By April Miller | Photos by Don Bensman
Although not a farmer, Clark imagined a bit more than a few chickens and a vegetable patch. “As they always say, at some point you have to stop dreaming and start doing,” she says. “I decided I didn’t want to wake up in 10 years not having tried something like this.”
So in July 2012 the couple purchased property — just down the street from their home and within walking distance of downtown Chagrin Falls — and set to work creating Kelly’s Working Well Farm. Cleanup was their first priority of the run-down residence that had sat vacant for seven years. “It was in pretty bad shape. We had to tear down the house,” Clark says, “but we put in the pasture fence and got chickens, goats, and sheep pretty quickly.”
A high school science teacher who is passionate about permaculture — a philosophy/framework for designing systems for living in partnership with nature — she knew that the farm’s primary mission would be educational. Rowe is a retired research associate from University of California, Santa Cruz, who currently does research on cognitive science and, as Clark calls him, is the resident “animal whisperer.”
“Our goal,” she says, “is for the farm to be a part of the community where people can come to connect with nature, learn about permaculture, and be inspired to bring some of the ideas into their own lives.”
Folks are welcome to just come by and hang out and visit with the chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, guinea hens, and ducks. “Just today a man was riding a bike past with his little girl. She made him stop and ride in to see what was going on,” Clark says.
Planned activities and events include a weekend farm stand, where visitors will find locally made artwork, jams, eggs, crafts, and more. Summer day camp is offered for preschoolers through pre-teens. Campers learn about the animals and gardening and participate in cooking projects with seasonal and fresh ingredients. “A year-round school at the farm is being planned to open in the fall of 2016 based on the democratic/free school model, aka Sudbury Valley School,” Clark adds.
The farm is available for rentals, such as fundraisers and private parties. “Last summer we built a cob pizza oven,” Clark says, “and that’s been an attraction.” Women interested in getting together to do some canning or pickling — complete with cocktails — can book a private event as part of the Farm Girl Series.
Clark finds the farm to be a satisfying and healthy lifestyle. She loves “being outside, eating fresh eggs every day and answering kids questions about animals and food,” but it is a lot of work and not without its challenges.
Networking with groups such as Local Food Cleveland, Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy, OSU Extension and the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association has been helpful. Looking ahead, she hopes to connect with entrepreneurial individuals interested in partnering with the farm.
“My sister is planning to develop the farm stand/store as her own business,” Clark says. “Someone else could come into the picture and grow herbs and make herbal products to sell at the store, and so on.”
For more information: kellysworkingwellfarm.com
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