Wearing denim overalls, Daniel Greenfield sits in his barn with a small, blue bucket on the floor. It’s filled with green onions picked within the last 24 hours. He peels back their dark brown skins with his dirt-covered hands to reveal bright white bulbs.
A few yards in the distance, Mathias, who works on the farm alongside Greenfield, rides by on a tractor past a field of a thousand blueberry bushes.
“His work ethic is extraordinary,” says Greenfield, owner of Greenfield Berry Farm. “It’s not unusual to find him with a coal miner’s light on his head picking peas in the darkness for the next day.”
The Greenfield Berry Farm is just one of nine farms thriving off the land within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. That same belief in diligence and hard work is rooted in each of them at a time when the National Park Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
As part of the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy — an initiative tasked with preserving about 300 acres of agricultural land nestled in the 33,000 acres of national parkland sprawling between Cleveland and Akron — each farm is required to use ecological and sustainable practices to maintain a natural footprint and enhance the health of the land on which they live and work.
“Every day, we’re losing farmland, and most of the loss is due to development,” says Tracy Emrick, core partnership manager of the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy. “We lose 50 acres a day in Ohio, and yet it’s our No. 1 economic driver in our state.”
Since becoming a national park in 2000, CVNP has established one of the National Park Service’s first farmers market and has dedicated more than half of the available agricultural land to farmers and their homesteads. This fall, two more farms — Oxbow Orchard and Purplebrown Farmstead — will add 24 more acres to the agricultural conservation efforts of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
“This isn’t something you get into for money,” says Greenfield. “You have to be nuts. You have to want to do this.”