Dave Wingenfeld uses a rake to carefully pull up dirt around the base of potato plants in a 3-acre field alongside Valley View Road. He’s planted two rows of potatoes and stops every few feet to examine their leaves with dirt embedded underneath his fingernails.
“I feel very fortunate,” he says, standing upright and leaning on the handle of his rake. “Most people have no idea what it’s like to work and live on a farm.”
With the help of his two sons and daughter, Dave has mastered the lay of the land over the last 25 years by renting 26 acres from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park before signing a 60-year lease with the Countryside Conservancy Initiative in 2009.
Spread out in three separate areas along Valley View, Canal and Tinker’s Creek roads, Canal Corners Farm & Market occupies land with varying elevations and soil quality that allows for growth of a variety of vegetables such as asparagus, broomcorn, table grapes and sunflowers — which are used for his daughter’s flower CSA. Such diversity in land quality also poses a multitude of challenges.
Seven acres of Dave’s farm are subject to flooding nearly every year because they lay low on the borders of Tinker’s Creek and the Cuyahoga River. Last year they flooded twice in one month, wiping out half of Dave’s crops. Without the other farmland at higher elevations, he would have suffered a great loss. To prevent erosion and to maintain healthy soil, he plants winter rye at the end of each harvest, creating a natural barrier that strengthens the soil and protects his other crops from incoming water.
“I want to be a good steward of the land,” says Dave. “People look down on farmers and think they’re dumb, but you’ve got to be really smart.”
Dave brings life to his farm in other ways too. During the summer he hosts a concert series and live theater program out of the original barn built on the homestead in 1905. Each fall, he brings in families in search of corn mazes and the pumpkin patches he grows in his fields.
“It still amazes me that when you put a seed in the ground at the end of the season you’ve got a nice crop,” says Dave. “Like the sweet corn — each strand of silk goes to one kernel of corn, and to me, that shows that there’s some kind of supreme being out there.” 7243 Canal Road, Valley View, 216-624-3916