, who serve as farmhands. Brady’s mother, Ginnette Simko of Hinckley, serves as the farm strategist. Simko has a good deal of previous experience in the role as she served as a strategist for area farms in Lorain and Medina County and worked with the former Farm Conservancy in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. She received her schooling in strategic farming from Lorain Community College and is now on the faculty.

However, not all work on the farm involves working with the land. Recently joining the team is Geoffrey Zion, a farm board member and CPA who will help oversee the farm’s finances.

One of the tour’s first stops is the container garden and greenhouse where potato, tomato and butternut squash are growing in containers repurposed from the fruit three orchard. Beside the garden is a chicken brood where Alex gathers eggs which he will later carefully place in cartons. The eggs are currently being sold in a small roadside stand called Farm Store 1.0. This self-serve stand will later be replaced by a full fledged farm store, soon to be completed, which will not only sell products from Farming With Friends but also from other area sustainable farms. The public should know the front building facing Center Road is Moore’s personal home and not a part of the working farm buildings.

Walking to the farm’s back field area, the view is stunning, as guests come upon a second chicken coop.  Griffin said the coops are on wheels and were purposely built on the small side so the farm hands could easily move them each week to provide the chickens with fresh new grass. He said the chickens of several varieties are expected to eventually produce about 100 eggs a day.

“I think this is a wonderful use of land,” said Hinckley resident and Hinckley Chamber of Commerce Member Nancy Mandilakis. “They are doing a great job and I appreciate them holding this open house. I am getting a good education on farming. I helped plant trees in the orchard. I think it’s very important that we support the farmers in our area and that the farm employs people of all abilities.”

A vegetable patch in the back field is being prepared for late season crops such as zucchini, lettuce, spinach, leaks and flowers.

“We will be able to offer the vegetables and some cut flowers which serve to attract bees to pollinate the plants,” added Smiko.

One of the guests included Tom Flannery, who lives across the street from the farm.

“It has been very exciting to watch this farm develop,” said Flannery. “Initially this land was going to be used for a small development but now it has been restored to its original use, which is just wonderful.”

Located near the late summer vegetable patch is a stable under construction which Griffin said will likely hold about 15 horses. He added that his grandmother had about 15 Arabian horses.

The stable was the last stop before guests returned to the front of the property where they were served a delicious lunch by 24 Karrot Kitchen of Sharon Township which obtains all its food from local farms.

After thanking his guests, Griffin said he eagerly looks forward to the day when the orchard will bear fruit (probably about two more years) and guests will be able to pick their own apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries. The farm will also have livestock in the future.

“This couldn’t have been possible without Bryan,” said Griffin.

“It was a lot to put together said Moore. “It’s all a part of our mission. We wanted a place where people could restore their spirits.”

Griffin said more community engagements are coming in the future including fall hayrides. ∞

Tristan Griffin invites children to pet a
chicken. Photo by Chris Studor.

Farmhand Alex Claus explains what grows
in the container garden. With him is his
mother, Ginnette Simko, who serves as the
farm’s strategist. Photo by Chris Studor.

On our cover (photo): Sam Brady, a farmhand at Hinckley’s new Farming with Friends farm on state Route 303, gathers eggs, while youngsters visiting the farm as part of the June 8 Meet the Farm(ers) event look on with eyes wide open. Photo by Chris Studor.