Spice Acres owner Ben Bebenroth uses a little creative thinking to hang a trellis system of hops 25 feet in the air. The Spice Kitchen & Bar owner puts a 12-foot ladder in the bucket of a tractor raising it as high as it goes so he can string the eight kinds of hops between two trees.
Unsure how the first year’s harvest will go, he imagines placing cones of hops in pints of beer for garnish or using them in floral arrangements. “You better be smart,” Ben says of his farming style. “Most things we plant I can think of at least five uses for.”
Opening Spice Acres, a 13-acre farm in Brecksville, in 2014 was more about lifestyle than the benefits to his restaurant or Spice of Life catering company. “I crave wilderness and the woods,” says Ben.
He also wanted to raise his children in an environment where they could learn the value of a hard days’ work. They’ve proven to be great farmhands, taking part in picking blackberries and helping out with the hens even though that’s not their favorite job.
“It was hard for them when we first moved to the farm,” Ben says. “But the other day, I came home to find that they were already in the barn helping.”
Every corner of Ben’s farm blooms with signs of experimentation. Terra-cotta pots line the floor of a greenhouse filled with leafy herbs such as thyme and rosemary that get cut right off the plant for cocktails at his Gordon Square restaurant. At the back of the property, bushes hide a shaded grotto with moist soil and logs inoculated with wine cap and shiitake mushrooms.
He’s also one of a few farms in the region growing bubble blue and galangal ginger, which thrive in warmer climates. Ben started the crops in his basement to control the environment. “Growing things that you don’t see a lot of, we’re trying to bring that special environment into the city,” he says. 70 Riverview Road, Brecksville, spiceacres.com